Researchers at UEA have suggested that more men taking up cheerleading may lead to improvements in attitudes towards gender relations. Traditionally a female dominated activity, a UEA study suggests that more males being encouraged to join cheerleading teams may help to challenge ideas about gender roles.
Two academics, from UEA’s school of Education and Lifelong Learning suggest males joining this “feminine” sport can not only have a progressive influence on ideas about gender in cheer but improve the performances of both men and women within the sport .
Dr Esther Priyadharshani and Dr Amy Pressland looked at four teams, one all-female and three mixed. Cheerleading is “very much viewed as an activity for girls”, a place where they can “remain girls and women” Dr Pressland noted. This led her to question “what happens when boys and girls take part in it together”, in terms of male “masculinity and how the gender relationships work within the team”.
The study found that that when men felt uncomfortable doing things they might not consider typically masculine they still took part for the sake of their team. Furthermore, it was noted that the male participants were very protective of their teammates and there was no inappropriate behavior. Dr Pressland feels that this has the potential to be an “inclusive activity for young people to work together” where gender norms can be challenged and played with.