Facebook Stirs Up “Cheer Mom” Stereotype Controversy with Benton Gym

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BENTON, Ark. — A flyer gone viral on Facebook illustrating “cheer mom stereotypes” has been traced back to a Benton cheer gym, supposedly used for marketing purposes. Some parents say they find the categories “judgmental” and “offensive.”

The flyer started circulating on social media last week and appears to show which programs at Empire Cheerleading should be pushed toward which kind of clientele. Examples include “Nancy Nissan” and “Tonya Toyota,” who come from lower income households and shop at places like Walmart, outlining cheaper programs kids can be involved in. Then there’s characters like “Polly Porsche” who drive luxury cars and would be good candidates for expensive, competitive circuit programs.

The categories include pictures of Barbies dressed in various ways, with descriptions of their theoretical preferences. Each “cheer mom” type is also accompanied with a type of beer: cheaper cans of Keystone Light and Bud Light for Nancy Nissan and Tonya Toyota, but slightly more expensive bottled beers associated with Meredith Mercedes and and Polly Porsche.

We reached out to multiple Empire moms and families who did not want to discuss the issue on the record. Parents and management at other cheer gyms in Benton said they did not feel comfortable discussing the controversy either. They were aware of the social media traction it had gained.

We asked moms of young girls at nearby Tyndall Park to give their two cents on the matter.

“There’s nothing wrong with Tonyas or Toyotas, but when they put it that way against a ‘Polly Porsche,’ it is degrading,” said Abigail Cooper, who has a young daughter she may sign up for cheer in a couple of years.

“I wonder what the parents who are actually sending their kids [to Empire] are thinking about this,” questioned another mom, Ashley Settles. Settles is a former cheerleader herself. “It just shouldn’t matter. It’s the same as me being judged for my tattoos, people are going to come at me with a stereotype.”

Both moms say they would have reservations about enrolling their girls at Empire after seeing the flyer.

Empire did not return multiple requests made for comment on the issue. At one point, management posted a response on its Facebook page, including saying that they believe “every child who walks through their doors should have the opportunity to train,” but that post has since been removed from the gym’s page.

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