Is the Word “Cowboy” Sexist or Racist?

A proposed new marketing slogan by the University of Wyoming is causing controversy — and we editors have a solution.
Is the Word “Cowboy” Sexist or Racist?


UW mascot Pistol Pete leads the Cowboys onto the football field.

First a few facts:

Given that we’re talking about UW (typically pronounced “U-Dub”) and not Harvard, it shouldn’t surprise anyone with an ACT score more than 10 that the school is planning to roll out a marketing campaign this fall with the slogan “The World Needs More Cowboys.”

Of course, someone can always find something that offends them if they search hard enough, and this time those snowflakes  people don’t come from the sparkling halls of Ivy League schools, but instead right from cowboy country itself.

cowboyHere are just a few quotes from UW faculty members in a story that appeared recently in the Casper Star Tribune:

“I had lots of different reactions,” said Angela Jaime, the director of UW’s American Indian Studies department. “I was really disappointed in the university for endorsing such a negative slogan.” She continued: “As a woman, it becomes incredibly problematic because I don’t see myself in that image. It’s not reflected. How do I recruit young women and how do I recruit young women using this material, but at the same time, feeling like I’ve just been dismissed with my understanding and feeling about it?”

“I was kind of like, ‘Woah, has anyone else heard of this?’” said Christine Boggs, an instructor and the co-chair of the Committee on Women and People of Color at UW. According to Boggs, the committee explained its “grave concerns” about the cowboy slogan and asked that UW leaders “shelve” it in favor of a tagline that’s more diverse.

“Well the concern for me is the ‘boy’ part, right?” said Christine Porter, a UW professor and vocal opponent of the slogan. “Since the 1950s at least in other parts of the country, it is no longer acceptable . . . to use the generic masculine and pretend that includes the feminine.”

cowboyThe Other Side of the Cowpie

Not surprisingly, many people — including us Bowhunting World editors — love the proposed new UW slogan. Wyoming is one of our favorite bowhunting destinations, and whenever we cross the state line, we smile at the signs (right) showcasing Wyoming’s love for the western lifestyle.

Longtime Wyoming resident and well-known outdoor writer Jim Zumbo shares our opinion, and he had this to say recently on Facebook:

cowboy“Unbelievable. The University of Wyoming has come up with a new slogan, THE WORLD NEEDS MORE COWBOYS. Fair enough. I concur. But, some people, including faculty members, are wringing their hands and whining and sniveling, saying the slogan is sexist and racist. This has been reported by the national media. Wyoming is called The Cowboy State. The University logo is a cowboy on a bucking bronc. That logo is on our license plates, window decals, everywhere. Pistol Pete and Cowboy Joe are mascots. We’re proud of our cowboy culture. To those professors who are offended, I say get the hell out and go teach at the U of Colorado in Boulder or Berkeley or some other institution that is politically correct. Most of us don’t want you here.”

Zumbo continued: “I recall an incident at JFK airport several years ago. A woman with a very thick European accent approached me and asked if I’d help her make a phone call on a pay phone. She didn’t understand our currency. I obliged, and she smiled and told me she’d asked me for assistance because I was wearing a cowboy hat and therefore I was kind and could be trusted. I never forgot that.”

We editors also agree with cowboy/cowgirl Courtenay DeHoff, who explains what the word “cowboy” means to her in the Facebook video below. (Be sure to turn up the volume for best viewing.)

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

When conflict arises, well-informed persons sometimes must agree to disagree; we won’t see eye to eye on everything. But in the case of this UW slogan, we editors have a simple solution: We propose a friendly game of cornhole (those living in more urban settings might know it as bean bag toss).

The teams are Zumbo and DeHoff (Team Bronc) vs. Jaime and Boggs (Team Absent-Minded Professors). Winners will pick the new UW slogan, and losers are assigned street/shovel duty while walking behind the horses in the annual Laramie Jubilee Days Parade. Our money is on Team Bronc.


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