The Manly History Of Cheerleading

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 22 2012 @ 9:29am


Women didn't dominate the sport until long after World War II: 

The presence of women changed how people thought about cheering.  Because women were stereotyped as cute instead of "valiant," the reputation of cheerleaders changed.  Instead of a pursuit that "ranks hardly second" to quarterbacking, cheerleading’s association with women led to its trivialization.  By the 1950s, the ideal cheerleader was no longer a strong athlete with leadership skills, it was someone with "manners, cheerfulness, and good disposition."  In response, boys pretty much bowed out of cheerleading altogether. … Cultural changes in gender norms continued to affect cheerleading. Now cheerleaders, still mostly women, pride themselves in being both athletic and spirited, a blending of masculine and feminine traits that is now considered ideal for women.

(Photo: Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, left, is seen as a cheerleader at Phillips Academy in Andover MA., in a 1964 school archive photo. By Darren McCollester/Newsmakers.) Update from a reader: "Photo: Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush…"? He’s running again???  NOOOOOOOO!"