Something to Cheer About?

by Brooke Claflin

For about two weeks now, cheerleaders have been stepping forward with complaints about mistreatment and/or discrimination in their workplace. Although these women cheer for some of the highest paid athletes in the country, they receive little compensation (in comparison) for their hard work; most of them are paid little more than minimum wage. They, as part time employees,  do not receive health insurance nor retirement benefits. Moreover, the restrictions they face do not end when they leave the work place; the restrictions follow them home and permeate into their personal lives. 

Cheerleaders are forbidden from interacting with the players; this means that if a player attempts to approach them, then the burden is on the cheerleaders to avoid contact. There are also stringent regulations on what they can wear on an everyday basis; photos in sweatpants and photos in bikinis are deemed as equally unacceptable. 

Additionally, there is the danger of being a woman surrounded by intoxicated men at these games; many cheerleaders have faced sexual harassment and have found few if any avenues through which to seek recourse.

Overall, as I read the many articles on the horrors facing cheerleaders, I was appalled but not surprised. The unequal and unfair treatment of women has long been a part of our culture, so its perpetuation in the sports industry is not unexpected. 

Even so there are moments of hope, these stories are receiving large amounts of media coverage, so the complaints cannot simply be ignored. Plus, women athletes in general are gaining more attention and respect. For instance, last year REI did their Force of Nature campaign to support women in the sports industry, and especially the outdoors. This year The North Face is doing their own publicity campaign called She Moves Mountains that honors female adventurers. Thus, I do think there is the possibility for positive outcomes from these incredibly upsetting narratives.