Feminine and Sexy: A Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis of Gender Ideology and Professional Cheerleading

in Journal of Sport Management
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Since the 1970s, National Football League (NFL) teams have hired attractive women to dance in scantily clad uniforms as a means of entertaining their heterosexual, male fans—offering a reflection of hegemonic gender ideology in the process. In recent years, a handful of these professional cheerleaders have spoken up and taken action against gender discrimination. Yet, little has changed. This study takes a feminist critical discourse analysis perspective to examining how gender ideology is (re)produced in discourse surrounding the employment roles of NFL cheerleaders, contributing to the perpetuation of gender inequality in sport. Findings demonstrate that three distinct gender ideologies are (re)produced in the discourse, competing with each other to define meanings associated with NFL cheerleading employment roles. Additionally, analysis reveals that while NFL teams have made changes to their cheerleading programs in response to feminist critiques, discourse surrounding these changes continues to (re)produce hegemonic femininity.

The authors are with the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA. Hindman is currently with Stonehill College, Easton, MA, USA.

Hindman (lhindman@stonehill.edu) is corresponding author.
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