What’s in a name? According to some community members, decades of pain, misunderstanding and hurt feelings.
That’s the position of Cougars Are People Too, or CAPT, a grassroots group seeking to change the official team name of Canby High School athletics, claiming the term “cougar” is offensive and dehumanizing for sexually liberated older women who are “still on the prowl and not one bit ashamed of it.”
The group appeared en masse during the last Canby School Board meeting, staging an impromptu demonstration outside the building, holding signs with slogans such as “Put the Shame to Bed” and “Claws Out!”
They were met with a (much larger) group of counterprotesters, decked out in Canby High School athletic gear and carrying their own signs, saying “Go Cougars” and “Cougars Forever!”
“We are here to send a message: Cougars matter,” CAPT President Gloria Walensky said during the public comment portion of the school board meeting. “We are not animals. We are not mascots. We are not a large cat of the subfamily Felinae native to North America and the Southern Andes. We are normal, healthy, well-adjusted ladies that like to—” …you get the idea.
The biggest difficulty in changing the name, of course, is what would you change it to? Any existing mascot carries the same danger that has afflicted the Cougars: the possibility that a future generation might appropriate it to refer to a lifestyle that — while perfectly healthy and acceptable — might not fit as a word for teenagers to wear on their chests while playing baseball or volleyball.
CAPT’s preferred alternative is to choose something so bland it could never offend anyone: the Canby Blocks. Or better yet, the Blanks.
“Members of the Canby School Board, we ask you to do one thing tonight,” said Walensky. “Choose Blank. Blanks do not offend. Blanks do not box you into a corner. Blanks are a canvas, for every athlete, every student, every member of the Canby School District community to write their own story.
“I promise you, if you choose Blank, it will be the best decision you have ever made. And you can take that to the Blank.”
Later that night, the Canby School Board voted unanimously to deny the name change, 7-0.
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