Like practically any other guy, of course I enjoy looking at the cheerleaders on the sidelines of the NFL games. That being said, I would have to be particularly obtuse not to realize the inherent sexism built into the spectacle of sports leagues literally sidelining women - scantily clad, heavily made up women no less - as a form of entertainment. This is especially true in pro sports where, unlike in college, the cheerleaders are absolutely not there to lead any cheers. Instead, their sole purpose is to feed the hungry eyes of male viewers during lulls in the game.
But like I said, I am no prude. I am glad they are out there. And judging by the intense competition to be on these squads, it seems to me many women are quite eager to be a part of the festivities and to be eye candy at the games.
But there is definitely something wrong with a system in which the athletes on the field are making millions and these female employees are not even making minimum wage. I know no one is going to a football or basketball game specifically to see the Raiderettes or Laker Girls or whomever, but outright exploitation in the face of overt sexism is just awful. Sexism aside, the ladies are doing a job and a service and should be compensated accordingly. It is truly as simple as that.
You may have heard about the lawsuit against the Buffalo Bills by some members of the Buffalo Jills cheerleading squad. Here are some of the indignities that this cheerleading squad, and most others, deal with:
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Cheerleaders were ordered to warm up in a frigid, grubby stadium storeroom that smelled of gasoline. Cheerleaders had to pay $650 for uniforms out of pocket. Cheerleaders had to do jumping jacks to see if flesh jiggled. The Jills were required to attend a golf tournament for sponsors. The high rollers paid cash — “Flips for Tips” — to watch bikini-clad cheerleaders do back flips. Afterward, the men placed bids on which women would ride around in their golf carts. The carts had no extra seats. Women clung to the back or were invited to sit in the men’s laps.
For the privilege of being a cheerleader at a pro game, these are the kinds of things the women had to put up with, all for zero pay. That’s right, they received no pay at all. Any money they made came from tips and appearance fees, which did not amount to much.
This is just shameful, especially when you consider that the NFL is a $10 billion business. If this is not sexism, I don’t know what is. $10 billion and the owners cannot respect the women enough to pay them something decent for the work they put in, for even the entertainment value they provide. This disparity says oh so much about what’s wrong with how our society sees and treats women. The larger societal issue won’t be fixed by what the NFL does, but everything matters or nothing matters. If these women are going to be exploited and objectified for the sake of prurient entertainment, then at least pay them for it.
Photo Credit: Wikicommons