Do These Cheerleading Body Requirements Go Too Far?

April 28th 2016

Almie Rose

They say "dress for the job you want." But if the job you want is cheerleader, does that mean you should be open to body-shaming?

That's the question some are asking after the University of Washington's cheerleading squad put up a poster detailing all of their requirements to try out for the team.

But what has social media in an uproar is that these requirements have nothing to do with athletic ability, and everything to do with physical appearance.

Here's the "tryout look" UW is seeking:

Hair do's:

  • hair down
  • curled or straight
  • volume
  • partially off face

Hair don'ts:

  • ponytails
  • slicked back
  • trendy colors

You have to wonder why it matters if your hair has volume and has to be worn down in order to be a cheerleader. And what exactly is a trendy color?

It gets weirder with the makeup and body conditions:

Makeup do's:

  • Bronze, beachy glow (huh?)
  • false lashes (why?)
  • girl about town lipstick (what does that even mean?)
  • flattering eye shadow (won't it sweat off anyway?)

Makeup don'ts:

  • dark, smokey eyes
  • nude lips
  • too much makeup (seems like false eyelashes are already too much...)
  • harsh lines/contours/colors

Body do's:

  • physically fit, athletic physique
  • nude or no fingernail polish
  • natural tan/spray tan (...really?)

Body don'ts:

  • jewelry of any kind
  • visible tattoos
  • distracting finger nail polish

Some of the requirements for attire make sense (like appropriate sneakers for exercise), but then you get this:

Attire dont's:

  • tops that cover the midriff
  • high-waisted shorts

The backlash came quickly.

Twitter was flooded with reactions. Some users voiced concern while others didn't see a problem with the advertisement.

Cheerleading is about more than appearance.

By reducing prospective cheerleaders to body, hair, and makeup requirements, one could easily forget that cheerleading is actually a physically intense sport. In 2015, California officially considered cheerleading a sport and the American Medical Association believes that is should be considered a physical activity, saying it's just as rigorous as any other sport. But a debate wages on as to whether or not cheerleaders should be considered athletes, which doesn't seem fair.

"There is no question that competitive cheerleading is a physically demanding sport," according to Livestrong. "Performance elements [in cheerleading] require strength, stamina, balance and timing, all clear athletic qualities. [...] In order to gain and maintain those athletic qualities, a competitive cheerleader must train as hard as any other athlete."

Unfortunately, not all cheerleaders are treated like other athletes. It's doubtful that those looking to tryout for football have to refer to a poster full of body "do's and dont's."

The poster also seems to assume that all prospective cheerleaders are blonde, white women, or at least ideally. But that leaves out a lot of people.

"I am honored to say that I am a 2012 National Champion and a 2012 World Champion. I have also won Majors three times," writes cheerleader Matt Smith, on his website. "Cheerleading is truly my love and my life."

In response to the backlash, the university took the poster down and issued a response to PEOPLE:

In response to a high volume of student questions about cheer and dance team tryouts, a member of the UW spirit leadership team created a graphic aimed at providing interested students information in preparation for the tryouts. The graphic was removed immediately, after a UW athletic department official saw it and determined that some of the details and descriptions provided were inconsistent with the values of the UW spirit program and department of athletics. Athletic department officials have reinforced the values of the programs to UW spirit leadership, and look forward to an equitable and diverse tryout process for interested students.