American Cheerleader: The Icon, The Stereotype, and The Truth

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Many have seen her. Many know her. But who is the American cheerleader? Is she a blond haired, blue eyed sex symbol? Is she a drug-addicted girl with no brains and even fewer moral values? Maybe she is just your average, pretty, girl-next-door with a loud voice and lots of spirit. What is clearly true is that cheerleading and cheerleaders have evolved greatly over a century-long history. What started as one bold college student has turned into an activity with over 3 million participants (Brady 1); one that is backed by a $150 million industry (Williams 2). Modern cheerleading has come a long way from its historic roots, but large differences still exist between the iconic cheerleader, the stereotypical cheerleader, and the truth. The …show more content…
He held the first summer cheerleader training camps which grew into the National Cheerleading Association ("Cheerleading" 2). From there, Herkimer oversaw the growth of cheerleading into high schools and the National Football League, and pioneered the use of spirit sticks, dance routines, and his signature jump, the "herkie" ("Being" 1). College cheerleading championships were first broadcast nationally in 1978 which greatly aided the cheerleader's ascent into icon status. From there, competitive cheerleading took off leading to the establishment of all-star gyms, independent of any school or team affiliation. As for the cheerleading industry, Varsity Spirit Corporation now monopolizes the market on all things cheerleading: camps, competitions, uniforms, and more. Although the purposes of cheerleading squads now vary, the essential qualities of a cheerleader rarely do.

The table seen above presents the results of an independently conducted survey of 46 students, teachers, cheerleaders, and other adults from Sylacauga, Alabama. These results show their answers to the question, “What qualities do you think of when you think of the ideal or perfect cheerleader?” These findings hold valuable information about the high standards for cheerleaders in this country. According to these results, the ideal cheerleader represents all that is good in a

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