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The Role of cheerleading in Megan Abbott's Dare me


  • Erica Lilja Englund

Summary, in English

This essay will, essentially, analyse gender roles and the possible liberation from them in the novel Dare Me by Megan Abbott. In the novel, this possible emancipation has its starting point in cheerleading. The sport has since its birth been a symbol for certain gender roles. In the beginning it stood for masculine sportsmanship (strength) and later, for feminine showmanship (beauty). When cheerleading was performed by men it was associated with skill and honour, when it became feminized it also became trivialized and associated with superficiality and exhibitionism. The female figure of the cheerleader also became increasingly more sexualised, at the same time a symbol for submissive as well as excessive female sexuality. It is this complex yet confining image of femininity that Dare Me wants to transcend. Abbott wishes to, I claim, radicalise the cheerleader. Or rather, reveal the radical nature/potential of the cheerleader. This essay will examine if this potential is realised or if the novel instead promotes restrictive gender roles. Through concepts such as “the body”, “the sublime” etc., I will attempt an answer. paper claims that although there is possibility for liberation in the figure of the cheerleader, the novel does not follow through. The potential remains just that: potential. No real change or discovery is made, no actual freedom is gained.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • cheerleading
  • gender roles
  • liberation
  • the body
  • sexualisation
  • the sublime
  • sport
  • the feminine/masculine


  • Ellen Turner