Athenas? Stagthenas? Just Plain Stags

While there are valid reasons for the fact we have two mascots, it’s time CMS banded behind one symbol. A giant sports banner in Ducey gym reads, “3 schools, 2 mascots, 1 spirit.” But do we really have one spirit? The Stag and Athena mascots divide us, splitting our spirit in two. The jumbled, half combination “Stagthena” reminds me of stagflation, and I’d rather not think of economics when cheering for sports.

Before Claremont had a women’s sports program, Claremont-Mudd shared a sports team, the Stags. Once the women’s program was added in the late 1970s, there was some talk over what the mascot for CMS should be.

According to Michael Sutton, the current director of athletics for CMS and a CMC alum, there was a lot of push to go with one mascot and logo. However, a lot of CMC alumni weren’t willing to change the mascot from the Stags, and the women’s athletics weren’t willing to accept that mascot.

While the widely known and accepted current definition of stag is a male deer, the word carried several negative connotations for quite some time. The third definition of stag, according to dictionary.com, is “a person who attends a social gathering unaccompanied by a partner, especially a man who is unaccompanied by a woman.” The fourth definition is “a social gathering for men only.” And one of the adjective uses: “pornographic” (i.e. stag films).

Sutton also said that in the 60s and 70s  "Stag" often referred to activities objectifying or demeaning women. While he admitted that he’s unsure how much weight this definition still holds, he added: “I guarantee you that if you surveyed some women (about the term) they’d be offended.”

Hence, the CMS committee was reluctant to band behind the Stags to encompass both the women’s sports as well. Out of this controversy, the Athenas were born.

Since the definition of Stag has changed substantially over time and I doubt anyone even knows of the old definitions, I don't think people find it offensive.

On a quick tangential point, it probably disturbs a lot of you, as it does me, that if 'stag' truly was an offensive term, it was still allowed to be our school's mascot, even if it was once a men's college. If it really is chauvinistic, it remains that way with or without the presence of women at our schools. But that’s a topic for another article.

Sutton noted that while our current two-mascot predicament is odd, it works. “The conversation (to consolidate to one mascot) has come up over time, and we haven’t come up with a better plan that we’ve felt strong enough about,” Sutton said.

“At the end of the day, since we haven't come up with a more popular idea, we are fine with what we have” he noted.

Some student athletes feel differently.

Carmen Lundell, CMC ’13, feels the differing mascots divide the rift between male and female sports even further. “The problem is that when you go to a sporting event that’s a coed sport there are Stags and Athenas there, so people have to choose between the two. So people say, 'Go Stags,' typically,” Lundell, a varsity diver and former track runner commented.

Both track and field and swimming and diving are coed, and it’s tough for fans – and for students – to feel like they’re cheering for one team when the mascots are divided.

“I see it as further perpetuating the stigma against women’s sports. People do choose to cheer for Stags. I would say there’s no guy here – maybe a couple – that would say 'Go Athenas,'” Lundell added.

We can change the rift that having two mascots creates. If we all became Stags, at least women’s sports – and women at the school for that matter – wouldn’t feel left out during the cheers.

Having two mascots also further divides our fan apparel. The CMS athletics website has separate merchandise for Athenas and Stags apparel. Students are explicitly choosing whether they are supporting male or female sports based on what apparel they buy. This clearly divides us.

So why should we consolidate to just Stags? Why not change our mascot entirely?

There are some solid arguments against changing our current mascot. Although the word stag has some remnants of its past offensive definitions, the word merely means “male deer” for most people. Most students probably don’t even know the other definitions exist, or even care.

Additionally, the Stag mascot already has name recognition in Claremont. Since the term probably doesn't offend anyone anymore, there's no reason to completely take away from a dominant, well-liked symbol. And the fact that a stag refers to a male deer specifically does not exclude female members of the student body. A stag is an animal, and I would no more feel a kinship to a female animal than a male one.

And most importantly, Harry Potter's Patronus is a Stag, which should be reason enough.

Ultimately, it’s more worth it to have one united fan base – one mascot and one spirit – than to continue the divisions the dual mascots bring because of an antiquated definition.

But hey, at least we’re not the Sagehens.

Editor's Note: This article was written independently of the Idea Night talk by Jen Rignoen '12 on March 6.