THE ISSUE: Almost two years ago, Rameses Jr. joined the UNC athletics family as its newest mascot. RJ was designed to be friendlier and more approachable than Rameses without replacing him. The board is split on whether or not to embrace the change. Read the counter-argument here.
Rameses — the original mascot, the only one worth mentioning — does not have scary eyebrows.
For this and other reasons, Rameses Jr. was an unnecessary addition to the mascot group that already includes, somewhat confusingly, an upright stuffed ram and a four-legged real ram.
If children are afraid of mascots, they’re going to be afraid of mascots. Negotiating eyebrow trajectory is a strangely minuscule and impractical attempt to solve that problem, and one that won’t help most kids.
We’re told Rameses Jr. was created so that students, especially women, who aren’t tall enough to fit the Rameses costume can still play a UNC mascot. Gender equity is a worthy goal, and I also recognize that Rameses has a busy schedule and can’t always meet all his obligations.
There’s a much easier solution to all these problems, though: Make another Rameses costume.
The new costume could be slightly smaller — I honestly think no one would notice. Rameses Jr. is only a little bit shorter than Rameses himself, which makes me wonder whether either mascot role really welcomes a wide variety of body types. That’s a problem UNC should try to fix if the University wants to diversify its mascot options.
Making Rameses Jr. a role for women still keeps women in an inferior role compared to men. Are people excited to see Rameses Jr.? Sure. He’s cute, to some people. (I think he’s creepy.) But everybody’s going to be more excited to see Rameses, and playing second fiddle based solely on your gender or size is not satisfactory for anybody.
And if UNC really wants to diversify the gender of its mascots, creating a second ram helps little. The fact that rams actually are only boys in the animal kingdom is unfortunate, but why didn’t UNC introduce a gender-neutral option? A human-sized Tar Heel, perhaps?
Sadly, UNC didn’t really tell anyone they were building a subpar version of everybody’s favorite mascot until RJ's actual debut in 2015. I urge more transparency on such important decisions in the future, and I beg UNC to either focus its mascot attention on Rameses, or introduce some real diversity to the mascot squad.
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