Thighs, Blood & Half-Naked Women….Again

Guys, I don’t always mean to be on my soapbox. But when I continually see shit on the internet that riles me up, what’s a girl to do?!

Back in September, I railed on how women are portrayed in the media, regardless of the outdoor connotations. To date, it’s my most popular post, which says a lot since it’s only been on the World Wide Web for six weeks. Apparently I’m not the only one who is irritated with the visual depiction of females.

Yet again, I stumbled across another glaring example of inequality…and I don’t feel like keeping my mouth shut. Per usual.

If you haven’t heard of the Lingerie Football League, you’re in good company; I never knew such a thing existed. Apparently it’s been re-coined the Legends Football League; perhaps in the hopes that these scantily-clad women would become the thing of lore?

Regardless, here is the takeaway: it is a 7 vs. 7 tackle football league comprised entirely of women. What started out as halftime entertainment during various stadium tours turned pro in 2009 and became a sport of its own. According to the website, NBC Sports’s Rick Chandler called it the “fastest growing pro sports league in the nation.” All that is fine and well, but here is the catch: the female athletes play in bikinis. No, that is not a typo.

These women are legit athletes. Watching the sample clip for 30 seconds demonstrates that these ladies take their sport seriously. There is blood, carnage and whole lotta beat down going on during those games. However, it seems that these pro athletes don’t earn any salary, and word on the street is that they receive no health insurance….unlike their male NFL counterparts.

Truthfully, I’m not going to address the insurance and salary disparities. It’s frustrating, ridiculous and annoying. However, what could possibly be the logic behind wearing the bikinis?!

Near as I can tell, these women are caught in a frustrating catch-22 because they are female. Sure, one could argue that if you don’t like the uniform policy, then don’t play the sport. But where else can a female play pro football? When we box these ladies into a corner where their only option is to topically subscribe to the “sex sells” mantra, what other options do they have? As it stands, you run around half naked and shred your skin to a bloody pulp; it’s the only way to play the game. And for those who truly love it, how fair is that?

More than anything, I’m frustrated. Why do we continue to force women to use their sexuality as a weapon or a tool? And worse, why does sex continue to sell? I am the first to admit that there is definitely a time and a place for sexuality, and I suppose that happy place {no pun intended!} is entirely subjective. However, I’m willing to bet that most will agree that full-contact football is not that place.

And as the author of this article points out, what does all of this say about how we view our female athletes?

********************

 

28 Comments

  • Reply Sherri at

    I am speechless…

  • Reply Patty @ Reach Your Peak at

    100% agree. This is just absurd. The problem is that, like you said, it continues to sell. People continue to watch, buy, etc. Some teams in the NHL have taken away their ice girls (thankfully), because of complaints (though lots of males are complaining because they’re gone too). There was an article I read about these ice girls who wear basically the same as the above pictures and are skating around on the cold ice, aren’t allowed to eat in front of people, etc. They’re solely there for the viewing pleasure of the people in attendance…because come on, why do we need ice girls at a hockey game?? Or cheerleaders/dancers at a pro football game?? Idk, just my 2 cents.

    • Reply heather at

      Interesting perspective. Ironically, I used to be a dancer for a pro team but the focus on looks was what drove me out of the sport. I don’t mind the dancers/cheerleaders in the slightest, but I do wish we didn’t drive the requirement for them to be sexual as well. Do these ice girls do anything? Or just walk around to be looked at?

  • Reply Natalie Ford at

    As a teacher, I can’t help but be dismayed at what this says to young women. Some of the teenagers I work with are already so caught up in body image issues, and instances like this tear them down even more. Instead of teaching them to be strong, capable women who can do whatever they choose, these images tell them that the only way to compete in life is to sell their body. I mean let’s be real-obviously, this is a long way from prostitution, but this IS selling your body, nonetheless.

  • Reply Sarah C at

    Sadly, what this says is that men only “appreciate” female athletes if they are sexy/there for their visual enjoyment. (I know this isn’t true of all men – but that this is the message this sends, rather than saying that women can be athletic for reasons outside of male pleasure/male gaze). I also think it sends a negative message to women who are athletic and strong but not “sexy” in the conventional sense – that somehow even being strong and fit, if you don’t look “hot” in a bikini then you’re still somehow failing to live up to standards set for you.
    All around, this is terrible and disgusting.

  • Reply RFC at

    I am so far removed from the traditional “sporting” world, I had no idea such a thing existed. Ughh.

  • Reply Shannon at

    Call me crazy, but I actually have to disagree with you. Before I start, I’ll say that I was a collegiate rugby player and we were fully clothed for every game ;).

    Powder puff leagues have been around forever. I remember hearing about them in my childhood (I’m 32 now) and actually thinking that it was cool that girls were playing football. Albiet, it’s a different day and age, but I remember that impact sports weren’t completely encouraged for females when I was young. I think that any encouragement for young girls and women to play sports and live a fit lifestyle is a great contribution for our culture.

    On the note of culture, our social norm is that females being scantily clad is shameful. Our society, in general, seems to have categorized modeling/bikini wearing into an area that is unacceptable and/or assume the individual is unsuccessful. I find that professional surfers are wearing virtually the same attire, though we wouldn’t turn our noses up at their career choices.

    As far as an actual paying gig/career choice, these women likely have other jobs that contribute toward their livelihood and these women could be lawyers, physicians, engineers – at that point, would our perspective change? Would they then be successful women with a healthy athletic outlet?

    Finally, these women are all consenting adults that have agreed to the required uniform. Hooters requires a uniform that is a part of their branding and they have no problem finding individuals to wait tables in their restaurants. I can even think of several friends that worked at Hooters to work their way though law/med/nursing school. These women are choosing to play football in the required uniform and I assume they may quit at any point in time.

    Okay, one last point :). I have a one year old daughter and I have no problem with her knowing that these type of activities exist. I stand by the importance of athletics and appreciating the female form. I would also hope that she value the importance of education and finding her own path to happiness and that there shouldn’t be shame in personal choices (that cause no harm to others).

    *steps off soapbox ;)*

    • Reply heather at

      Fair enough! As the article points out, they do all have paying jobs but they have filed many lawsuits against the owners. A few women tried to form a union to receive compensation, and they were fired from the league. And to your point about them agreeing— I understand that idea {which is why I addressed it in the post too!} They knew what they were signing up for. However, for women that want to play pro football and it’s their passion, we’re not really giving them much choice, you know? They have no others options. We’re basically saying, flaunt your boobs or you don’t get to play. What kinda of fairness is that? We’re making them use their sexuality as a tool to get what they want, rather than their abilities. I don’t have children or anything so I can’t speak to that, but I hate to think that little girls are going to grow up thinking that their body is the only way they will be able to accomplish what they want. Truthfully, I wonder if we see stuff like this SO FREQUENTLY that’s were numb to it, and we don’t even question it anymore. To me, that’s a whole ‘nother issue. Regardless, I appreciate your opinion– even if you disagree! 🙂

    • Reply Sarah C at

      I think the issue isn’t so much that women should be ashamed of their bodies, as it is the fact that male pro football players are not being asked to “sex it up” on the field. These ladies are lovely and they should be proud of themselves, but when men look at them they see “sexy” not “strong” – and that’s the problem I see with these “uniforms.” Just because some women choose to wear them (or the Hooters uniform you cite) doesn’t mean that we should accept the cultural norm that suggests women are only good for their sexiness and their bodies.

      • Reply heather at

        I once read that something could be considered sexist if you couldn’t imagine men doing the same thing. In this case, that would obviously apply, but I’m not sure that “rule” fits all situations. Thoughts?

        • Reply Sarah C at

          Interesting idea; not sure it’s 100% applicable to all situations (e.g., porn – there is male porn but that doesn’t mean that porn featuring women doesn’t degrade those women and contribute to a cultural norm that elevates and praises the male gaze) but it’s at least a good start! I think we should try thinking about male athletes – some of them are objectively good looking, and some women claim to enjoy the “tight pants” of the football uniforms, but that isn’t THE reason that they’re out there, as it seems to be with these women. We can argue that these gals are real athletes – clearly they are – but that isn’t the reason they’ve been invited onto this field. They’ve been invited because they’re “hot” and willing to be seen in bikinis because they’re eager to show the world that they’re real athletes — but instead of being there to show men that women can play too, they’re showing men that it’s exciting to watch mostly-naked women “play” in front of their eyes.

          • heather at

            Agreed– it’s not applicable to all situations but it does help with some. In the post from last month that I referenced above (about Mountain Babes), someone made a spoof, mirroring the female video by having guys do it. It was so absurd that it was crazy 🙂 Either way, there is clearly a disconnect here, but the larger question is how to put the pieces together and get it sorted!

  • Reply Shannon at

    Thanks Heather!
    I see part of your argument is that there aren’t other options available. Maybe I just practice entirely too much yoga and my hippie SoCal lifestyle has infiltrated my brain, but why don’t people make a difference? Not to say that it’s easy to form an athletic league, but it’s entirely possible if one person or a group of vested individuals chose to do so. No one should elect to be a victim in their life, especially when it comes to an elective activity.

    • Reply heather at

      I think you nailed something when you said “why don’t people make a difference.” I came to this realization after writing that last post in September– I can’t really complain and bitch if I’m not going to do anything about it, right? So, I’m working on something to make a difference in my own way…stay tuned! 🙂

  • Reply Sandra Laflamme at

    This is ridiculous and just makes me sad that this is what our society has come to. These are strong women who have found that this is the only way to be recognized in their sport. Not cool!

  • Reply Kovas - Midwest Multisport Life at

    I had heard about this, but didn’t know it was still around. Not sure how they can be considered pros if they’re not paid (tongue in cheek) – it really is a shame this is the only outlet for them.

    • Reply heather at

      Seriously, I did think of that! I feel like the owner calls them a pro team to make them feel better about it, but really….isn’t the definition of a professional athlete someone who gets paid?

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    Ack. I’ve heard about this but looked the other way. Just some food for thought: I get this is their only outlet for doing something they love but at what cost? Isn’t there a better way about pursuing their passion or could they start something on their own that is more legit with more clothing? Or is there more in iy than just playing football. For instance are they wanting the attention or hoping it’s a segue into being a model? I know it’s all a catch 22 but that’s what boggles my mind about pro cheerleaders and the like. They sign up for it and then sue for pay, etc. They know exactly what they’re signing up for so what can they expect? I understand their passion for dance and such but why not choose another platform better suited for them…and more respectful for women? Once again, are they hoping it may turn into something else for them? I dunno. But if there are women willing to sign up this will never go away…=(

    • Reply heather at

      I think it’s a double edged sword. They do know what they’re signing up for and if they do it anyway, you’re right– it will never be solved because we’re feeding the system. But, looking from the other side, what if you truly loved the sport? And couldn’t play it professionally? (Which seems to be the case). Sure, they could start their own league or something but let’s face it: if they don’t have the finances, it’s going to be an uphill battle. To me, the larger question is why should they have to deal with all of these internal questions when on the flipside (the NFL), the only question is whether your abilities are up to snuff? Truthfully, I can’t think of any sports where men have to fight there way in…..right? (That’s a real question– I can’t think of any?)

  • Reply Christine @ Love, Life, Surf at

    This is crazy. I mean, really? It is the sad truth that sex sells but it continues to drive me crazy that it’s the objectification of female and female athletes at that. There’s been a lot of conversation over the years about female pro surfers too. Last year Roxy put out a promo video for one of its contests and it was all body shots of a woman surfer – getting up, getting dressed, in bikini – and no surfing whereas the men’s promos are all about the men doing these amazing maneuvers on the waves. And it’s not like these women can’t rip!

  • Reply Laura at

    Could you imagine male NFL players in outfits like that?

  • Reply some where in Brooklyn at

    Hello,
    I did read your article. What is wrong with women showing off their assets. I as a man would find this very entertaining and women get paid. It’s a win win situation. I have noticed some profanity and if you didn’t address that issue, it doesn’t matter if its men or women its a very precedent. I think its about time we erase the men, women segregation and start treating a person as a person and have one team and if one woman qualifies to play in one NFL it should still be ok. She can go ahead and play. Men and women are created equal. I believe women have more than men to offer to this society I believe they should get paid more than men.

  • Reply Christy @My Dirt Road Anthem at

    bottom line is of course, sex sells. I hate the message it sends to little girls though. I want my daughter to know her worth without having to rely on flashing some skin. Men would never play like that, and not many would ever go to see a womens football league unless they were dressed in bikinis either.

  • Reply Yaitza at

    Agreed.

  • Reply Art at

    There is a point which I hope I am not making redundantly. That being, what does this type of marketing do to men? I understand that this isn’t the point of the conversation, but sexual-based marketing speaks to the basest of male impulses. Yes, it generates results for the companies, but at what cost? Do we not now have more men addicted to pornography than ever before? Is there not also a residual effect on our men, which, though not the same as the objectification that women go through, is at least as subversive an effect which perverts their images of love, relationships, etc. I should think that most men would not complain of this result. It is a base, instinctual response which the advertising and objectification of women engenders in men. Somehow, I find it hard to disconnect this response and the availability of prurient materials from the men that I know who put off marriage and families and engage pick-up artist techniques in our bars and social events. The message is clear. Don’t understand these women or celebrate them…objectify them.

  • Reply Dave Sandel at

    I’m a little late to the party here. All I’m going to say, and I’m not picking sides whatsoever, is that I know someone that used to play in the LFL. She loved her time there. Misses it. And didn’t have anything bad to say about it in any realm. Also, a funny aside, I was almost the head strength and conditioning coordinator for one of the LFL teams…until they wanted me to work for free. Pass.

    • Reply heather at

      The takeaway: THEY MAKE EVERYONE WORK FOR FREE! 🙂

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.