Thursday, November 3, 2011

Revealing New Spin on Football

Orlando Fantasy. Las Vegas Sin. Philadelphia Passion. San Diego Seduction. What sounds like very expensive, potent cocktails are actually titles of teams competing in the Lingerie Football League. The LFL, started in 2009, claims to have “formally shattered” the ceiling on women playing tackle football. The ladies who play on these teams are powerful athletes without a doubt and deserve to compete at a professional level in a sport that has traditionally been for men only. However, if the only way for a woman to compete at that level requires her to run around a football field in her underwear, have we really accomplished anything to improve the status of women in our society?

I know I have a soapbox related to the portrayal of women in the media (hope to write another blog post soon about the Miss Representation documentary which aired recently on the Oprah Winfrey Network). If you talk to me long enough, you’ll quickly find out how much things like the LFL tick me off. But above and beyond the misguided concept that women are making strides for equality because they’re allowed to play football in their underwear, the LFL has decided to go one step farther. They are developing youth leagues.

Yes, you heard correctly. Here’s part of the press announcement (with thoughts by me in italics): “With the growing popularity around the LFL [by what shockingly appears to be mostly men who regularly comment on the LFL Facebook page with original quips about the athletes like “she can sack me anytime”], younger and younger girls are starting to dream of playing LFL football. [I doubt this is what Martin Luther King, Jr. had in mind.] In recent months and years, parents [clearly loving, caring parents who aspire for their daughters to grow up and accomplish great things] of young ladies routinely contact LFL league offices inquiring about everything ranging from what size football do you use to what form of training should I place my daughter into now to prepare her for LFL football [clearly in addition to scheduling her implant surgery, regular spray-tans, and salon appointments].”

There is so much about all of this that makes me angry, I’ve had trouble compiling my thoughts for this blog, but here’s an attempt:
  • If playing football is something women aspire to, then let’s look at what is SAFEST for them as much as we would for men. Playing tackle football with only helmets and shoulder pads doesnot seem safe – much less comfortable. Could you imagine men playing in something similar?
Football players - Female and Male wardrobe differences
  • If we want for people to truly see and appreciate the athleticism of women on the football field, could we allow them to be dressed in such a way as to emphasis their talent rather than their cup-size?
  • In a recent survey conducted by Essence Magazine with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 72% of young people surveyed said that the media portrayed black girls’ sex appeal as their most important quality and 39% of females who had had sex said they wished someone had told them they had more to offer someone than just sex. Is it any wonder our young people feel this way when organizations like the Lingerie Football League are airing games on MTV2 – a channel viewed predominantly by teens? Is it possible to feature beautiful, strong, smart black women with CLOTHES ON???
My final thought has caused me the most trouble since discovering the LFL and the idea of a youth league to ultimately recruit new players – even though the league founder and commissioner guarantees that “we would never put 13 year olds in lingerie and have them play in our league”  (many thanks to ESPNW for clarifying that for us!).  What do we DO about things like this? What do we DO when we see women continuously being portrayed as sex objects or little girls being made up to look like grown women or female politicians being asked more about their clothing choices than their thoughts on foreign policy? What do we DO when we see girls flipping through magazines or channels and looking with some sense of inadequacy at the made-up, touched up images they feel constantly forced to compare themselves to?

I’ve decided to finally DO something. I’m starting with conversations – with adult women I look up to and with young women I admire and hope to influence in positive ways. I hope to keep you informed on how those conversations go - whether or not talking about what we see, struggle with, and get angry about can help to ultimately bring about change. And in the meantime, I’ll stick to watching NCAA football and will skip the LFL games. How about you?

- Dana Becker, M.Ed, is the Spartanburg Community Specialist for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Contact Dana at

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