Last week, a group of Connecticut high school cheerleaders begged their school board for uniforms that don't reveal their midriffs. They say skimpy outfits violate league rules, but like most aspects of cheerleading, there isn't really a standard for uniforms.
A half-dozen Central High School cheerleaders appeared before Bridgeport, Connecticut's Board of Education and asked administrators to ask how they'd feel if their daughters were forced to wear their new uniforms, consisting of cropped tops and either small shorts or sweatpants as bottoms. The Connecticut Post reports:
"We ask with the utmost respect you do anything in your power to help us," said Heidi Medina, a former team captain, removing oversized sweats to reveal a quarter-length top and exposed middle. "I don't feel comfortable wearing this."
"It really hurts our self esteem," said Ariana Mesaros, another senior on the team, in a voice hoarse from cheering the night before. "I am embarrassed to stand up here dressed like this. Is this really how you want Bridgeport to be represented?"
The girls pointed out that the new uniforms are in violation of the National Federation Spirit Rules book, which issues guidelines for cheerleading competitions, and says, "When standing at attention, apparel must cover the midriff." Administrators said they were unaware of the rule, but agreed to purchase the girls black bodysuits to wear under their uniforms.
As pointed out by Yahoo! Sports, just last month, high school cheerleaders in Florida lobbied to be allowed to wear their short skirts on game day, even though they violate their school's dress code.
This highlights yet again the huge discrepancy in what cheerleaders are expected to be in this country. While studies show that forcing cheerleaders to wear midriff-bearing tops puts them at a high risk for eating disorders, there aren't binding nation-wide rules for what high school cheerleaders can and cannot wear, only guidelines from groups that oversee competitions. That's because cheering isn't actually a sport, according to a federal judge in Connecticut (despite the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling earlier that it is a contact sport.)
Cheerleading has transformed from an activity for girls who want to shake pom poms in cute outfits on the sidelines to a sport for athletes performing complicated stunts. As lawmakers struggle to understand that there's been a fundamental change in what is means to be a cheerleader, young female athletes across the county are continuing to practice a sport that lacks proper regulations. Like the Connecticut student said, in addition to being physically dangerous, the sports' lack of respect is harmful to girls' self-esteem.
Bridgeport Cheerleaders Say Uniforms Expose Too Much Skin [Connecticut Post]
Connecticut Cheerleaders Want Uniforms With More Coverage [Yahoo! Sports]
HIgh School Cheerleaders Campaign For Less-Revealing Uniforms [Jezebel]