In colleges and universities, more often than not, you will find a clear dominance of female cheerleaders as compared to men. And the statistics tip even further, when it comes to flyers. It is often inconceivable to people that boys can fly. Apart from just the statistics, there lies the stereotype. It is irrefutable that male cheerleaders get a bad reputation.
It is often believed that cheerleading is a female sport and that “real men” take part in sports like football, wrestling, basketball, soccer, and so on. The underlying belief is that male cheerleaders are effeminate, unathletic and unworthy, and often too heavy to fly. But the reality cannot be farther from this.
Can guys be flyers in cheerleading? The simple answer is yes. Guys can be cheerleaders without any problem, in fact, almost all the NFL teams have male cheerleaders. A well-toned guy having the proper weight and height can surely take up the role of being the flyer as well. For a more detailed history of cheerleading, how it started as an all-male sport and then slowly evolved and changed, please continue reading this article.
When I tried to bring out the truth behind this myth and find evidence to break this stereotype, I found that there is very scarce information and material available on the internet regarding male flyers in cheerleading.
However, after much research I have been able to collect information that would be helpful for us to get to the bottom of this misconception. In this article, I would help you get some insight into this topic, to help you gain knowledge for your future endeavours.
Was Cheerleading an All Male Sport?
Contrary to the female supremacy in cheerleading today, the history of cheerleading sheds light on the lesser known truth about this sport. Having begun in the late 19th century, at the Princeton University, at a time when women usually did not receive higher education, cheerleading started out as an exclusively “all-male” sport.
The cheerleaders were often athletes from other sports, who were showing support to fellow athletes. Quite opposite to how it is today, cheerleading was seen as masculine and valiant in the past. Seen as a mark of leadership and athleticism, cheerleading was as prestigious as games like soccer and wrestling. It was considered to be a very important extra-curricular activity in college and boys lined up to participate in this sport.
When did Cheerleading Become a Female Sport?
As time passed, the tables turned. With the women’s rights movement and social revolution, more and more women started enrolling in college. With the onset of two world wars, most able-bodied young men had to go to war. In colleges, women gradually began to take over cheerleading, as the nature of the sport began to change.
The emphasis shifted with gender stereotypes, and cheerleading became a feminine show of physical attractiveness from male athleticism. Today over 90% of professional cheerleaders are female. And the stereotype is still thriving.
Can a Guy be a Cheerleader?
The short and obvious answer is yes. Guys can be cheerleaders and in fact a lot of guys are. While cheerleading remains a female dominated sport in middle and high school, that is only an issue of gender stereotypes and the fear of being perceived effeminate.
Boys who can overcome these social predicaments and anxieties, and can love and respect the sport for what it is, can easily become cheerleaders. It is a fact that male cheerleaders make up approximately 50% of cheerleaders at the collegiate level. And that hints, that your gender doesn’t and shouldn’t limit you in any way.
If you meet the physical requirements and have the athletic abilities required, you can become a cheerleader irrespective of your gender.
However, gymnastics and cheerleading are two separate entities. Do You Have To Be A Gymnast To Be A Cheerleader? Demystified, read this article to learn more.
What is a Male Cheerleader Called?
Although the term “stuntmen” is often used for male cheerleaders, it is often done out of a misogynist presumption. “Cheerleader” is not a gendered term, just like cheerleading is not a gendered sport. Male and female cheerleaders alike, are simply called cheerleaders.
This again comes from the stereotyped, gendered definition of cheerleading found even in some dictionaries, where cheerleaders are defined as “a group of girls”. This however is an erroneous definition.
Sadly, because of gender roles and cliché’s in movies and pop culture, this definition has spread like wildfire, which has led to this whole confusion regarding the masculine and feminine nature of words which have none. The word cheerleader is gender-neutral and can apply to all sexes, just like people of all sexes can participate in this sport.
Can Guys be Flyers in Cheerleading?
The flyer or top person is the center of a stunt group. It is the flyer who is lifted off the ground in stunts and has the most crowd visibility. Hence it is an extremely important role to fill. Flyers need to perfectly execute the stunt or they can look clumsy which can ruin the appeal of the stunt.
Not to mention, flying if not executed perfectly, can easily lead to serious accidents, risking the safety of both themselves and others in the pyramid. The position requires a high level of skill and mastering these skills takes full body strength.
While it is a position traditionally taken by women, men often have a physical advantage that is actually an added bonus for becoming a flyer. Male cheerleaders often have well-developed muscles not only in their upper body and chest, but also in their legs and abdominals.
This upper body and lower body strength combined, allow male cheerleaders to fly at the top of the pyramid with good height and control their posture while in the air. All they need to do is meet the weight requirements for becoming a flyer. If trained properly, and without prejudice, men too can become excellent flyers.
What is it Like to Be a Male Cheerleader?
Being a cheerleader, whether male or female, is not a bed of roses. There are challenges that are common to both male and female cheerleaders. These range from attending intense training sessions to enduring serious injuries. On average, a cheerleader could be doing up to fourteen hours of training and practice a week excluding personal strength training and other seasonal training camps they might have to attend.
Cheerleading is one of the most physically demanding sports and it takes its toll on your body even if you don’t get seriously injured. After a day of training you can be seriously jaded out. However taking a day off is not an option in cheerleading. If a single member doesn’t show up, the entire team won’t be able to train for that day.
It is a sport of coordination and collaboration. The whole team must learn how to perform the stunts, lifts, jumps and tumbles while dancing simultaneously. A cheerleader cannot afford to be sick or injured for too long, or they can get replaced easily.
As difficult as this life can be, a male cheerleader’s life comes with added difficulties in all forms. It usually starts with defying the social expectations associated with gender roles by choosing to be a cheerleader.
Receiving homophobic slurs, being laughed at, your hard work being dismissed altogether, your devotion to the sport being doubted and questioned and the ensuing embarrassment and hurt are all part and parcel of being a male cheerleader.
However, despite all of this, everyday more men join this sport, simply for the love of it. Through their dedication they can remove the stigma associated with this sport.
Which NFL Team has a Male Cheerleader?
National Football League (NFL) Cheerleading is a professional prestigious cheerleading platform for cheerleaders in the US. Out of the 32 teams in NFL, 26 teams have cheerleading in their franchise. The Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders were the first squad to start using male cheerleaders in 1998, mostly for stunts.
It has been more progressive since then as more male cheerleaders started to be accepted into NFL teams. In 2018, the first male dancers, Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies, were added to NFL Cheerleading to the Los Angeles Rams.
Some of the NFL teams which currently have a male cheerleader are Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles, to name a few.
In this article we have traced how cheerleading went from an all-male sport to a sexist enterprise that objectifies women, and bars men from equal participation. The case of cheerleading is only a manifestation of the greater misogyny that operates on a larger level all over the world. However, that is no reason to stop yourself.
If you are a man wanting to become a cheerleader or a flyer specifically, go ahead for that audition and keep trying. The only way to eliminate the stigma is by more male representation in cheerleading.
As we have seen, male NFL cheerleaders (dancers and flyers included) have increased since the 2010s, and this is only the beginning. This is the time to pave the path for a more inclusive attitude in cheerleading and the process has already started.