“For me, the clearest reason it’s unacceptable is the word ‘boy,’ excluding anyone who identifies as female."
Faculty members at the University of Wyoming think the school's new marketing campaign slogan,
“The World Needs More Cowboys,” is sexist and racist.
The slogan -- which focused on the university's mascot: Cowboy Joe -- was pitched in the spring by a private marketing firm hired by the university at a Faculty Senate meeting, the
"The campaign is intended to help grow the university’s enrollment and raise its profile nationally and internationally, in accordance with our strategic plan,"
One of the stated goals of the campaign was actually to broaden the appeal of the mascot (and, in so doing, of the university) to a more diverse demographic.
Despite that, and even though the full campaign was not yet revealed at the time, a number of professors were quick to voice vehement opposition, opining that the term "cowboy" is generally exclusionary of women and people of color.
Porter acknowledged that the problem lies not with the actual history of cowboys, but with their popular-culture trope. “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 US — is the white, heterosexual male,” she said.
Another concern raised by opponents was that the seemingly-exclusionary language would actually hurt the school's effort to recruit from a more diverse pool of applicants. Angela Jaime, the director of the American Indian Studies department, told the Tribune that the slogan might antagonize Native Americans.
The UW Committee on Women and People of Color sent a letter to University
The idea behind the slogan: Baldwin is standing by the slogan, explaining that the goal of
“In my opinion, there are people who are critical of it who haven’t explored what we’re trying to do," he told the Tribune. "A foundational element of the campaign is that we’re recasting the concept of the cowboy so that it represents everyone associated with it.”
After facing criticism from staff, a promotional flyer was released for the campaign. "Inclusive, by design" was the campaign's subtitle.
"This is not a campaign to reinforce regressive stereotypes of cowboys from the pop cultural past," states the promotional flier. "This is a campaign to rewrite them."
This flyer has since been replaced by a 32-page campaign guide that includes instructions for the campaign's overview, tone, look, and relevant templates. The campaign guide contains pictures of students of different races, genders, and specialties in order to redefine the of vision of the classic cowboy.
The marketing campaign also edited the campaign's anthem video to be more inclusive.
"Following our discussion with the Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we made some additions to the language of the anthem video, including more explicit statements about diversity," Baldwin told Pluralist.
"We also solidified a policy of including, with any use of the term “The World Needs More Cowboys” in outside advertising, accompanying visuals that do not show the stereotype of the traditional cowboy," he added.
The video included the following narration: "Our cowboys come in every sex, shape, color, and creed. They come from Wyoming, Montana, Delaware, and Nigeria. Because it’s not what you are that makes you a cowboy or cowgirl, but who you are." It had accompanying visuals presenting a diverse representation of what it means to be a cowboy.
And they have some data to back it up: Research commissioned by the marketing team showed that the campaign could actually succeed in appealing to minorities. They recorded high school students' perception of UW before and after they showed them the anthem video.
Before watching the promotional video, 25 percent of the high schoolers said they would “definitely or probably consider UW," including 36 percent of minority respondents.
After the video, the percentage increased to 48 percent overall and 53 percent among minority respondents.
Additionally, 56 percent of respondents of color said viewing the video changed their perception of what it means to be a cowboy. 86 percent also said the campaign increases their likelihood to apply.
These statistics were consistent amongst both males and females.
The teenagers also provided explanations on why the video changed their perception of cowboys.
"I no longer just think of the Marlboro Man and see this differently. A cowboy now is someone who takes chances, tries to improve things, and is outgoing," one respondent wrote.
"Cowboys aren't just males. A cowboy is anyone who is strong, smart, persistent," another said.
"The video helped me to understand that the school is much more modern than I imagined," wrote one speaking about UW.
Baldwin also explained that most of the complaints have come from faculty members, not students.
She insists that society must stop using masculine words while "pretending" they relate to both genders.
“For me, the clearest reason it’s unacceptable is the word ‘boy,’ excluding anyone who identifies as female,” Patton told the Boomerang. “In 2018 — and really for the past 20 years — it’s not been acceptable to use the generic male to pretend that includes female.”
The women of Wyoming expressed support for the campaign on Twitter.
Tina Ann Forkner, a parent of a UW student, wrote on Twitter that the word "cowboy" is beyond gender labels and suggested that the university provide women education on ranching.
Anyone who understands what the cowboy way of life means would know it's not a gender label. As a parent of a Cowgirl (UW athlete), I love the slogan! Maybe UW should offer classes, taught by Wyoming's ranching women, to those who don't get the symbolism of the American Cowboy. https://t.co/0y7YlcVLW1— Tina Ann Forkner (@tinaannforkner) July 9, 2018
Among all the reasons I can’t take extreme feminism seriously, the University of Wyoming is in hot water for the use of “cowboys” in their new slogan but not “cowgirls”. As the schools mascot “cowboy” is all inclusive term. This is Wyoming folks, get tough or get gone.— DBar (@dalle_rutledge) July 9, 2018
The people that get offended by The University of Wyoming’s new slogan “The World Needs More Cowboys” are exactly the people we don’t want to come here— Kaylee Taylor (@ItsTayy_Tay) July 10, 2018