"She's dumb," "he's feminine," "she's ditzy," and "they're snobs" - If you've ever cheered and even if you haven't, chance are you've probably heard them all. And those are just a few of the typical comments made about Cheerleaders. Why can't an activity that is so full of hard work, determination and dedication get the respect it deserves? Why are all Cheerleaders lumped into a group with such unflattering traits? Will the stereotyping ever end?
Cheerleading is not just about cheering. Cheerleaders are athletes. They workout, they lift weights, they sweat, they get injured, they practice and they perform. So, why do they have to constantly defend their sport and themselves?
Why People Stereotype
Most people probably stereotype because they don't know the truth and it's easier to put everyone in their own little niche. It is common for people to judge other people, but what is dangerous is when it's done without fully understanding or knowing something or someone. What is even more dangerous is when it is done in a negative fashion.
Take for instance a school Cheerleading squad. The members spend a lot of time together, they practice after school many days a week, they attend games together and they might even go to competitions. They share their love of Cheerleading and their goals are similiar. The squad has become their second family, the members are their friends. It would be natural for them to want to hang out together at school, lunch and breaks. But if someone were to see them as a group talking, would they think they are snobs or unsocialable to others? Perhaps and this is where the misunderstandings stem from. Things can look different depending on where you're standing.
How to Stop the Stereotyping
Educate people. When you have an opportunity to explain what Cheerleading is all about, use it wisely. Don't get overly defensive. If your intelligence is attacked, state the fact that most Cheerleaders have to maintain a high gpa to even be on a squad. If the attack is about whether Cheerleading is a sport and whether you're an athlete, invite the person to a practice. Let them see firsthand what you do and how hard you work.
Of course, there will be some people who you'll never be able to change their way of thinking. But that's okay, as long as they respect your opinion and you respect them for theirs.
Then there's the media, who for many years have jumped on every opportunity to display Cheerleaders in a bad light for their own monetary gains. Well, the next time you encounter something like that, you should speak out. Write an editor, send an email to the TV station, defend your sport and yourself. But do so in a civilized, mature way.
Cheerleading has come a long way in recent years, but it still has a long way to go. People don't change their opinions over night. Remember you respresent your sport and other Cheerleaders in all you do. And any impression you leave will reflect on Cheerleading and Cheerleaders everywhere. Think before you act or react.