‘Cowboy’ slogan rustles up controversy at University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming’s new marketing slogan -- “The world needs more cowboys”-- is causing controversy among faculty members and Native American groups, who call the phrase “sexist.”

"Honestly, I thought it was a joke at first," associate professor Ellen Currano told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "And then I looked it up on the university web page and saw that no, this was, in fact, serious."

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The University of Wyoming’s mascot is a cowboy, riding a bucking horse with hat in hand.

Darrell Hutchinson, a cultural specialist and member of the Northern Arapaho tribe in Wyoming, told Reuters that people who do not fit into the stereotypical image of a cowboy -- "a white man with a wide-brimmed hat riding the range on horseback" -- are not made welcome.

"If you're not a white person, and especially if you're an Indian, it would make you feel out of place," said Hutchinson. "It wouldn't make you feel too good about yourself."

Associate professor Christine Porter told the Laramie Boomerang that the word "cowboy" makes "almost everybody" picture a white, heterosexual male.

She said the slogan is “unacceptable” because the word “boy” excludes anyone who identifies as a woman.

"In 2018 -- and really for the past 20 years -- it's not been acceptable to use the generic male to pretend that includes female," she told the newspaper.

The University of Wyoming paid a Colorado marketing firm $500,000 to develop the campaign, meant to appeal to people from Wyoming, but also to draw in new students, The Associated Press reports.

Chad Baldwin, an official from the university, told Reuters that the university intended to "throw away" the cowboy stereotype.

In a statement on the university website, it said the marketing campaign is meant to "rewrite" the history of what it means to be a cowboy.

“In a vacuum, the term ‘cowboy’ appears gender- and perhaps race-specific, but in the context of the branding campaign, it is connected to images and words that show our cowboys are diverse, of every sex and background,” Baldwin said. “A cowboy is not what you are, but who you are.”

Despite the pushback, the new slogan is set to launch in September.

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