Another example of the abuse women receive for speaking out
Last week, The Australian newspaper reported that Channel Seven’s 7mate would be broadcasting the Lingerie Football. To all those who are unfamiliar with this spectacle, yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. While many accomplished women’s sporting leagues in Australia are both competitive and successful, media coverage is reserved for those women’s leagues where the uniforms consist of lingerie.
I created a change.org petition to Channel 7’s Board of Directors, asking them not to broadcast the Lingerie Football League that Australia Womensport and Recreation Association had described as “sexist and demeaning to all women.”
Some supporters of the Lingerie Football League, including players and men who didn’t like their access to sweaty, lingerie clad women challenged, referred to my petition on various pages on Facebook. They googled me looking for something they could use against me. I was labeled a “jealous bitch”, obviously fat and ugly, and most likely bitter that my husband was fan of Lingerie Football. I was too ugly to land a partner. I should be sent to “Guantanimo (sic) Bay” (an overreaction I thought, but still) and I probably think “walking to the kitchen for another jam donut counts as exercise” (that last one is true.)
A small sample below:
I considered responding with some facts- that I am happily married, that I work out several times a week and that I am not ugly. Then I recalled this was a classic silencing tactic I had experienced many times before– tearing women down by criticizing their physical appearance.
Women in our hyper-sexualised culture are valued for their physical attractiveness and their ability to please men sexually. Conforming to limited, stereotypical, pornified ideals of beauty and sexuality, we learn, is where our power lies. As Gail Dines writes in Pornland:
“In a porn culture, our power lies, we are told, not in our ability to shape the institutions that determine our life chances, but in having a hot body that men desire and women envy.”
In a porn culture, women can be either “f*ckable” or “invisible”. With this in mind, being regarded as an undesirable woman with nothing to offer could be potentially upsetting.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been subjected to abuse for speaking out against sexism and misogyny.
It is telling that my opponents’ first course of action was to call me fat and ugly, and that these were perceived as the most stinging insults they could unleash. What if I was fat or ugly? What if I am? If my face and body are not sufficiently pleasing to the male gaze should I be rendered voiceless?
I have more to offer than my body and I have more to offer than being pretty, as do all women and girls. Our obsession with being hot is merely a distraction.
Women are more and should be viewed as more. Unfortunately, from my experiences, the day women are recognized for their contributions and not their bodies still seems a long way off.
Lingerie Football: An open response to an open letter
An open letter “To those who oppose the LFL in Australia” was posted on our [Collective Shout] Facebook page yesterday.
Elise – an athlete who has recently joined an LFL team – asked us to read and consider her views on the LFL.
You can read Elise’s open letter here. (Opens PDF)
Thanks so much for writing to share your views on the Lingerie Football League.
Firstly, we do understand that the owner of the League has changed the name and brand to “Legends Football League” and has very slightly modified the bikini/lingerie style uniform he requires players to wear, by removing some lace and a garter and modifying shoulder pads.
The changes are so minor we don’t understand how anyone could take this seriously. The rebrand is nothing more than a cynical attempt at making the League more appealing to potential sponsors who may be put off by supporting a “Lingerie Football League.” (Readers can view the big announcement here.)
Despite a “rebrand”, the essence of the “sport” remains the same – providing titillation for men at the expense of women’s health and safety. Hence, we’re not buying into this “rebrand” and will continue referring to it as the Lingerie Football League.
Lingerie Football – whatever one chooses to call it – is not a sport. It is not recognized by the Australian Sports Commission. They do not support it.
The LFL has drained the bank accounts of former players in the US by not providing adequate compensation for serious injuries. Players understood that their injuries would be covered when they paid the insurance premiums offered by the LFL, but were instead left thousands of dollars in debt. Players who spoke out publicly about these experiences were threatened with legal action. As you’re probably aware, the US does not have the same healthcare system enjoyed by Australians, so adequate health insurance should be the highest priority for the LFL, particularly when safety equipment is the lowest priority.
Sport can indeed be an expensive pursuit and athletes are not always compensated for participation unless they are sponsored.
Now that the Lingerie Football League has a “contract” with Channel 7 and 7 Mate, will players be paid?
It doesn’t look likely. LFL owner Mitch Mortaza stated just this month to US program Inside Edition (watch below) that the league could not afford to pay players. It has been suggested by a US sports commentator that the Leagues foray into Canada and Australia is motivated in part by our health care system. Mortaza will pocket the profits from these events and Australian Medicare will foot the bill for injuries if private health insurance offered to Australian LFL players turns out to be inadequate.
The athletic skill of the women involved in the Lingerie Football League is not in question. There is no “attack” on the players of the LFL. If there is an “attack” it is directed firmly at the owner of the LFL and any corporation complicit in his exploitation of women for profit.
Some players have commented that they are not “skinny” and therefore promote positive body image. The question is asked “would you rather your daughter look like a Victoria’s Secret model or an LFL player?”
Are those really the only options? And why is physical appearance so important?
We would rather our girls not be pressured to look a certain way at all and instead be recognised for their skill and expertise in whatever activities they choose to participate in.The LFL reinforces that physical appearance and conforming to a narrow standard of beauty is what is most important, over and above athletic skill.
If Lingerie Football is about skill, then unfortunately fans didn’t get the memo. The sexist, degrading comments on social media and elsewhere about LFL player’ss bodies and what sort of sexual acts fans would like to perform are absolutely disgusting. (example) The “sport” is marketed in such a way as to invite and allow this behaviour and creates an environment that is hostile and discriminatory to women and girls. This is institutional sexual harassment. No sporting body should promote or allow this behaviour but sexual harassment is built into the business model of the LFL.
Yes, the League exists because it is “marketed well.” There is a huge market demand for pornography, prostitution, stripping and other forms of sexual exploitation. Men have not suddenly decided to embrace women’s sport. Channel 7 and 7Mate has not decided to embrace women’s sport and therefore, the LFL will not encourage other stations to embrace women’s sport. The LFL is not some new cutting edge concept, this is not the “fastest growing sport.” This is not sport at all, this is the same old sexual objectification of women, repackaged and “rebranded.”
To say if “we don’t like it don’t watch simple!” – Yes, that is a very simple statement, but it is a completely ineffective response to sexual objectification in our culture.
I don’t like it, I don’t watch it, but I have to live in a community with people who do. I have to live in a community with people whose sexist attitudes towards women are reinforced by sexploitation events. I have to live in a community with people whose ideas that women are objects of sexual recreation are affirmed by these events.
A culture in which women and girls are seen as sexual objects is one in which relationships between men and women suffer and sexual harassment and violence against women thrives. I and other women and girls are harmed by this toxic culture, even if I have never personally played football in my underwear, participated in a beauty pageant or stripped off my clothes in a nightclub.
Sexual objectification of women and girls harms all women, not just those who say they choose to participate. “Don’t like it, don’t watch it” makes as much sense as saying “don’t like pollution, don’t breathe.”
Elise, we thank you for taking the time to share your views and to provide information about the recent developments in the LFL. These minor changes to the League- if they can be called changes at all – do not change our views on the exploitative nature of the League.
Clearly we disagree on this and will continue challenging the Lingerie Football League’s introduction to Australia. However, we do wish you and your fellow athletes all the very best.
Melinda Liszewski and Collective Shout
Click here to watch longer interviews with 3 former Lingerie Fooball League players discussing abuse and exploitation in the Lingerie Football League.
See also: ‘Still sexist: Why we’re not falling for Lingerie Football’s rebrand’, Jas Swilks, MTR blog, February 19, 2013
‘When women are sport: lingerie football comes to Australia’, MTR, Sunday Herald Sun, May 20, 2012
‘A sad day for all women in sport’, Deborah Malcolm, MTR blog, June 10, 2012
‘Abused, called pussy and told to “pancake the shit out of her”: my experience of Lingerie Football League try outs in Sydney last week’, Talitha Stone, MTR blog, June 9, 2012