Cheerleading originated on Ivy League campuses with male cheerleaders who performed during football games in the late 1880s. Today, 3.8 million people participate in cheerleading in the United States, and 97 percent of them are female. The impact of gender, race, ethnicity, social class, and sexual orientation can be seen in the way cheerleading operates in elementary and secondary schools, in higher education, and in society at large.

Throughout its first fifty years, cheerleading was an exclusively male activity and represented normative masculinity. Being a cheerleader or yell leader was understood as a noble endeavor that helped prepare young White men for their rightful place as leaders in the emerging industrial order. Women began entering collegiate cheerleading in small numbers in the 1920s, but as late ...

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