I hadn’t heard about the Lingerie Football League until a commercial for one of their match-ups appeared on one of the shows I was watching. If you haven’t had the misfortune of knowing about this “league,” formed in 2009, it features women in lingerie, obviously, playing some full-contact indoor football in pads and helmets.
Currently, there are twelve teams in the U.S. and Canada with 20 players on each team. Next year, nine more cities will have lingerie football franchises, with plans to continue expansion around North America in the upcoming years. This season, the games have aired on MTV2—perhaps indication of how much viewers take this spectacle to be a “sport.”
It’s pretty obvious that the lingerie football league is supposed to be titillating to men. Full-contact football has the same sweaty-dirty appeal of mud wrestling, and obviously the blocks can make the skimpy attire fall off, etc… Essentially, the league could be perceived as a massive cat fat, with ladies fighting over a football as a stand-in for a man. Even the league’s creator, Mitch Mortaza, admits that the league’s marketing mostly targets young, male beer drinking, college students ages 21-and-up. Sure, or guys who wish they still were.
More difficult to understand is the female athletes’ willingness to objectify themselves. Because no one could make the argument that these women aren’t athletes. Just watching the commercial one can see that the league’s version of football isn’t some watered-down, girl-friendly version. These women run and hit and tackle—hard physical work. But if they don’t play on these teams, where can they play?
And that’s the unfortunate part of the whole thing. Women can be amazing footballers, but they are still forced to be sexy—as always first and foremost—before they’re allowed to be anything else. One player has been quoted saying that she doesn’t care what they put her in, as long as she gets to play football. Another says that the lingerie is easier to play in.
Certainly, some of these women enjoy being objects of the male gaze. But there are plenty of other arenas where women can walk around in lingerie and be stared at by men—and that takes a lot less strenuous physical work than this football league does. It seems like a number of these women just want to play football, and this is the only way they can—to titillate men.