Pass, Run, Walk: Lingerie Football and SlutWalks

In an issue of the free newspaper 24, I couldn’t help but notice the fateful juxtaposition of two items: the Lingerie Football League coming to Toronto and SlutWalk marches, started in Toronto, going global. What does this say about the state of women’s equality? Is there a link between the two?

The Lingerie Football League is a full contact football league where women play wearing lingerie and the most basic of football pads. Their “uniforms” feature bras, high cut bikini briefs, garters and garter belts (that hold up no hose) and little lacy collars. There are also hockey helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and running shoes. That is all. Their pads and jerseys cover their shoulders and leave the majority of the bodies exposed. Numbers are placed prominently on the left cup and right buttock. The league is marketed primarily to beer drinking male college students over the age of 21.

The women in this league are not paid. I expect they play for the love of the game and the opportunity to create an image and gain endorsements based on that image. The coaches and league personnel are paid. The league has 12 teams at present including the recently announced Toronto franchise. It plans six teams for a Canadian Lingerie Football league in 2012. By the league’s own reports, it is profitable but just so.

This league makes money based on the objectification, degradation and sexualisation of women.

SlutWalk was started in response to comments from a Toronto police officer: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” I can’t put it any better than SlutWalk’s website, “whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.”

By marching in Toronto, people from all walks of life were affirming victims’ rights and saying loudly and profoundly that “those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault—without exception.” Men who rape are responsible for rape–not women’s clothes, behaviour or choices. Clearly they’ve touched a nerve. All over the world, SlutWalkers are taking to the streets. Nearly 50 marches have been planned according to SlutWalk’s website, with more being organized on Facebook.

So any link? SlutWalks happen in part as a response to women being seen as sex objects, being labelled and punished for the acts of others. The Lingerie Football League objectifies women for men. (At last check of their website, I could not determine if any mud was involved.) SlutWalks are put on by women for women. Lingerie Football is staged by men for men. SlutWalk equals hope! Lingerie football equals?

As to the state of women’s equality: no doubt these are talented female athletes who want nothing more than to make a living doing what they love; they shouldn’t have to go without pay and they certainly shouldn’t have to be degraded. They should be entitled to the same protections and privileges as their male counterparts.

What do you think? Is there any association to be made between the need for SlutWalks and activities that objectify women for the purpose of entertaining men?

Melanie Persaud is the Part-Time Senior Communications Officer and new to the YWCA.

5 Comments

  1. Emily
    6 years ago

    For over a decade I have been involved in high level competitive sports that are traditionally dominated by male athletes. Whether it is Rugby or action sports I have had to fight hard to assert myself as a serious competitor with great passion for the positive advancement of women’s sports and the perception of female athletes. The LFL does nothing to advance women in sports.

    I’m not sure who I am more upset or let down by. The rich men who began this league, or the women who buy into it. Over the years I have come to expect that women in all sports will be treated as a just a marketing tool by men. But, in this instance I feel more let down that talented athletic women of the LFL are degrading themselves so someone can profit.

    The parallel to Roller Derby has been made and all I can say is there is no parallel to derby as far as the LFL is concerned. Derby is skater operated and there is no contract with teams stating undergarments cannot be worn and that a certain level of accidental nudity should be anticipated. If you are uncomfortable in body-suits, wearing shorts is completely acceptable! Derby is the quintessential female empowerment sport where looks are not placed over performance.

    I’m let down that such a forward thinking and wonderful city as Toronto can give into a shameful cash-cow. Shame on all the decision makers….

  2. Tiffany
    6 years ago

    How does calling rape victims sluts help anyone it reinforces what’s wrong with people these days nobody takes rape seriously and now women demean themselves and it’s all for attention way to go losers

    • admin
      6 years ago

      As I understand it, the intent of using the word slut is to reclaim it from those who use it to demean women and imbue it with power and strength. There were many victims of rape at the event who came to feel a sense of power and community.

  3. Cathy
    6 years ago

    The “league” is obviously a joke to make women sports look more unimportant then it is already deemed. Your only worth something if your private parts are on display for men. As for the slutwalk I mean really come up with a different name your just give men more of a reason to laugh as sex assault, like I heard a guy on the subway” rape em and then they get to go on the slut walk”. Stop demeaning yourselves.

  4. Erin
    6 years ago

    Dear Melanie:

    We enjoyed the insights in your article so much so that we have made it the “Article of the Week” on our blog. We agree with your observations above and believe that the Lingerie Football League is not about female empowerment, as some other authors have alleged.

    You can find our reference to your blog here: http://womeninsportinternational.blogspot.com/p/article-of-week.html

    Keep up the great writing,

    Erin