Taming Women’s Athletic Labor: The Emergence of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in the Early Days of Title IX

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 9:10 AM
Empire Ballroom West (Sheraton New York)
Frank Guridy, Columbia University
The Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL) transformed the management and marketing of sports franchises. The team not only professionalized the scouting and coaching of players, it also was the first team to market sex to male fans with the creation of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. When Tex Schramm, then Dallas Cowboy president, unveiled the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders in 1972, they became the first group of dancers who performed on an NFL sideline. The popularity of the scantily clad cheerleaders was propelled by the impact of television networks, whose male producers and camera crews broadcasted their moves for millions of fans. The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders became the template for other dance teams in subsequent decades. My presentation on the emergence of the cheerleaders contributes to our understanding on the countervailing forces that drove the conflicting gender dynamics in the United States during the 1970s: pressures to include women in athletics collided with forces that sought to keep them contained as sexual objects.