America's Sweethearts? A Feminist Discourse Analysis of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team

dc.contributor.advisorJette, Shannon L.en_US
dc.contributor.authorNowosatka, Lauren Rileyen_US
dc.contributor.publisherDigital Repository at the University of Marylanden_US
dc.contributor.publisherUniversity of Maryland (College Park, Md.)en_US
dc.description.abstractThe “often imitated, never equaled” Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCCs) are self-proclaimed as “the premier cheerleading squad in the world,” universally setting the stage (field) for professional cheerleading. In 2006, “America’s Sweethearts” launched a hit reality television (TV) show, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team (DCCs: MTT), where the squad director positions the organization as empowering women in the opening the series’ 13th season. Taking this seemingly contradictory statement—made during the #MeToo moment of 2018—as a department point, this thesis examines the constructions of femininity and empowerment on offer in season 13 of DCCs: MTT. A textual analysis adopted from Johnson et al.’s (2004) reading for dominance methodology, with a theoretical foundation in feminist discourse analysis and intersectionality, was used to examine season 13 of DCCs: MTT, answering the following questions: 1. What versions of femininity are on offer to viewers of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team? How do they intersect with race, sexuality, class, ability, etc.? 2. How is empowerment constructed through Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team? Findings suggest that performances of femininity are aligned with emphasized femininity and ambassadorship, offering a homogenous image to viewers that idealizes and reinforces hegemonic beauty standards, the thin-ideal, and the objectification of women, paired with displays of emotional expressions, “intelligence,” and poise that subjectively position the cheerleaders within the larger patriarchal, late-capitalist Dallas Cowboys and NFL structures. Supposedly empowering to the cheerleaders, the discursive practices, enforced performativities, and productional strategies displayed on season 13 of DCCs: MTT, frames the institution as faux-empowering, endorsing empowerment as the product of making “correct” individual choices. Consequently, cheerleaders and viewers who do not make these decisions are rendered disempowered and made to feel shameful, contradicting the spirited nature of the sport. This thesis seeks to fill the gap created by the lack of critical, sociological discussions of professional cheerleading as a spectacle of late-capitalist, uber sport, permeated through popular culture and which analyzes professional cheerleading through the site of reality TV.en_US
dc.subject.pqcontrolledGender studiesen_US
dc.subject.pqcontrolledWomen's studiesen_US
dc.subject.pquncontrolledCultural Studiesen_US
dc.subject.pquncontrolledEmphasized femininityen_US
dc.subject.pquncontrolledProfessional cheerleadingen_US
dc.titleAmerica's Sweethearts? A Feminist Discourse Analysis of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Teamen_US


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