The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) has recently reworked the campus mascot Pounce, but is the new characterization representative of the student body? For me, I don’t identify with the fictional character meant to represent myself and my peers whatsoever. Although I’ve got a convincing mean-mug, I don’t look anything like a jacked-up, heterosexual, stereotypical frat-boy. Seriously, whose great idea was it to make sure to give Pounce abs, or to appear nine feet tall, with shoulders broader than a line-backer?
Pounce’s new look sports tight fitting workout clothes, giant biceps, and fully sculpted abdominal muscles. But what about the nursing students? Or the art students? Or the honors students? Or the engineering students? Or the business students? Heck, what about any students? The only person the new Pounce visually represents is a snarling, aggression-driven athlete. The old characterization of Pounce was still predominantly masculine and focused on athletics, but it didn’t go quite so far as to give him abdominal muscles.
To be sure, whoever designed the new characterization of Pounce was probably projecting themselves as an image, however, they were falling short of themselves as a whole. As students, even student athletes, we don’t want to be merely labeled as one thing. I don’t want to be just the honors student, or just the psychology major, I want to be considered for more than just one aspect of myself. As UWM students, there are many facets of our being.
One might say that Pounce is representative of UWM given the importance placed upon sports in American culture. Considering televised programs are often focused on athletics (i.e. baseball, football, basketball, the Olympics, etc.), whereas educational programs are broadcast per specific location. But what about UWM’s female athletes (or female students in general)? I know I wouldn’t mess with UWM’s female athletes, so I’m not sure why the university would deliberately exclude them from such representation. I mean have you seen our women’s rugby team play? The new characterization of Pounce could be an attempt to please the status quo, but nevertheless, isn’t an accurate representation of the new Milwaukee.
I wanted to come to a campus that is culturally and racially diverse. UWM is home to one of the top LGBT resource centers in the country. UWM is the only predominantly urban campus in the entire UW-system. Why are we trying to be something we’re not? Why are we abandoning the differences that make us unique? I didn’t choose to be a Madison Badger. I didn’t choose to spend my days wandering the beautiful bluffs of La-Crosse. I wanted to be a part of a community that represents everyone as a whole, and yet still as an equal.
I understand the difficulty in representing everyone with a single two-dimensional drawing. But at the same time, I don’t understand why UWM decided to choose a characterization that represented such a small portion of our student body. It is impossible to represent every aspect of our community on campus, however there needs to a greater collective identity incorporated into the visual representation of Pounce as the campus mascot.
I’m not saying we should abandon Pounce completely. I would suggest modeling our mascot after another famous panther: the 1960s style Pink Panther cartoon character. This way Pounce could have some much-needed ambiguity. The Pink Panther character can be framed as gender and sexually fluid, as well as still being capable of athletics while still having the opportunity to encompass a wide range of academics. Yes, there would be some copyright issues to consider if Pounce were to be a slightly altered version of the Pink Panther, but I’m sure UWM art students would love to draft different versions of this Pounce characterization for consideration.
The time has come to move on from Milwaukee’s deep rooted, divisive past. No longer are we the generation of our parents and grandparents. It is time to focus on inclusion and not exclusion. It is time to celebrate our differences, rather than ostracize a specific subsection of the student population. Considering the differences between people, provides one with a more complete picture of the surrounding world.
Dear UWM, please reconsider recharacterizing the recharacterized version of Pounce.