If you were hoping to be outraged on this Friday afternoon and just don’t have anything about which to be outraged, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The good news is, that doesn’t mean you should just forget about it and enjoy your day, though. Be like the people who are angry about the University of Wyoming’s new slogan, “The world needs more cowboys.” If it isn’t clear, their mascot is the cowboy, and their teams play under that name.
Here’s one of the ads for the new campaign:
Umm, yes. This is exactly what academia actually needs.
Of course, some academics are offended by everything and this is no exception. Meet associate professor Christine Porter.
For me, the clearest reason it’s unacceptable is the word ‘boy,’ excluding anyone who identifies as female. In 2018 — and really for the past 20 years — it’s not been acceptable to use the generic male to pretend that includes female.
She continued. “I am not the only person for whom the word ‘cowboy’ invokes a white, macho, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, U.S.-born person. The history of cowboys, of course, is much more diverse than that racially, and presumably also for sexual orientation. But the image — what the word ‘cowboy’ means off the top of almost everybody’s head in the U.S. — is the white, heterosexual male.
Could the advertisement be any clearer that they are talking about absolutely everyone with an independent “cowboy” spirit, regardless of any demographics? Maybe if someone can so clearly be told that they are welcome and still feel that they are secretly being told that they are being disrespected, The University of Wyoming isn’t the place for them anyway. Clearly, this is a place for people who can stand on their own two feet to be supported and encouraged on their way to success. There are plenty of colleges with crying closets and safe spaces. That goes for the faculty, too.
UW Director of Communications Chad Baldwin is moving ahead with the campaign. He said
The term ‘cowboy’ in this campaign refers to people of any gender, any background, any ethnicity and what we have in common, which is the spirit of adventure and being a trailblazer, being resilient.’
Donal O’Toole, a professor, said “this is a sexist slogan.”
Porter, O’Toole, and other faculty members also concern-trolled that they felt the message wouldn’t read well with people in other states. Well, this out-of-stater thinks it’s a perfect message. If I were thinking about college right now (for myself or as a parent), this is the kind of message I’d want in a sea of coddling colleges.
It’s not as though the marketing department didn’t do this research. “In fact,” Baldwin said, “we’ve now done some market research that shows that, in fact, is effective and is appealing to broad groups of people.” Overall, nearly twice as many students said they would consider, and apply to, the school after watching the video as before. The number grew among students of color as well as white students. It also changed their perception of what it meant to be a cowboy. That is an incredibly effective message, so they’re using it, launching the full campaign on September 14.
As Baldwin said, “A cowboy is not what you are, but who you are.” Perhaps nowhere is this message more crucially important than on today’s campuses. It is truly refreshing to hear that the university is going ahead with it despite the usual grumbles because it’s true– the world really does need more cowboys.