Colombo Telegraph

No ‘Ugly’ Cheerleaders: Are Sri Lankans So Superficial?

By Visakha Tillekeratne

More disappointing than loosing the ICC World T 20 are the comments and responses of a Sri Lankan society who prove time and time again to be rather unfocussed and superficial. These remarks have been used widely by the international media and this is really an indictment on Sri Lanka rather than the cheerleaders. More grave, is the way we treat our women – as commodities.

Cheerleaders Sri Lanka:The lack of beauty in the cheerleader was more of an issue than the lack of strategy in the game of cricket

Spectators are a good representation of Sri Lankan Society, the case in point being the cruel attack on the “cheerleaders” performing at the finals of the T 20, who became the butt end of ridicule and criticism. The lack of beauty in the cheerleader was more of an issue than the lack of strategy in the game of cricket and the serious underlying issue of bad management of the sports arena in this country. By the way beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say so how do we give a common standard?. The dance routine was another matter.

The media

In this case have aggravated matters by reporting their judgement on the cheerleaders by projecting it through the spectator in some cases, almost as though they are afraid to give their opinion. The rest of the media, fix judgement on women and the “commodification” of women in the media is pretty obvious. The girls are brought to titillate spectators mainly men, momentarily and women too give their judgement of women. It is rather disconcerting to listen to the remarks about the cheerleaders of so called “educated” women.

Quote The Hindustan Times;

The Washington Redskins Cheerleaders - the first-ever cheerleading squad for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, part of the new Indian Premier League (IPL)

“They’re aren’t hot enough, they aren’t white enough and they certainly aren’t blonde enough. The rules are clear in the minds of all involved: brown women, who aren’t super-skinny can’t be cheerleaders. It’s okay to jeer at them and call them an eyesore.

Never mind the fact that these girls are underpaid as the manager of the cheerleaders, Sudev Abeysekara tells the Hindustan Times, “In an event like this you need good looking girls, and to get the beautiful girls who are professional dancers, you have to pay more. The payment is not that great.”

The Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka writes;

“The sorry performance of the so called cheerleaders at the ICC World T20 is not only a disgraceful eyesore but has showcased Sri Lanka in a poor light to the entire world judging by the disparaging comments they have drawn from the international media.”
First Post, which had both excerpts from the Hindustan Times and the Daily Mirror Sri Lanka had this summation quite correctly,

The message is clear from the board. Blame the ICC for this eyesore. We would have gone for white ones.
Thanks to the IPL in India, Twenty20 cricket isn’t just about sixes and fours anymore. A bevy of beauties is a must, after all the testosterone-filled crowd needs something else to feast their eyes on. A six isn’t good enough. And for T20 fans all across, a poor, brown-girl in tights can never fit the bill.

The website cricketcountry.com says;

“Sri Lankan Cricket authorities have complained to organisers about cheerleaders at the World Twenty 20 tournament after media criticism describing them as a “disgraceful eyesore”.

Nishantha Ranatunga, Secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket, told AFP that fans had also provided “negative feedback” after lacklustre displays by the local performers, who lead celebrations when wickets are taken and boundaries scored.

“The impression created by these cheerleaders is not acceptable,” Ranatunga said Thursday. “We complained to the ICC (International Cricket Council) that this is harming the image of Sri Lanka. “We had a lot of negative feedback which we passed on to the ICC as we had nothing to do with selecting the dance troupes.”

What is cheerleading?

Let us analyse this situation and look at the origins of cheer leading very briefly. It began as the wording goes as “leading the cheer” or egging on spectators to cheer, through a kind of drill, as far back as the late 19th century. The tradition began at Princeton University and spread to Minnesota and this cheer leading was then done by “men”. It is predominantly an American tradition and cheerleading is considered almost a sport.
According to Wilkipedia “However, it was not until 1898 that University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell directed a crowd in cheering “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!”, making Campbell the very first cheerleader and November 2, 1898 the official birth date of organized cheerleading. Soon after, the University of Minnesota organized a “yell leader” squad of six male students, who still use Campbell’s original cheer. In 1903 the first cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was founded
Women joined cheerleading prior to 1907 and began to dominate the sport during World War II, when few men were involved in organized sports. At that time, there were no collegiate sports for women but women were allowed to participate in cheering squads. Gymnastics, tumbling, and megaphones were incorporated into popular cheers, and are still used”
However the USA has made it a structured activity with routines, accredited training programs, safety training for coaches of cheer leading, organized cheer leaders into squads, into societies and clubs, with no race barriers. There are many women of colour in these cheerleading teams. It is a sport and an artistic skill with a great degree of gymnastics involved.

Not confined to white women and conventional beauty

Deneeta Pope, a black woman, as a cheerleader who dated and married Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan

The photograph shows Deneeta Pope, a black woman, as a cheerleader who dated and married Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, also in the picture.
So tantamount to opinion on the sub continent and Sri Lanka that you bring in a bunch of beautiful girls merely to keep the spectator occupied, cheerleading is a sport, it is organized, it has a history and an art to it and it really is a morale booster not a testosterone booster and not confined to classical white as white beauty. It also has spread far and wide, in an organized fashion.

Traditions and culture of host country

Even though the ICC was responsible for hiring the cheerleaders, for one, it should consider the traditions of the host country, is it suitable for this culture? Even in leggings. Cannot one showcase the cultural aspects of Sri Lanka?

Professional aspect of Cheerleading

Does the agent who supplied the “cheerleaders” know that there is an art and a meaning to it? That one cannot figure damsels from thin air, get them to practice and “put them on show” rather than leading the cheer?

The Status of Women

To the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, for is derogatory terminology on women of one’s own country. What is the standard one sets on beauty? Even if the girls were less pleasing does one have to make it public? What about the feelings of these human beings not “items” for display when all these disparaging comments are made? Have we stopped to consider them? Why allow a display that is not part of this culture. IPL India may have had it. But then India with all its culture has aped the West, given its women a permanent insecurity complex of having to be white all the time, with the Revlon Revolution. So let us not take much notice of India which has seen women as chattels for centuries.
The public of Sri Lanka, should practice thinking about issues of greater significance than cheerleaders or if a woman is fat or thin, dark or fair and what about the men? Who considers their looks?
A quote from Naomi Woolf, “We women do not have to spend money and go hungry and struggle and study to become sensual; we always were. We need not believe we must somehow earn good erotic care; we always deserved it.

The Analysis in a Nutshell

The T 20 Sri Lankan team should be encouraged to sort out its act with constructive opinion. The corruption and nepotism ridden Cricket Board should clean itself. All sports have to be reorganized with strategy and Vision and a long term game plan. The ICC too has problems of its own. There has to be a proper match played to lead the cheer.

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