Men Navigate Gender Divides
Published: Friday, November 9, 2012
Updated: Saturday, November 10, 2012 04:11
Amid the excitement of Midnight Madness, Jai DeLoatch (COL ’14) stood out from the thousands of cheering fans. As the only male on the Georgetown cheerleading squad, DeLoatch occupies a unique spot both at basketball games and on campus.
Although Georgetown is considered an old boys’ club — historically, the leadership of student groups has been dominated by men — there are niches of campus life where male students are vastly outnumbered. The cheerleading team is an example, but it is not the only one.
In Groove Theory, a co-ed hip hop dance group, Jason Thompson (MSB ’14) is one of four male students among a group of 27 dancers. Thompson, the group’s creative director, said that the demographics of the group made him initially hesitant to join.
“Before I was on the team, I thought, ‘Oh, I want to join, but I don’t want to do something that’s that far out of my comfort zone and that’s quote unquote girly,’” he said. “And then when I joined the team, it was like, ‘There are a lot of girls, but I don’t have to do girly things.’”
DeLoatch also felt this stigma when he decided to join the cheerleading squad. He had cheered for his high school’s junior varsity team and knew he wanted to develop his skills, but he was also wary of how his decision to join the squad would be perceived.
“Going out and trying anything that isn’t a traditional male thing tends to compel other guys to make fun of you,” he said.
Male students in majority-female campus groups aren’t the only guys facing this social burden. At the School of Nursing and Health Studies, where only 117 of the 602 students are male, men often feel the need to refute the notion that they are less masculine than their counterparts in other schools.
“All of my friends and my brother, who’s in the NHS, call me a nurse,” Aziz Saqr (NHS ’16) said. “It has a feminine connotation, and it shouldn’t.”
Dale Batoon (NHS ’13), who is one of two male nursing majors in his class, said that he also combats assumptions about his sexuality.
“There’s also a stereotype, not nursing students in particular, but in male nurses, that a male nurse is going to be gay. I don’t know where people have gotten that,” he said.
DeLoatch rejects the idea that cheerleading is exclusively the realm of women and gay men. Though DeLoatch is gay, he said that most male cheerleaders tend not to be.
“In general when it comes to cheer, the guys [who] are in cheer are not gay,” he said. “I think the reason … is because of what you’re doing. You’re literally touching girls all day. ... There’s nothing gay about being a cheerleader at all.”
Thompson added that a lot of stereotypes about men in majority-female activities are outdated.
“If you watch TV shows like ‘America’s Best Dance Crew,’ there [are] definitely way more guys than girls,” he said. “It’s becoming more natural for guys to actually dance.”
Many men have found the university to be a supportive environment where they can pursue their interests, regardless of whether they fit into gender stereotypes.
“People often have a difficult time when they go off to college fitting in and finding their niche,” DeLoatch said. “The thing that I love about Georgetown and being a Georgetown student is that it’s literally the place where you come to be yourself. You find out who you are at Georgetown, and you can be that person without judgment, without issue.”
DeLoatch said that his status as the only male cheerleader has granted him a level of recognition on campus and that students from different backgrounds have encouraged him.
“I’ve even met guys who are vets, who are the macho of the macho-est, and I tell them that I’m a cheerleader, and they think it’s awesome,” he said.
Thompson said he has had similar feedback from Georgetown students, although his athletic experience in high school has impacted how his friends perceive him.
“Some of my friends back home joke about it because they know me as someone who ran track or someone who did sports,” he said. “Here, most of the time a lot of people think it’s really cool.”
Although he feels comfortable on Groove Theory, Thompson said there are drawbacks that come with his situation.
“I feel like I’m the punching bag on the team, but not in a mean way — in a joking way,” Thompson said, smiling.
According to DeLoatch, being Georgetown’s lone male cheerleader carries with it a mixed bag of consequences.
“I like it because I get to do things differently. I don’t have to worry about matching up with another guy and doing the same things that the other guys do. I have more independence,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t like it because there are times when you want to bro out and you don’t have any other guys on the team.”
DeLoatch believes that being a male cheerleader or a male member of a predominantly female organization is a matter of finding the courage to pursue one’s interests.
“Don’t be so defined by what it is that you think that you should be doing because of your sex. Do what you want to do and be happy and have a good time.”
Special to The Hoya Tia Baheri contributed to this report.