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Think Out Loud

Questioning The Effect Of Cheerleaders On Campus Culture


The University of Oregon cheerleaders at a UO basketball game, 2015.

The University of Oregon cheerleaders at a UO basketball game, 2015.

Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard

As the University of Oregon continues discussions on curbing sexual assaults, some have challenged the school to change the cheerleading program’s image.

The Register-Guard reports at a recent UO Board of Trustees meeting, board member Ginevra Ralph spoke on the issue of the overt sexuality of the school’s cheerleaders, describing it as “bump-and-grind, pelvic-thrusting dancing.”

“I have watched people be incredibly uncomfortable with the U of O cheerleaders,” she said during the meeting, “and they actually leave the basketball (arena) during intermission because of the overt sexual dancing, or whatever you want to call it.”

The athletic department identifies the cheerleaders as “official ambassadors” of the university who are nationally recognized. The newspaper reports that the department prides itself on utilizing the latest in uniform technology and choreography.

UO professor Jennifer Freyd said she has been studying the school’s cheerleading program intermittently since 2007, but hasn’t been able to interview students in the program.

“We know from observing this behavior, there’s a lot of overt sexuality,” Freyd said Thursday on Think Out Loud. “For most people that I have talked to … it’s not at all the case that they’re prudes. It’s about the type of sexuality.”

Freyd said the issue brought up by Ralph goes beyond sex appeal, explaining that the young women on the squad are all about the same height and body type, stirring up other issues of body image.

“The students that are engaged in these activities are very talented and dedicated students,” said Freyd. “But you have to ask the question of the students who weren’t on the team because of their body shapes.”

UO officials declined to come on Thursday’s show. 

Freyd, along with graduate student Marina Rosenthal, plan to measure college students’ attitudes after watching UO sporting events. Participants will watch 30-second video clips, including football, men’s basketball, men and women’s volleyball and cheerleading.

 

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