Cheerleaders’ ‘message’ is wrong

Letters in the Editor's Mailbag
The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon
March 28, 2015
Page A11

Kudos to Ginevra Ralph for raising questions about the University of Oregon’s cheerleaders (“Spirited debate,” March 17).

The community’s debating whether the UO should be allowing overt sexual dancing at sporting events attended by college students and families.

What worried me the most when my daughter was a young athlete attending UO sporting events was the sexist sexuality presented by an institution my daughter admired.

We need to distinguish between healthy and exploitative sexuality.

There are only women dancers. The women are called “girls” on the official UO website, but the men are not called “boys.”
The women dancers are remarkably similar in body size and shape, communicating a narrow view of what it is to be female.

The institutional context is equally important: We live in a free society where people can generally dance, dress and talk as they want. But when a university presents young women dancers in a sexist and sexually overt context as “ambassadors” for the school, the message is that the role of women on campus is to entertain using their bodies and sexuality.

Imagine a gender reversal — scantily dressed young men, all with a similar body build, engaged in sexy dancing at public events, identified as both “boys” and “ambassadors for the university.”

The message that women are sexual bodies here to please others is at odds with our efforts to teach young people healthy sexuality, to prevent sexual violence, and to achieve our fundamental goal of equal access to education.

Jennifer J. Freyd
Professor of psychology
University of Oregon

Jennifer Freyd
Please note: Due to the large volume of correspondence I receive, I cannot answer most messages.
Copyright © 2015 Jennifer J. Freyd.
Return to Jennifer J. Freyd home page