Sunday, February 14, 2010
Football and Lingerie?
On Sunday, February 7, 2010, 106.5 million viewers gathered around televisions to watch the New Orleans Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. The Super Bowl is the culmination of the football season and highlights the two best teams from the league. Recently, a women’s version of the Super Bowl has arisen, known as the Lingerie Bowl. This sport divulges the “raunch culture” that women continue to participate in and society continues to endorse. Until individuals as well as society move away form typical norms and the path of profitability, this type of culture will continue. A CBS article, “Lacing Up for the Lingerie Bowl”, explores this indoor football league played by women, known as the Lingerie Football League (LFL). The Lingerie Bowl airs directly opposite the Super Bowl halftime show on Pay-per-view. Unlike NFL players, these girls’ uniforms consist of bras and panties. Their number, which is displayed on their rear end or bra, is barely visible. Players may be better known by their cup size than their number. What initially started as an alternative to the Super Bowl halftime show has now become a thriving sport.
Mitch Mortaza, commission and founder of the LFL, marketed the idea of women playing football in their underwear in 2003. Surprisingly, it was not until 2009 that this scheme escalated into a moneymaking “sport” with ten teams competing for a twenty-week season. The game is seven verses seven for two seventeen minute halves, with a fifteen-minute halftime. The field is fifty yards long, thirty yards wide, and consists of two eight-yard end zones. This field size is roughly similar to most indoor, professional football leagues. Kickoffs are used to the start the game and second half. There are no field goals or punts and a team must attempt to get a first down on every fourth down. After a touchdown, a team can either attempt a one or two-point conversion from subsequently harder distances. There are only two major differences between this sport and other football leagues. First, all LFL players are women. Second, these women wear scant, provocative lingerie “uniforms,” that often have wardrobe malfunctions during the games. These women’s “uniforms” consist of helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, kneepads, garters, bras, and panties. This game provides a mixture of pornography, sexuality, and athletic ability. It is interesting to note the salary differential between an NFL and LFL player. The average base salary of an NFL player for 2009 was $990,000 while the average base salary for an LFL player was $40,000. Even Victoria’s Secrets has not chosen to commercialize this sport.
Prior to the recent Super Bowl, a CBS newscaster examined the LFL. NFL players and women in the LFL were interviewed. Reactions varied. One player explained that he would find a different profession if he was asked to play in his lingerie. Another said, “I'm not trying to see another man in lingerie and I'm definitely not trying to tackle a man in lingerie - he can have all the touchdowns he wants!” (CBS 1) While certain football players endorsed this sport, it unlikely than any took it seriously, especially when teams consists of the Dallas Desire and the L.A. Temptation.
In order to gain an alternative perspective, Mitch Mortaza and LFL players were also interviewed. Mr. Mortaza explained the characteristics he and his coaches look for in these “athletes”. "First and foremost, you have to be beautiful. We have to be able to market you, which means you have to be in shape. And then you have to be confident. To play in your underwear in front of millions, there's got to be a level of confidence. And then, you have to be athletic” (CBS 1). It is interesting to note that Mr. Mortaza mentioned athletic ability last. Women within this sport claim that they are proud of their career choice and believe that their athletic ability is what truly keeps the fans in their seats. If athletic ability was the major factor, these women would be wearing jerseys and pants, similar to NFL players. Cornerback of the Chicago Bliss, Danielle Monet, shares her view of the sport. "I know the reason why people come and watch us is the lingerie, the sex appeal…but what keeps them in their seats is when they see the ability we have and they see our plays and that we're the real deal" (CBS 1). It is doubtful that LFL players will gain women respect and credibility on or off of the football field. Although LFL players claim to take this sport seriously, it seems naïve to believe that either male or female viewers feel the same. This is a “raunch” entertainment sport that is played on a football field. As in most aspects of “raunch culture”, the participants receive monetary compensation.
Ariel Levy examines “raunch culture” in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Woman and the Rise of Raunch Culture. It is interesting to hypothesize Mrs. Levy’s view of the LFL. Within her book, the author expresses her disgust for women who claim they are participating in this industry as a form of empowerment. There continues to be a gender divide in society in which women flaunt their bodies in scant clothing and men remain fully clothed. “While Janet Jackson introduced Americans to her right nipple at the notorious 2004 Super Bowl half-time show, Justin Timberlake’s wardrobe managed not to malfunction” (Levy 33). Six years later, individuals continue to discuss Janet Jackson’s mishap. Ironically, if Janet Jackson had the same wardrobe malfunction on the LFL, fans would have applauded and no scandals would have been noted. If these LFL players want to prove that they are equal to men, why wouldn’t they play in the same attire?
Allan G. Johnson explores patriarchal society within his chapter, “Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them, or an Us.” Unlike Levy, Johnson places more blame on society instead of the individual. Society’s perpetuation of this culture causes leagues like the LFL to continue to prosper. The author explains that individuals often choose the path of least resistance. “In addition to socialization, participation in social systems shapes our behavior through paths of least resistance, a concept that refers to the conscious and unconscious choices we make from one movement to the next. When a man hears other men tell sexist jokes, for example, there are many things he could do, but they vary in how much social resistance they’re likely to provoke” (Johnson 32). Most often, a man would just laugh or allow for others to enjoy the joke in order to not create tension. When “raunch culture” is no longer profitable, it will stop. Each individual has a choice to make which can begin the halt this sex-based industry.
Johnson uniquely discusses the popular board game, Monopoly, in order to convey his message. He explains that Monopoly presents certain rules and guidelines that individuals must follow. Monopoly is a game in which players’ competitive desires to win encourage them to make selfish decisions. Such decisions often harm opponents. Games mimic society. Johnson blames society for much of today’s problems yet recognizes that change needs to begin with the individual. Johnson explains the individual change that he has made. “I don’t play Monopoly anymore-I don’t like the way it encourages me to feel and behave in the name of ‘fun’” (Johnson 34). Attending LFL games is optional. Once the stands are empty, the sport becomes unprofitable and dissolves. As Johnson stopped playing Monopoly, LFL players need to stop playing “football.”
When examining the physical attributes of athletes who partake in this industry, similarities are noted. These women are predominately white, with large chests, firm butts, and blonde hair. Once again, subgroups of the female population are excluded based on physical attributes. Society continues to market and popularize new aspects of raunch culture. As Johnson has purported, this is a problem at both the societal and individual level. Individuals need to start making independent decisions in order for equality to begin. Participants in the LFL, like many women in the sex industry, are often blinded by the attendance they receive, the sense of empowerment they feel, and profit they make. Until these women differentiate empowerment from derogatory exposure, this culture will continue.