I sat through a brutal 176-slide presentation from Melinda Tankard-Reist last week. I’ve italicised the word ‘brutal’, but I also want to underline it, bold it, coat it in gold and have little pop-ups drawing your attention back to it.
Entitled, ‘Too Sexy, Too Soon’, it brilliantly outlined and gave waaaayyyyy too many examples as to how we objectify women and sexualise girls through the media and products that ‘we’ buy.
She had me by the 5 minute mark. So, by the sev-enty minute mark, I was well and truly in information overkill hell and only catching a short glimpse of each emotive-driven slide before going back to my ‘happy place’*. (*Head down, making no eye contact with anyone around me, sure of the shared angst we all felt.)
Having just had a son and already slightly intimidated by just how hard it will be to raise a man, the sheer amount of smut-saturated imagery and products we are exposed to from such a young age was overwhelming. It took my angst at the anti-male stereotyping in ads and sitcoms down a cog or 2. (But not 3; they still p!ss me off…)
There we were
So it was in that mindset that when Mrs YWS passed on an article about a ‘Lingerie Football League’, the blogging part of my brain – small but operational – went into overdrive.
I will link to the article that explains what the league is all about here. In a nutshell, it’s an American Football League, except the women who compete have to be scantily clad; think helmet + bikini.
It is accepted that ‘accidental nudity’ will be a part of each game – the girls are forbidden from wearing any further undergarments to protect their privacy. If they are, they’re fined $500. Players who complain about wages – more on this in a second – or health coverage are threatened with being fired. The league followed through with these threats and ousted 4 of the Toronto girls. So the whole team quit. Good for them. They have team names like ‘Seduction’ and ‘Sin’. Awesome. Oh, and they’re not paid.
There’s also talk of a junior league.
And now, they’re coming to Australia.
I read a blog by Tal Stone, who ‘tried out’ for the league. Her motives were not purely sporting, but as she said, ‘to see how we would be treated, what would be required of us, and to test the notion that this was real sport.’
Needless to say, it wasn’t. They were horribly abused, exposed to sexual innuendos, cameras filming them from the ground up and were encouraged to hurt one another. This was not about the game – the cute, tall blonde lacking in speed, skill and strength – surprise, surprise, she got through.
At a time when I’ve come out of a 12 month sabbatical from sport and am encountering very real challenges in terms of keeping my eye on the ball of what’s important – my wife, my 20 day old son, my faith and my family and friends – this makes me shake my head.
I’m sorry, this isn’t sport. Actually I’m not – very very few people are watching this to admire the skills inherent in a great game. This is soft porn in an open arena, presented as ‘sport’ to protect the guise of men either making money off the bodies of women or getting their rocks off to the same tune.
Fellas, I gotta be honest, if you watch these games, I question your manhood. I really do. Real men don’t sit through this smut, this crap… And don’t throw ‘the sport’ of it back in our faces; we’re not buying it.
To the participants
And to the girls – I know they’re playing to your deep desire to play competitive football, but make no bones about it, the majority of the tools watching you play are simply ogling, objectifying and redefining women.
You are not exempt from this. No one’s putting a gun to your head and demanding that you play. If you put your foot down and refuse to accept this treatment, that’s the end of it. Without you, there is no league. Just ask the city of Toronto.
I fear for my son when the images that he can be exposed to as to what a healthy person looks like includes women being portrayed as sex-kitten athletic killers and men as the idiots who sit there at the game or hide behind their screens at home and take it all in.
The line is becoming increasingly blurred as to what constitutes acceptable behaviour. This league may not be doing anything illegal, but it is shockingly complicit in the unforgivable manipulation and exploitation of man’s most precious ally.
And so are the men who profit from it.
I’ll leave the final word to Tal Stone, she of the ‘good enough athletically but not tantalising enough visually’ tryout –
‘I’d love to be able to play gridiron someday. I love to test my body and mind to the limits of endurance. But I want to play a game where we are respected and valued for our abilities on the field. I want to know that our clubs would take care of us in terms of salary and insurance.
I don’t want to play some pseudo sport where we are expected to wear sexy underwear and engage in girl-on-girl violence, and be called pussies, because that’s what we have been reduced to in a strip show style spectacle for the gratification of men, under the guise of sport.’
(Ok ok, I will have the final word! If you want to sign the petition calling for a ban on this event in Australia, click here. Also, forgive me if the pics this week are too mundane – I refuse to post any of the over sexualised imagery of the players or outfits, or of Jake Gyllenhaal ogling Jennifer Anniston – the gag just didn’t fit the content!)