Cheerleading tryouts, or any tryout for that matter, is a stressful time. Not only do you have to learn a cheer and show off your skills, but you have to look presentable also. The University of Washington (UW) tried to be helpful by creating a flyer to show the dos and don’ts of tryouts. However, the flyer created an outcry because of the flyers promotion of negative body image and racial issues.
This flyer was posted to the University’s Facebook Page a week before cheer and dance team auditions, and as a result, caused many people to withdraw from their audition. Many feel that this flyer reinforced racial and sexual stereotypes.
Some individuals also criticized the poster for focusing too much on Western beauty standards by stating girls who are auditioning should have a “bronze, beachy glow,” “false lashes,” and should have their hair, “down, curled or straight with volume.”
“One of the first things that comes mind is objectification and idealization of Western beauty, which are values I would like to believe the University doesn’t want to perpetuate,” student Jazmine Perez told the Seattle Times.
Some backlash that the UW received on twitter can be seen below:
One UW senior, Signe Burchim, told the Seattle Times, “I think it’s really upsetting and kind of disheartening the way it’s basically asking these women who want to try out to perform their femininity — but not too much.” Such a message would never go out to men trying out for a sport, she said.
The flyer went up on UW’s Facebook page on Monday, April 25, 2016. By Wednesday, April 27, the flyer had gone viral, but by Thursday, April 28, the flyer had gone global.
UW officials responded to UW fans who had concerns over this flyer saying that a part-time staffer who wasn’t a coach created this flyer. In addition, they also stated that the flyer was never meant to be an official communication. The flyer was created in order to address the many questions that students had about cheer and dance tryouts.
After posting this flyer, it was taken off of the Facebook page the following morning, because the UW’s marketing department felt that the flyer was “inconsistent with the values of the UW spirit program and the department of athletics,” said spokesman Carter Henderson.
However, just because the flyer was taken off the Facebook page, doesn’t mean it was gone forever. Some individuals had saved a copy of the flyer and reposted it on social media, which spurred the outcry on social media further and caused news organizations to get on the story.
After seeing this post, Nancy Anderson, a UW cheerleader for two years in the 1960s, told the Seattle times, “It was a wonderful experience … now when I read about these ‘tips,’ I’m embarrassed to say that I was ever a Husky cheerleader.” She went further to call the tips on the flyer “racist, sexist and outrageous.”
Other individuals who commented on the UW post expressed their concerns over how the woman in the picture was white. Some felt that the image of the white woman was suggesting that the ideal candidate was a blonde, white woman.
Despite all the controversy surrounding the flyer, I think it is important to note that two other schools, Louisiana State University (LSU) Tiger Girls and Washington State University (WSU), did something along the same lines. Both of these flyers were almost identical to the UW’s flyer, and the LSU flyer also was removed from Facebook.
Having been a member of my high school’s dance team for all four years of high school, I would have to agree with the mass majority who feel that this flyer is promoting negative body images and what the “ideal” cheerleader or dancer should look like. At tryouts, there are so many other things that you’re worried about. You aren’t focused on looking like a model off the runaway at all times. You try to look at least presentable for an audition, but you’re there to show what you can do.
Not every cheerleader, dancer or any other athlete for that matter look exactly the same. Each athlete has a different body type and overall look than the man or woman standing next to them. I think that tryouts should be focused more on what you can do and not about how you look or if you do or don’t fit an ideal because there shouldn’t be an ideal in the first place.
As I’ve shown in other blog posts on my blog, social media can drive debates and disagreements. Without social media, this post wouldn’t have gone global and wouldn’t have created the widespread debate about the body image and racial controversies that are shown.
Did you hear about this flyer prior to reading this post and what are your thoughts on the flyer?