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How Did Cheerleading Switch From Being Male Dominated to Female Dominated?

How Did Cheerleading Switch From Being Male Dominated to Female Dominated?


While people have been cheering in one form
or another at sporting events seemingly as long as there have been organized sporting
events (for instance, see: The Truth About Gladiators and the Thumbs Up), what we’ve
come to know as the “American phenomenon of organized cheerleading” dates back to
the 19th century, with its genesis coinciding with the rise of collegiate athletics. At this time, only an estimated two percent
of the country’s population went to college and, of that small number, nearly all were
wealthy, male, and white. Among these individuals’ favorite extracurricular
activities were intramural sports, particularly crew, baseball, track and field, and football. However, just like today, not everyone was
meant to be a sports star and players occasionally got injured. For those students who couldn’t be on the
field but still held school spirit, they were encouraged to support their teams by cheering. This all brings us to November 6, 1869 when
the first official intercollegiate American football game was held between Princeton and
Rutgers. It was this game that is generally credited
as kicking off the modern, organized sports cheering. Called the Princeton Locomotive and based
on the calls made by the New York 7th Regiment when it had passed through Princeton during
the Civil War, the specific thing the crowd chanted during the game was a strange mix
of sing-song phrasings and nonsense words: Ray, ray, ray Tiger, Tiger, Tiger Sis, sis, sis Boom, boom, boom Aaaaah! Princeton, Princeton, Princeton! While Princeton would lose that day to Rutgers
by the score of six to four, the “Princeton Locomotive” is a cheer that’s still used
today. By the late nineteenth century, many colleges
began sanctioning cheerleading (and sports) as official school activities. Photos from this period show male volunteers,
often dressed in suits and derby hats, standing before spectators at football games and leading
them in cheers. It was also at this time when colleges began
honoring spirited students with titles like “Rooter king,” “Yell Leaders,” “Yell
Kings,” “Yell Masters,” or “Yell Marshals”- all names for the head cheerleader. One such notable head cheerleader was Thomas
Peebles, who led Princeton’s all-male pep club founded in the 1880s. Peebles would eventually move to Minnesota
after graduating and introduced organized cheerleading to the university there, helping
to spread the practice. Perhaps the most famous “yell marshal”
from this era actually attended the University of Minnesota- one Johnny Campbell, who is
often incorrectly given credit as being the first organized cheerleader. The legend goes that in 1898, the Golden Gophers
were on a pretty miserable losing streak. To top it off, the school newspaper had placed
blame for the team’s losing on the students and faculty not knowing how to cheer correctly. It was during a game against rival Northwestern
on a brisk November day when Campbell, who was a medical student at the time, decided
he had enough of both the losing and the lack of school spirit. Picking up a megaphone and a cowbell, he led
the spectators in cheers like: Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-U-Mah! Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah! Whether all the details of that commonly told
story are correct or not, with the crowd behind them, Minnesota did indeed end their losing
ways, defeating Northwestern by the score of 19 to 6; Campbell would go on to be an
honorary cheerleader for forty years at his alma mater, always with a megaphone and cowbell
in hand. By the early 20th century, cheerleading was
found on nearly every major college campus. However, not everyone was thrilled with the
activity. In 1911, Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell,
who deplored cheerleading, described the cheerleaders’ cheers as “the worst means of expressing
emotion ever invented.” The Nation (a magazine that’s still around
today) disagreed, throwing their support behind cheerleaders and the boisterous chants they
came up with, noting “the reputation of having been a valiant cheer-leader is one
of the most valuable things a boy can take away from college… it ranks hardly second
to that of having been a quarterback.” According to Mary Ellen Hanson, author of,
Go! Fight! Win!: Cheerleading in American Culture, the
idea here was that, much like being a quarterback, cheerleading instilled the “symbols of undergraduate
leadership which would translate into professional success in adult life.” And, indeed, the list of male notables who
were cheerleaders is astonishing. Just to name a few- FDR would later proudly
tell stories from his cheerleading days at Harvard. After hurting his knee to the point he could
never play football again, future general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower joined
the cheerleading squad at Army. George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald
Reagan were also cheerleaders. Beyond presidents, Michael Douglas, Jimmy
Stewart and Samuel L. Jackson led their schools in showing spirit. The idea that there was great value in the
skill of cheerleading even led to Stanford adding it to its curriculum in 1924. In the class, students were taught, as noted
by the New York Times, “Bleacher Psychology, Correct Use of the Voice, and Development
of Stage Presence.” So how did we go from all male cheerleaders
to the scantily clad girls with pom-poms we have today? As previously mentioned, for many years college
was primarily attended by males from wealthy families. However, by the 1920s, more and more universities
were admitting women, too. Despite this, cheer squads were still a male-dominated
thing, as cheerleading, funny enough from a modern perspective, was considered a very
masculine activity. However, the widespread introduction of women
to college also saw many of these ladies wanting to do their part in supporting their teams. Thus, by the late 1920s, women who wanted
to help get the crowds going became “song girls.” They were restricted to this role primarily
because cheerleading was thought to be too athletic of an endeavor for women and their
“fragile” bodies to be able to take. (Incidentally, for the exact same reason a
girl who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig back to back on just six pitches was banned
from Major and Minor League baseball, despite previously demonstrating her durability and
considerable skill. This is also despite the fact that Lizzy,
The Queen of Baseball, Murphy had already thoroughly debunked the idea that women were
too fragile to take part in male athletic activities, with Lizzy becoming the first
person, man or woman, to play for both of Major League Baseball’s American and National
League All-Star Teams during her long and truly illustrious baseball career.) Yelling was also out for the ladies because
it was generally thought that a woman’s voice was too delicate to handle such an activity
for an extended period… Instead, the song girls delighted the crowds
by looking pretty while singing with the band. However, by the late 1930s, some song girls
had managed to transition to helping more directly in cheerleading- a shift that was
met with great resistance. For instance, in 1938, one J.J. Gach in his article, The Case for and against
School Cheerleaders, noted the negative effect, in his view, the “masculine” activity
of cheerleading had on women: [Women cheerleaders] frequently became too
masculine for their own good… we find the development of loud, raucous voices… and
the consequent development of slang and profanity by their necessary association with [male]
squad members… This brings us to World War II. Up until this point, males continued to dominate
cheerleading and were always the captains, even if a woman did manage to join the ranks. However, thanks to males by the thousands
going off to war, women were given the opportunity to take over cheer squads, among many other
roles that had traditionally gone to men. When the men returned from war, while some
universities saw them also return to leading cheers (indeed some colleges even resorted
to banning women from cheerleading again), the tide had nonetheless begun to turn. With the ever increasing number of women involved
in this sideline sport and the increasing emphasis given to the female form in the activity,
not just cheering, within two decades, cheerleading was predominantly seen as a feminine, rather
than masculine, enterprise. This switch also coincided with cheerleading
and the cheerleaders themselves becoming somewhat marginalized in their perceived importance
to the team’s success. As these two things happened, males exited
the scene in droves. This is a trend that has more or less continued
through today. In fact, according to USA Today, there are
around three million cheerleaders in America, but only about five percent of them are males.

100 thoughts on “How Did Cheerleading Switch From Being Male Dominated to Female Dominated?”

  1. Love the show but it really is getting old having every other episode explain how men bad woman good…

  2. As the grandfather of three school age cheerleaders, may I offer some insights? First, yes young ladies as cheerleeders do offer more of an eye candy moment than their male counter parts for the predominately male audience. Modern cheer has become less about the sideline cheer squads we have all become used to, and has progressed to a standalone competition of its own. "Cheer" is now less about getting the fans into the game, and more about a meddling of gymnastic skills and dance routines. Synchronized dance routines judged on difficulty of the movement combined on how well each member of the squad is in step with her fellow team mates, tumbling routines, and stunt lifts are now the hall mark of organized, competitive cheer. Few, if any, males choose to participate in this kind of event. When they do, and I've seen VERY few in the 14 years I've been watching from the stands, their contributions are limited to helping to be the base in lifting stunts. Coordinating the dance moves to include the male members of a squad frequently limits what moves can be made to work and have the squad remain synchronized. The sport has passed by males being involved.

  3. The answer is simple all men are ugly and no one on earth wants to stare at them dancing around (beating the hell out of each other is good to watch) But almost all girls look hot as hell in those little cheerleading outfits. Back in school I would only go to games to be close to all those hot girl's.

  4. It's so fucked up, when cheerleading was for only men it was considered to be of great importance but as soon as women started doing it then it suddenly wasn't that important anymore. Giving women-dominated roles low status is one of many ways women have been (and still are) oppressed in society.

    All of this shit happened in the US, it's another reason that I don't understand what's so great about that country.

  5. It's still a male-dominated sport. It's a sport. They encourage girls to participate in it, and make fun of boys for cheerleading, because that somehow emasculates them, but there's a word for that: Domination. The uniform is literally a sexual fetish. Would you call American football, or basketball African American dominated? All right, then was it the Polish half of Colin Kapernik that got fired, and fined for kneeling in protest? Now turn the camera on the stands. That's right, that's who the cheerleaders are shaking their pompoms for, to get their attention. Like pretty much everything else in the western world, cheerleading is dominated by white men.

  6. Texas A&M still has a group of "yell leaders" that are traditionally male. The female cheer squad doesn't attend any sporting events.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggie_Yell_Leaders

  7. Rah, rah, rah
    TSsss Boom Bah
    Fight fight fight
    Minnesota!
    The sis boom bits where basically beatboxing, trying to emulate drum sounds like a drum roll etc..

  8. My buddy Charles was the only male on the cheer squad at our high school. He had school spirit to spare!
    It's funny how now men are finding it hard to join NFL cheer squads.

  9. A friend of mine in highschool went out for a male cheerleader job and I wondered why. He simply told me this way he gets to hang around with the cheerleaders for a couple hours a day ooooooh!

  10. Women weren't in college in big numbers back then. Maybe the men just got self-conscious? Maybe the market at play. People preferred women? Maybe no one cares?

  11. Take note, incels. You whiny lot were doing your usual sexist whining even back in 1938, when you thought cheerleading was "no place for a woman". 🙄

  12. Love to see my Gophers mentioned!

    Worth noting, "Ski-u-mah" is pronounced "Sky you mah", and is the University's signature cheer. It's got its own interesting history as well (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ski-U-Mah_(slogan) )

  13. It's always amusing to see ppl treat present-day gender roles as immutable biological facts when they have varied wildly throughout history & across cultures. Some societies dont even have a concept of fatherhood & kids are raised entirely by the mothers' clan. some included third genders and the like.

  14. The jocks needed an excuse to have gays poofters billowing
    In the.loka rooms coach love a bit I poofta man love gay assfukin

  15. Fudge packer dirty dirty buggerz and they wear stupid glasses n Finsbury tryn to be smarter than tjebpubumhole

  16. I have a question, is it true that all Bananas types are becoming extinct and this will happen very soon and why?

  17. And notice that in history whenever anything goes from being male dominated to being female dominated, it dramatically loses prestige and becomes the subject of mockery.

  18. So… the feminization of cheerleading went from basically a successful kind of feminist, equality movement back to failure as their success there reversed public opinion of cheerleading. Can that happen with anything? If women take up farting, burping and grunting will that trigger men to decide that not being gross is manly?

  19. I attended Tamalpais High in Mill Valley California from 1956 through 1960. At first the cheerleaders were all girls, but then two boys and two girls ran as a team and were elected. The rest of my time at Tam, it was always two and two. When my younger siblings attended, it still was.

  20. Just read the title…..hmmmmm……titties? short skirts ? I think basic biology answers this question. It's not rocket surgery. 😉

  21. I wonder how many of these 5% cheerleading men are struggling with equal rights, sexual abuse, harassment, from their womanly majority.
    We don't even see them celebrated enough, nor I doubt they have a Male Cheeleader Award or something.

  22. We get it, you're woke. 🙄

    Hope you're not really implying a woman could make it in major league baseball.

  23. Sadly, just this week George Edmonson aka Mr Two Bits passed away. He had been leading cheers for the University of Florida since 1949. Though he officially retired in 2008, he still made occasional appearances.

  24. I think people are thinking of cheerleaders today and envisioning that guys did the exact same thing. Obviously something that’s dominated by men will look very different from if it’s female dominated even if its the same activity. Also you go to college football games and such and you still see male “cheerleaders” they just aren’t official.

    They do chants and paint themselves and lead the crowd. Same thing. They just don’t try to make it look sexy like women do.

  25. At Texas A&M we still have a traditionally all-male squad of Yell Leaders–3 seniors, 2 juniors–using hand signals to coordinate the whole of the student body at each game in pre-determined yells. They wear white coveralls and are elected from among the student body. Being a Yell Leader is considered one of the most prestigious positions at the university, and is certainly one of the most visible. The Yells are taught to each new group of students and the Friday night before each home game the student body actually gathers for Midnight Yell Practice, lead by the Yell Leaders, in Kyle Field.

    A couple example yells:
    Farmers Fight – "Farmers Fight! Farmers Fight! Fight! Fight! Farmers! Farmers Fight!"
    Military – "Squads left! squads right! Farmers, farmers, we’re all right! Load, ready, aim, fire, BOOM! (Seniors only: "Reload!") A&M, give us room!"
    Horse Laugh (for expressing disappointment): "Riffety, riffety, riff-raff! Chiffity, chiffity, chiff-chaff! Riff-raff! Chiff-chaff! Let’s give ‘em a horse laugh: Sssssss!"

  26. Here people actually practice cheerleading, not because they are cheering to a team, they do it for the gymnastics/tricking element. There is whole groups of cheerleading teams without a team to cheer and they even compete to other teams who do the same thing 😂. Here American football ain't a thing and regular football don't use cheerleaders, they just use drug fueled hooligans 😂.

  27. Wow that's a nice video about cheerleading but can we please have a video about where the term eyes are the mirrors of the soul and where did that come from

  28. Wealthy white and male? Has it ever occurred to any of you snowflakes that can't handle the truth that the reason for that is who invented practically everything science electricity Planes Trains and Automobiles over 80% of global life-saving medicines and Medical Treatments indoor plumbing and most importantly as close to a fair safe and functioning Society of any other place on the planet especially entire continents like Africa and South and Central America and let's also add to the fact that's white men percentage-wise stick around for the children and became role models and lead by example I'm aware that none of you Democrats will hear a word of that it will just Trader you because you don't want to hear the truth you also don't want to hear that Caucasian men with the debatable factor of Asian men are the most intelligent on the planet and by far the only free thinkers except for the generations under 35 years old who have been brainwashed and just want to follow the crowd so stick that in your racist and or hate basket and crammed that up your ass you're pathetic and destructive to the planet and Humanity

  29. Thank goodness cheerleading became dominated by females as the cheerleaders showing off their underwear was the only good thing about junior high school assemblies.

  30. Gee, I wonder if was still men only would the cheerleaders still be treated as poorly as they are now?

  31. Even when it was just males doing the cheering. Cheerleaders were and are a useless part of any sport. There is also no reason we should have any organized sports paid for with student tuition on any college or university. The same goes for taxpayers money in high school and below. Organized sports should be a privately funded and run operation.

  32. I used to make fun of George W Bush for being a cheerleader. It's ok now if you're gay. And there's nothing wrong with being gay, but if you're a straight guy one shouldn't be a cheerleader.

  33. I would like to know why people with ADD/ADHD have paradoxical responses to stimulants and sedatives.

  34. I subscribed 4 years ago, stop telling me to. I've shared, I watch the adds, And as always… thank you for posting videos like this every single day. Just busting your balls Simon. Thank you for doing what you do Sir.

  35. HA! So the next time some woman lectures me about cheerleaders being overly sexualized/ objectified, I shall reply: completely correct! This is NO job for a woman!

  36. As not-USA citizen I cannot avoid noticing how Americans love spelling words when chearing or singing rap; I don't thing any other country does that; for example I would look like an idiot spelling words or names in my native language.

    So, whay do Americans do it?

  37. I wish I could have shown this video to my former school principles! Some schools I attended in the 1990s actually banned boys from cheerleading. Only girls were allowed, and I thought it was silly (and told one principle my opinion) but didn't know this history. Good to know!

  38. Men used to think that mathematics was witchcraft because women were so good at it. Most of our gender roles were switched once men realized where the power really lies and got jealous. Women did agriculture, maths, economics/finances, architecture, astrology, physics, chemistry, etc. Men watched kids, did theatre, wore makeup and skirts/dresses, and whatever busy work women gave them to stay out of the way.

  39. Funny how for the last several decades the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have made their brand more money than the football team they were created to support.

  40. As a prior cheerleader, the only thing I ever heard from other guys was "You got to hang out with a lot of girls, huh?" Never much about acrobatics or skills involved.

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