When pictures of the female players with full-forward breasts were splashed everywhere following Legends (aka Lingerie) Football League games in Sydney and Melbourne this month, it underscored what has been a losing year for women.
Little publicity is given to women’s sport in general. Did you even know there are female gridiron teams, where players wear full protective clothing like men? But attention wasn’t a problem in this case. ”It’s far better than watching netball,” wrote Aaron Langmaid in Melbourne’s Herald Sun.
The high ratio of photos to text online was significant. Camera angles captured bikini-topped flesh and skimpy undies in reports that failed to even mention the score. Women’s bodies were on display, treated as a spectacle.
There were few advances for women in other public areas either. Australia now has fewer women in cabinet than the government of Afghanistan.
The Human Rights Commission has shown that sexual harassment remains widespread in Australian workplaces and that attempts to address it have stalled. The Bureau of Statistics presents similar disturbing figures on the harassment and stalking of women.
Victims of sexual harassment and assault continue to be blamed for what is done to them. The Victorian parole board review found that deadly mistakes had been made in the release of women’s assailants, leaving them free to strike again with ferocity. Read more here.
This message from a special fan landed in my public profile Facebook inbox this morning. I won’t include his name, as he would probably enjoy that too much.
You are a dickhead. You fk’n leso feminist. I bloody hate u bitch. You always have something to say. I bet you think “Playgirl” with pictures of men in porn magazines is all okay but when it’s women, it’s taboo as far as you are concerned. You have obviously had a very sheltered life. I would guess that I am not the only one who hates you. It is fair enough if women’s heads are photoshopped onto models bodies but when women SEND IN THEIR OWN PICTURES, it’s because they want to show off their bodies. They are not made or forced to do so. You have a very shallow mind bitch
It’s just one of many along these lines which come to me regularly. My friends all get them too, mostly through social media. We often compare them at the end of the day to see who got the ‘best’ one. I used to be the winner most days but now a couple of my mates are in the lead, especially those who have taken it up to the Lingerie Football League. All in a day’s work.
But it was good, just after reading the latest love letter, to come across this commentary by Van Badham on Women’s Agenda (a site I’ve only just discovered and which ran this really good piece about women and appearance). Here’s an extract but it’s worth reading the whole thing:
Whether it’s deliberate or non-self-aware, Brospherism is passive-aggressive sexism that foments social awkwardness and inflicts personal damage, because it masquerades as the instruction of colleagues whilst relying upon same old, same old sexist traditions of dismissing women’s agency and enforcing gendered standards of behaviour. You know you’re up against the Brosphere when you encounter subtly gendered language to dismiss the (unheard) sound of written women’s voices as “yelling”, “shrieking” or “shouting about nothing”. Call out this or any other kind of discursive marginalization in an online forum and you risk invoking the wrath of Brospherus Maximus, a pack-attack of mutually reinforced conclusions that the feminist doesn’t know what sexism is, that she is “over-reacting”, “over-sensitive”, “crazy”. The gender-doom of denunciation as “hysterical” is only ever one connotation away, the words “calm down” or “settle” apparently inevitable, while substantive content of whatever comment made by a woman displeased the original Bro is ignored in favour of a defensive schooling in how feminists who criticize sexist behaviour just can’t, um, engage criticism. Read more here.
We continue to be sold a line by the promoters and profiteers of Legends Football League (better known as Lingerie Football League, the re-branding means little) that this is a legitimate sport.
Let’s see what the fans think. Here’s a snag of their comments taken at 4.15pm today. Only one comment refers to a player’s talent.
Sportswoman daughter rejected at last minute for being ‘too fat’: dad speaks out
Randy send this comment to Collective Shout’s Open Letter on the LFL. Read it and see the way his daughter was treated and why he no longer supports LFL.
Posted 9 Dec ’13 at 8:10 pm |
Until Saturday night 8 December I was a staunch supporter of the “rebranded” LFL. That was until my daughter who flew to Sydney to represent her State was told that she was not approved to wear the uniform. Previously that month she had submitted a bikini photo as required so that her body shape could approved to wear their skimpy gym outfit. Now she has no problem with the lack of uniform and has for the last 18 months lived for nothing but LFL. At 18 years old and coming from an elite swimming background she wanted to play a team sport that challenged her and she thought LFL was it. Well at the end of the day it does not matter how good you are, if Mitch Mortaza thinks your too fat to wear his uniform. Since the debacle on Saturday night my daughter has been contacted by the coach of the NSW Surge with words of encouragement . My daughter is a large framed girl, that’s why she is unstoppable in defence or so we have been told by many who have seen her. So why would you bench a player who would do nothing but promote the sport as a real game, simple Mitch Mortaza and his cronies only want skinny women in his skimpy uniforms. Sure my daughter is not a size 8, 10 or even 12 for that matter. But she is a very athletic and lethal size 14 and had she played on Saturday night there would a few NSW players hurting still.
Keep adult entertainment off the footy field
Michelle Dean lives in WA and has been speaking out against the Lingerie (Legends) Football League. Here she tells us what she has been doing to stand against sexploitation of women’s sport.
When I became aware of the LFL and exactly what it involved I knew I had to voice my complaint about how demeaning and objectifying it is to women and girls.
I initially contacted the Department of Sport and Recreation in WA. I asked what requirements or processes there are for a sport to set up and be considered legitimate here in WA (with particular reference to the LFL). They advised:
“There is no state government process; the approval process for events rests with the venue/land owners. This is based around the venue owner operator insuring (sic) that the event they are approving in their venue does not break any laws or health regulations. Whilst the activity may be seen as poor taste and sexist it does not breach any laws or regulations. It is therefore up to the venue to determine if suitable to be linked to their venue”. Read more here
The NRL claims to care about treating women equally and eliminating sexism
So how does the Penrith Panther’s official partnership with the LFL help girls and women feel included and not valued only for their bodies? (me and my colleagues have been asking this question of the NRL on twitter, with no reply).
Another example of the abuse women receive for speaking out
By Caitlin Roper
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.
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.
Player loses underwear replayed on giant screens, sex doll shared, chosen men get to ‘tackle’ players, fans leer and jeer – and they call it sport
On Saturday night I was in the crowd at the Lingerie Football League game at All Phones Arena, Sydney Olympic Park.
I’m a former athlete. I have coached a number of sports including soccer. I made it to the Youth National Trials back home in England (until I did something stupid involving a bucket of soapy water, some friends who were not unknown to law enforcement, and a moving car, which ended my short lived career. But that’s another story).
A friend, who is a triathlete, agreed to come with me. We both follow sport. She didn’t make it to half time. As a serious athlete, she couldn’t handle the degrading treatment of women under the guise of ‘sport’. She asked her boyfriend – also an athlete – to come and get her. He commented: “I think men don’t go there for the sport the same as men don’t go to a strip club to see a good dancer.”
I stayed on to be able to report to my Collective Shout colleagues – and anyone else who cared – what took place that night. But it wasn’t easy.
There were many low points. Probably the worst:
• A player’s lingerie bottoms fall down (not entirely unpredictable, it’s what the mostly male crowd seemed to be hoping for). They go wild. The scene is then replayed on the large screen for their viewing pleasure. A man standing next to me says “This is the perfect sport!”
• The MC invites men to stand and be selected in the ‘Chase and tackle the girl contest’ to come onto the field and ‘tackle’ a real LFL player. Men stand and cheer, pointing at themselves while others fist pump the air. Three are chosen. The female player is brought to the ground. I wonder what protection the players have against sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. And what would happen if she were injured, given players have to sign a waiver of compensation form.
• A blow up doll is passed around near me. One man simulated oral sex as others laugh. Men pass the prized doll along until someone throws it into the VIP area, where an attendant confiscates it. The crowd boos.
• Some men opposite me make a stack with their beer cups. I have seen this done before. What I have never seen at any sporting venue was what happens when the host, an older lady, asks them to stop. The men insult her and throw their ($7) beers over her. She appears shaken and leaves.
Touchdowns are celebrated by slapping thighs and making ‘Pussy Signs’ above the players’ heads. Apparently it’s a great thing to attract the hand vagina signal. The new Sydney recruits selected from tryouts on Thursday night stood to one end clapping and dancing to ‘I am sexy and I know it’.
Men hang over the fence to get close-up camera shots of the player’s backsides.
As the player’s leave the field during half time a group of women enter wearing stockings, black high heeled boots and lingerie and hand out freebies to the men. The NSW team are introduced to the crowd. They run out and perform a set move – the sexier the move, the louder the roar from the crowd. A blonde woman who did the splits got the biggest reaction.
The second half gets underway and the men, fuelled by copious amounts of beer, become more aggressive. The music is pumped up.
The MC reads an ad for ‘Mobile Tanning Service.’ Given there were few women attending, of what interest would this be to the bulk of men in the crowd?
One player goes to the VIP section on field level and some men break the fence as they tried to grab her as she walks by. Security moves in.
When the game finishes the MC quickly announces that the party zone will commence in about 10 minutes for those with tickets. Fans who had paid could could stay back and take photos and do “whatever you want”.
LFL founder Mitch Mortaza made a statement over the intercom about how LFL was a new sport to Australia and how, despite the criticism, “You came the fuck anyways”. This is greeted by loud cheers from the fans.
The NSW team are sent out to parade around the field again. “They are all gorgeous girls, can’t wait to watch them,” the commentator says.
A group of men walk past me as I’m sitting by myself. One asks “What are you doing here? Are you a f-ing lesbian?” I said no, but I am reporting on the game. They didn’t elaborate further on their lesbian theme.
I decided it was time to leave. I walk out, depleted.
Lingerie Football League is hailed as the all-new Australian sport and we are supposed to celebrate? It wasn’t sport. It was a meat fest. It had the feel of a giant buck’s night. But it was on a sporting field so apparently that made it sport.
I call on sporting bodies and our Government, to step in to stop this. The game encourages sexist behaviour, it does nothing to promote women in sport on an equal footing with men.
What a sad day for women who do work hard for their sport, who go unrecognised, who can’t get attention for their outstanding abilities because they wish to play in practical, protective clothing and don’t want to be some man’s lingerie fantasy dressed up as sport.
It wasn’t about playing football – it was about how aggressively we could act towards the other girls
Last Thursday I found myself walking towards the bright lights of the Sydney’s All Phones Arena at Homebush. Turning the corner, I realised I was in the right place when I saw a line that would have done any night club proud – dozens of attractive young women in full hair and heavy make-up, long tanned legs bared in defiance of the winter chill, eagerly waiting their turn.
I took my place at the end of the line. Like all the women here on this cold night, I had come to try out for the Lingerie Football League (LFL). Though my motives were a little different. I wanted to see how we would be treated, what would be required of us, and to test the notion that this was real sport.
I was handed an application form, talent release and ‘Waiver of Compensation’ form. The last informed us that the League would not be liable if we were injured. Was that even legal? I saw one of the American players on crutches and wondered how she was paying for her treatment.
The girl in front of me offered me her pen, and helped me figure out the entry process. She told me that she was a surfer, did athletics, and had brought her father along as her support. There were many men in the stands, male friends and some other fathers.
With the paperwork out of the way, we made our way through to the change rooms. The girls in front of me had already started stripping down to their tryout clothes, none as extreme as the lingerie we would be expected to wear if we got through.
We each had a number written on our arms that would become “Your Name” on field – failure to respond to this number meant running a lap of the field, and a repeat of this offense would see us cut from the group, with no chance of selection. A girl ahead of me received number ‘69’, an honour which saw the US LFL team members cheering and joking that this girl had just received a free ticket through to the final selection. Every time number 69 was up, any athleticism or skill she displayed was overlooked in favour of continuing the joke that a numerical reference to oral sex was all the proof she needed of her potential.
We entered the floodlit arena to find it transformed into an astroturfed miniature gridiron field. I nervously made my way down to the field, where a large group of about 80 milled around waiting. Amongst this group were a handful of obviously serious athletes. I later discovered that one LFL hopeful was already a part of a semi-professional women’s football league, and another had represented Australia in baseball.
We were put into numerical order for the first drill. Along the sidelines were a number of US LFL players in red tracksuits. They walked around demonstrating drills and pumping the girls up through the night.
LFL founder Mitch Mortaza introduced himself and some of the star players. We then commenced with a warm up before three hours of drills as Mortaza patrolled with a clipboard, looking us up and down, watching our moves.
A cameramen appeared, lying on the ground taking upward angle shots of us running past. I was very thankful to be wearing long tights. I felt less exposed than some of the other women. I wondered how the photos would be used and where.
It wasn’t long before the music pumped up and the LFL players surrounded us, firing us up, urging us to be aggressive to each other. They then went on to insult us, screaming “You’re a pussy!” followed by a hand gesture in the shape of a vagina. As well as acting as an insult, the vagina hand shape was also later held above the heads of the top 20 as a victory sign.
We were shown the drill once and then expected to be able to mimic it. If we failed to do so we were screamed at, called a pussy and then Mortaza would yell “Stop wasting my fucking time, if you are here to fucking sight see, get the fuck out!” The way he spoke to us, made us feel like what we had to offer was never good enough.
Along with being ruthless he also showed a lack of knowledge of the sport. Mortaza made a fool of himself as he attempted to demonstrate a simple drill, leaving players confused as to what signal he was trying to communicate.
One drill was girl against girl. If we didn’t fight with all we had, we would be pushed to the ground, but that wasn’t good enough for Mortaza. He didn’t just want us to wrestle the girl he wanted us to “pancake the shit out of her”. The girl that ended up getting smashed to the ground was laughed at and along with the hand gesture, was called a pussy by all the LFL players.
During this drill, other LFL players shouted “own her” and “put her in the parking lot” and “haul your arse”. We were expected to physically hurt our opponent. I think this is what disturbed me most. It wasn’t about playing football, it was about how aggressively we could act towards the other girls, how much pain we could inflict, all to entertain the crowd.
For most of the girls this was the first time they had encountered American-style football, playing a sport that isn’t actually Australian. Yet we received incredibly harsh criticism when we failed to match the skills shown by the LFL players who were professional players.
One of the girls I became friends with was behind me and I expressed my concern at the uniform we would be required to wear if we were chosen. She seemed oblivious as to as why this would be a concern. The tall blonde went on to be selected for the top 20, despite lacking the skill, speed and strength of other hopefuls.
After the drills we were then asked to gather around and hear two stories of ‘inspiration’ from two of the most popular LFL players. One story was not give up if you didn’t make it through, the other was to give us insight into what life was like in the LFL. LFL All Star Liz Gorman joked about it being the “fat story” as she had to lose weight when she was picked for the team. (I had already read that players who gained weight were humiliated). ”It is it about image,” she said. She also made a comment about the uniform,“The uniform it is was it is”. We were also warned about the amount of criticism we would receive from being a LFL player and that people would be harsh about our appearance so we had to look after our bodies.
Mortaza then read out the numbers of the girls who were chosen for the final round. Despite my ability to perform the drills, it was clear Mortaza wanted a certain ‘look’. So I was not particularly surprised that a number of us who had displayed greater football skills remained on the sidelines.
While a couple of the girls who made the cut were obviously talented athletes, in the end it was clear to everyone that our ability to play gridiron was a far lower priority than how our body would fill out the uniform.
The night ended with a pep talk about how to look sexy on Saturday night when those selected for a Sydney team to play competitively in December 2013 would be presented during half time at tonight’s LFL game in Sydney. They had to make sure hair and make-up was done and they were showing themselves as sexy, hot girls who had had a lot to offer – on or off the field.
A number of us worked hard and I’m still recovering. We faced constant belittlement and abuse. But our form wasn’t important if we weren’t stereotypically hot.
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.
Tal Stone is a 23 year-old Sydney university student and athlete.
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