There seems to be a trend spreading across the US that is making school officials look closely at what cheerleaders wear. It will be interesting to see if this is a fluke or an indication of what is to come for the future of cheerleading uniforms and the over all appearance of cheerleaders.
High schools in both Florida and California have officially banned their cheerleaders from wearing cheerleading uniforms to school on game days because the uniforms violate the schools' dress codes. "During the educational portion of the day, they have to meet the dress code just like every other student," said the school board's Chairwoman, Debbie Stivender. A memo was sent informing the schools that if the cheerleading uniforms didn't meet the dress code, they had to wear shorts or pants under the skirts and tee shirts under their sleeveless tops.
Considering that the schools did not notify the cheerleaders before they ordered their uniforms and before they spent hundreds of dollars on them, most of the cheerleaders are in an uproar. "This is really unfair to us," said Antonia Bavilacqua, a high school senior. "We're just sad and hurt. It's our school colors and spirit. And they're making us feel like outcasts." Lisa Milligan, a parent of one of the high school's cheerleaders, added, "They're now banning it like it's something inappropriate or pornographic. If you're going to allow them to wear them to the game, then why not allow them to wear them to school?"
Many cheerleading associations have tried to address the issue of what cheerleaders wear or they are currently considering recommendations governing cheerleaders' appearance. Back in 2006, the NFHS Spirit Rule Book added rule 2.2.7 that states, "when standing at attention, apparel must cover the midriff." In 2005, a Texas State Representative, Al Edwards(D-Houston), proposed a bill that would reduce state funding to any high school that allows "sexually suggestive" performances by its cheerleaders. And currently, the USASF, is working with cheerleading companies to discuss the appearance of cheerleaders as it relates to their makeup, uniforms and bows. Their concern is that maybe the "look" of cheerleaders takes away from the athleticism of the sport and in order to be taken more seriously, cheerleader should look more professional.
So, as I see it, the questions are:
- Do uniforms make the cheerleader? Dressed in pants and long sleeve shirts, would you still be a cheerleader?
- Does a cheerleader's uniform and appearance serve a purpose? Do the short skirts allow them to move more freely and to perform stunts, jumps, tumbling and dance more easily?
- Does the makeup allow them to be photographed better and for their facials to show up under the heavy lights while they are on a performance mat? At a competition, they are being judged, after all, and being noticed is important.
- While performing at a game, their main objective is to excite the crowd and encourage participation of the fans. So, again, being noticed is important, isn't it?
- Are bows (a symbol of cheerleading), as well as a tradition of the cheerleader's high ponytail, distracting or are they something that should be required because it's important to keep a cheerleader's hair away from their face?
- Are there any safety concerns with what cheerleaders wear? The "no jewelry" rule was established for safety, but how does a short skirt, makeup or bows affect their safety?
- If you lined up 5 athletes (football player, gymnast, cheerleader, swimmer, basketball player), could you pick out which was which by their uniforms? Do all athletes have a "look" and their "look" evolved from a need?