The University of Oregon cheerleaders are known around these parts as one of the best college cheerleading teams in the nation, but to a least one person they are being accused of promoting rape culture on campus.
Specifically, a trustee at the University of Oregon, Ginevra Ralph, recently questioned the dance routines of the Oregon cheerleaders at a meeting of the board of trustees.
“I have watched people be incredibly uncomfortable with the U of O cheerleaders,” she told the trustees, “and they actually leave the basketball (arena) during intermission because of the overt sexual dancing, or whatever you want to call it.”
One of the routines brought up in the article includes the cheerleaders dancing to “Bang Bang” by Jessie J with lyrics such as “Back, back seat of my car — I’ll let ya have it. Wait a minute lemme take you there — ah. Wait a minute till ya — ah.”
Here’s a video of them performing to the song…
Ginevra Ralph’s full statement on the matter…
One of the prevailing current “buzz words” around campuses these days, including the UO, is the accusation that the campus supports a “rape culture.” I have personally been striving to deeply understand and analyze exactly what that means, particularly within the context of the UO. I can’t imagine that there are many examples that anyone can produce that would explicitly or implicitly condone sexual aggression in any form or to dismiss it as trivial. But my job as Trustee is to take such assertions seriously and listen to the subtext. It has led me to ask myself and the community a variety of questions to gather their various perspectives.
So in addition to wanting to understand what is meant by the term, I want to know who is seen as promulgating or perpetuating such a climate on campus. Is it Administration, Faculty, Staff, Students, or all four? “Greek life,” for example, has been pointed to as trivializing, if not encouraging, date rape through drugs and parties. So are our students actively promoting a rape culture? Is this both fraternities and sororities? Mandatory reporters and confidential counselors are of both genders, as are administrators. Is this rape culture perpetuated by both genders? If so what is a woman’s role in this?
Where, if anywhere, does the overt sexuality with the bump-and-grind, pelvic-thrusting dancing that the female cheerleader and dance squads feature in their routines fit in this context? I have watched basketball crowds appreciate the athleticism of the male and female cheerleaders doing their cheer routines, but then watched the same crowd often be uncomfortable and embarrassed by the sexualized dance routines. It also makes me wonder why there are no male dancers? Is this a gender equity issue or a double standard? Would it give a different message to have them participate with the cheer dancers? Clearly male dancers for this style are sought after by major productions such as the Grammys and the Oscars.
The UO stands for and promotes excellence in academics, research, sports, and cultural offerings. In the name of eliminating a “rape culture,” I am simply asking if these routines are the most appropriate and of highest cultural quality we can muster and would eliminating the raciness in the context of UO athletic events with family audiences in attendance help mitigate the problem.
Interim university president Scott Coltrane stated that he would discuss the topic of suggestive cheer dances as part of a $500,000 effort to reduce sexual assaults on the Oregon campus.