“Wesleyan won a football game. Wesleyan has cheerleaders. Something very strange has happened to my alma mater,” tweeted Justin LaSelva ’09 the Monday after the Homecoming game. Two days later, in response to a comment from an alumna, he tweeted, “Does this mean Keep Wes Weird failed?”
Maggie Feldman-Piltch ’14, the founder and a current captain of the Wesleyan Cardinal Cheerleaders, couldn’t help but take offense to the comments. After all, when she started the group in 2010, she envisioned it as an alternative form of the traditional cheerleading squad. The group cheers about current events and social justice issues like feminism, voter registration, and climate change.
The squad as a whole works hard to fight negative, stereotypical conceptions of cheerleaders. Feldman-Pitch stressed that despite cultural notions of cheerleaders as seeking attention, the Wesleyan Cardinal Cheerleaders cheer for the sake of personal empowerment. One of Feldman-Piltch’s main tenets when she founded the group was that it should possess an independent identity rather than serve as an accessory for the football team.
“No one is here to perpetuate misogyny,” she said. “We’re not trying to be ogled. This is not a music video. I’m way more India Arie than I will ever be Miley Cyrus.”