The most demanding stunt required of women trying to make the University of Washington’s cheerleading squad has nothing to do with gymnastics.
Make no mistake, though — this challenge is all about extreme physical demands.
It begins with “girl about town lipstick,” “false lashes” and “flattering eye shadow,” followed by “nude fingernail polish” and a “spray tan.”
Don’t forget to have your “hair down,” but “partially off” your face while maintaining plenty of “volume.”
Make sure you hide your tattoos and avoid trendy colors and “too much makeup.”
Don’t forget to be “physically fit” with an “athletic physique.”
On three: One … two …
If it all sounds more acrobatic to you than a 20-foot basket toss with a full twist and a scissor kick, you’re not alone.
The entire list of demands — itemized on a photo of a white woman with blonde hair and a forced smile — was posted on the UW cheerleading squad’s Facebook page Monday night, according to the Seattle Times.
Blowback ensued, with critics arguing that the image objectified women while perpetuating sexist, Anglo-centric beauty ideals.
“Thanks UW for setting women back 100 years!” a Twitter user wrote.
“I can’t believe this is real,” Jazmine Perez, the director of programming for the university’s student government, told the Seattle Times by email. “One of the first things that comes mind is objectification and idealization of Western beauty, which are values I would like to believe the University doesn’t want to perpetuate. As a student of color who looks nothing like the student in the poster, this feels very exclusive.”
The infographic was deleted by the following morning, three days ahead of cheerleader tryouts at the Seattle school, according to the Times.
In a statement, athletics department officials told the paper that the image was designed “in response to a high volume of student questions about cheer and dance team tryouts.”
The statement noted that the graphic was removed once the department “determined that some of the details and descriptions provided were inconsistent with the values of the UW spirit program and department of athletics.”
The university’s student government said in its own statement that the flyer “does not reflect the values of the University of Washington.”
“In the midst of protests and conversations with the administration in order to provide a more inclusive environment for all of our students, this goes against everything that many students have been working so hard for,” the statement said. “An advertisement such as this completely objectifies women and creates barriers that only perpetuates the inaccessibility of opportunities that should be open for every student on this campus.
“We will be doing everything in our power to make it very clear to our students (both incoming and current) that this is not in any way representative of our university and our campus climate. We hope the administration will do the same.”
But not everyone agreed.
“It’s basically a job interview,” Nathan Harding wrote on the student government’s Facebook page. “Search online ‘How to dress for a Job Interview’ and tell me the criteria listed isn’t common sense for that situation – as is the cheerleader infographic above. Being offended over the smallest of things seems like an all too common pastime these days.”
NBC News noted that similar flyers have been published by Louisiana State University and Washington State University.
Previous graphics have also also provided strict outlines for makeup, hair, body type and attire. The women featured in the images have also been smiling blondes.
But a representative from Varsity — an umbrella organization of cheerleading, spirit and dance teams and competitions — told NBC that the detailed nature of the Husky’s guidelines was unusual.
“It’s unfortunate; I wish this hadn’t happened for them,” the Varsity representative, who asked not to be named, told NBC.
“We might say wear a clean outfit and make sure your hair is done,” but beyond that, Varsity doesn’t have guidelines for how participants should look, the representative said, adding:
“Our focus is on athleticism. We like to keep the focus on athleticism and cheerleading skills.”
Signe Burchim, a UW senior told the Times that the graphic raised troubling issues for her.
“I think it’s really upsetting and kind of disheartening the way it’s basically asking these women who want to try out to perform their femininity — but not too much.” Such a message would never go out to men trying out for a sport, she said.