Racy and radical: ‘America’s Girls’ looks at how Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have shaped the fabric of American culture

Society & Culture February 8, 2022
America's Girls podcast art
Listen to ‘America’s Girls’

There are few groups more prestigious than the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Every year, hundreds upon hundreds of women audition to be a part of the 36-person squad. They’ve been officially declared America’s Sweethearts, even earning a TV slot with their show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team which has run for a whopping 16 seasons so far. And the global pop culture phenomenon that is the DCC is the feature of “America’s Girls.”

Everything is bigger in Texas

From Texas Monthly, this new podcast has six episodes out so far, each one averaging at about 40-minutes long. The podcast is hosted by Dallas-native author Sarah Hepola, who frequently contributes short personal essays to NPR’s “Fresh Air.” Along with writers, directors, sports television hosts, and many, many cheerleaders themselves, “America’s Girls” is far more than meets the eye.

Everything is bigger in Texas, and that statement has never rang more true than when it comes to the rich history and culture that surround the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. The original DCC squad entered the arena in 1972 – the same year that Title IX was passed, Deep Throat provided information to Bob Woodward in what would later be known as the Watergate scandal, and just one year before the passing of Roe v. Wade.

The stripper that started it all

But that 1972 squad isn’t actually part of their origin story. Instead, that story alleges that a stripper named Bubbles Cash was the inspiration for the DCC. In front of many eyewitnesses in 1967, the well-endowed Cash caught the attention of the crowd in her short skirt, causing cheers to erupt as she walked down the staircase at the 50-yard line with cotton candy in each hand. Hepola tells us that what Cash was wearing really wasn’t racy at all by today’s standards, but she was somewhat of a trend-setter for a new surgical procedure that had just been developed by doctors in Houston: breast implants. She became an instant public sensation in Dallas, and Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm knew that he could add a new element of entertainment to the show the Cowboys were already putting on.

The fourth episode, titled “The Uniform,” explains just how significant the fringe vest, tiny shorts, and white cowboy boots are to the changing American landscape of the past five decades. In fact, the uniform became so pop-culturally meaningful that it was inducted into the Smithsonian National Museum of American history in 2018, right next to Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat.

But, Bubbles Cash has been written out of their history books. Along with many other aspects of the DCC, Hepola sets out to tell these untold stories – of how the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders advanced the acceptance of women’s sexualities and bodies in the past half century. Nonetheless, in one of the most conservative cities of the late 20th century. From a scandalous topless Playboy cover that was actually a battle for fair pay, to their long list of rules, to perfecting the “look” of the DCC, “America’s Girls” is a compelling look into this All-American phenomenon.

“America’s Girls” has captured the attention of those who love football, those who will never watch a game by their own free will, and those who only watch Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. It’s a fascinating look into the history of Texas and America’s team, a cultural criticism that has extended into a 21st century, post-#MeToo world, and a provocative piece of storytelling.

Listen to ‘America’s Girls’

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