Temple’s football home opener was Sept. 7, but many spectators were watching more than just the game. Despite the hoopla on the field, viewers probably found their eyes drawn to the dancers on the sidelines. The Diamond Gems, the dance-based wing of Temple’s Spirit Squad, are hard to miss with their glittery getups and eye-catching hair flips.
The 20-member team is renowned throughout the region for the talent and the energy they bring to the field and court. Each year, they compete in the Universal Dance Association’s National Competition, having placed in the Top 5 in 2010 and 2011.
And bringing those dance routines to audiences takes more hard work than it seems.
“A day in the life of a Gem is super busy,” said former Gem and current senior Megan Fry.
The sports and recreation management major said that during a typical week, Gems rehearse four times, sometimes in the early mornings, and have three workout sessions, in addition to making several appearances with Temple Athletics each week.
“Mix that in with classes and social life, and there’s no time for sleeping,” Fry said.
“We don’t get priority registration or anything like that,” said former member Sarah Stoner, a Temple alumna with a degree in insurance and risk management. “So we had to arrange around our schedule.”
As if this wasn’t enough, the Gems are also responsible for raising almost all of their funds.
“I don’t believe we get enough credit,” Fry said.
It comes down to something much simpler. With outfits that feature crop tops and short skirts, it’s hard for most people to ignore the sexual appeal of the Gems.
“I think they are extremely talented,” said former Temple student Cory Gilvary. “However, [because of] their outfits, hair and makeup, I think make people take them less seriously. They should be considered athletes and I don’t think they are right now.”
Not every student approaches this subject as respectfully as Gilvary did.
“We hear negative things about us almost daily,” Fry said. “People have a preconceived notion that we ‘sleep around’ and are ‘sluts,’ for lack of a better word.”
After each game, Twitter explodes with comments about the Gems, some kinder than others. It didn’t take long to find some examples, such as when user @MACK_aroni tweeted that “only 10 percent of the Diamond Gems look good in person” on July 7.
It seems counterproductive for Temple to bash the very people who help to keep our spirits up during tough games and winning streaks alike.
Some students are fine with the Gems’ clothing, though. In fact, some think it’s necessary to draw attention.
“I think it’s important that they look good because it holds the attention of the fickle audience for longer,” Doug Friese, senior marketing major, said. “This is an unfair fact of life and something that you can definitely channel to help represent your university in a more positive light.”
For whatever reason, how women present themselves seems to be a pressing concern in today’s society. And multiple arguments can be made. While it understandably frustrates some people that the Gems “need” to show skin in order to capture the audience’s focus, it’s also important to remember that how a woman dresses has nothing to do with her intelligence or sense of self-worth.
Also, the Gems don’t pick out their own costumes.
“The university approves the outfits, not us,” said a former Gem, who wished to remain anonymous. “I don’t always want to wear a tank top after eating a slice of pizza, but that’s not up to me.”
Why would the university want these outfits to begin with? My guess would be popular demand.
“I would get frustrated and angry sometimes,” said Stoner. “I try to pay more attention to all the awesome feedback we get from people who actually appreciate what we do.”
“If others want to criticize us, I’d like to see them try and walk a day in our shoes,” Fry added.
Temple students, with all due respect, it’s about time you made up your mind. If you enjoy the way the Gems dress now, let them know. If not, stop lashing out on Twitter. These women are being held to an unfair double standard, one that has nothing to do with their talent as dancers. Take your issues up with the university, and then maybe you’ll be respected as much as the Diamond Gems.
Grace Holleran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coupsdegrace.