Cover image for Cheerleader! : an American icon
Cheerleader! : an American icon
Adams, Natalie G.
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Publication Information:
New York : Palgrave, [2003]

Physical Description:
ix, 182 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates ; 22 cm
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LB3635 .A33 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Entertainers, sex objects, or athletes? Leaders, porn stars, or superstars? Cheerleaders, numbering 3.8 million in the United States alone, are part of everyone's school experiences and memories. Looking beyond the poms and megaphones, Cheerleader! An American Icon explores how cheerleading reflects our shifting beliefs about sports, entertainment, gender, and national identity. Natalie Guice Adams and Pamela J. Bettis trace cheerleading's history from its inception 135 years ago as a male leadership activity, through the sexual and sassy era epitomized by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, to its current incarnation as a physically demanding sport. Integrating history, pop culture, and interviews wiht cheerleaders of all ages, even those in the cheerleading business, Adams and Bettis simultaneously celebrate cheerleading and provide a critical analysis of this perennially popular activity. Poignant, hilarious, powerful, and ground-breaking, this is one book you won't want to be without.

Author Notes

Natalie Guice Adams is Associate Professor in the College of Education at the University of Alabama and was a Winnsboro, Louisiana cheerleader from 1975 to 1980
Pamela J. Bettis is Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Washington State University. Pam tried out for the Churchland, Virginia cheer squad in 1969; for unknown reasons, she was not selected

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cheerleading, for all its frivolous bouncing and squealing, is a serious matter. So argue Adams and Bettis in their study of the most abhorred and adored of American pastimes. These two professors (Adams is in education; Bettis, qualitative research) bring a refreshing perspective to the subject; on the one hand, they are academics and self-described feminists, and on the other, they admit to being a bit smitten with the whole ordeal (Adams was a cheerleader; Bettis tried out and was cut "for unknown reasons"). They aren't afraid of asking questions, the mother of them all being: why does postfeminist America still have 3.8 million people involved in the cheerleading world? Adams and Bettis recognize the importance of anecdote, using smalltown examples to illustrate big-time problems like desegregation and the eroticism of young girls. Their historical account-who knew cheerleading used to be a strictly male sport?-is sound and colorful. They falter, however, when dealing with current models of radical cheerleading like performance artists X-Cheerleaders, a group of New York City-based feminists who shout "No ifs ands or buts, we're the virgin sluts!" Adams and Bettis astonishingly miss the opportunity to look at the concept of subversion in depth, instead choosing to state the obvious: "Through their performance, the X-Cheerleaders make explicit the contradictions, constraints, and joys of girls' and women's lives in this society." The authors rightly treat their subject with the joyful frivolity of a "pony mount," but they should have dug a little deeper when it came time to land on the ground. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

In exploring cheerleading as important to understanding many girls' and women's experiences in sport, Adams and Bettis take on a subject loath to many feminist scholars of sport. After first examining cheerleading within US culture, from the development of cheerleading as all-male privilege in the Ivy League to the competitions now televised on ESPN, the authors go on to explore the cheerleading one does not see on NFL game days. Treating everything from gay and lesbian cheerleading squads to senior citizen cheerleading groups, the authors challenge the reader to recognize cheerleading as more than a frivolous activity commonly dismissed from the study of sport. This book explores in detail the challenge of recognizing cheerleading as a sport (including Title IX implications), issues around the shift in athleticism currently occurring in the sport, cheerleading as a site of erotic fantasy, the challenges of racism and the struggles to provide inclusive opportunities for all interested in cheering, and, finally, how cheerleading has become a billion-dollar industry. Extensively researched and well written, this volume provides an excellent foundation to a topic in sport that clearly deserves more attention. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Academic collections serving students and scholars of sport and women's studies at the undergraduate level and above; general collections. L. J. Burton North Carolina State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introduction: Cheerleading: What's There to Cheer About?p. 1
Chapter 1 Cheerleading--As American as Apple Pie and Customized Synthetic Wigletsp. 9
Chapter 2 Cheerleading with a Twist: Transformative Cheerleadersp. 27
Chapter 3 Pump it Up: Sports, Athleticism, and the New Cheerleaderp. 47
Chapter 4 Cleavage, Buns, and Poms: Cheerleading and Eroticismp. 69
Chapter 5 Cheerleading as a "White Girl Thing": The Racial Politics of Cheerleadingp. 91
Chapter 6 From Cheer Making to Money Making: The Spirit Industryp. 111
Chapter 7 Cheer Evolution: The Changing Face of a Cultural Iconp. 129
Notesp. 143
Referencesp. 165
Indexp. 177