Women cadets at the Virginia Military Institute are being allowed on the school’s cheerleading squad for the first time this year. Previously, women from nearby colleges and men from VMI led cheers.
Their presence on the squad has been met with much condemnation from male peers. “They shouldn’t be down there,” said cadet Jason Clough of Melbourne, Florida. “They don’t look like cheerleaders. They look like men in skirts.”
The school newspaper has mocked the women, and peanuts have been thrown at them during football games. A petition was started by students calling for the women cheerleaders to be banned due to increased “sexual tension” in the school ranks due to the men seeing their “brother rats” in skirts.
The women have stayed committed to cheering throughout the turmoil. “Just because we go here doesn’t mean we’re not feminine, that we’re not women,” said sophomore cadet Gussie Lord.
VMI began admitting women to its all-male school in 1996 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it must allow women to maintain its state funding.
Squad captain Randy Eads is happy with the women he recruited for the squad this year. “They’re showing a lot of determination and will power to come out here,” he said. “I have more respect for these cheerleaders than just about anyone else in the corps.”