Meet my friend LJS, everyone. I might have made it through my entire life without knowing of the existence of the Lingerie Football League were it not for her. I could be mad at her for that, but I’m not because her description of the LFL, along with some conversations I’ve had with others about football over the past few months, led me to the decision to do this whole Super Bowl feature in the first place. And the thousand-mile journey to the amelioration of football’s negative effects on women and society begins with one football mega-feature on a radical feminist blog. Naturally, I asked LJS to write about the LFL and her view of sports culture:
If you are anything like me, there is nothing more exciting than the thrill of the football season’s first kick-off. It signals the beginning of 17 weeks of Sundays filled with sweaty men playing a game that I not only have no control over, but didn’t contribute to in any way. Which doesn’t stop me from yelling like I’ve won the lottery every time “my team” scores and referring to them as “we.” And of course there is the anticipation of the camera pan to the scantily clad cheerleaders smiling brightly like a shiny row of botched lobotomy victims. But I sometimes find myself thinking, as I am sure that we all have from time to time, “You know, this game is pretty good, but like I like my beer cold, my pork barbequed, and my chips with dip — I like my women objectified.” I mean REALLY objectified. Sure you have your cheerleaders jumping around in bikini tops and micro-minis in between snow flurries, and sure you have your beer commercials that cater to a 15-year-old male fantasy, but that just doesn’t take it far enough for my tastes. What if we replaced the players with the cheerleaders? Then we could dress them in bikinis to play a contact sport, because clearly their “safety” isn’t a top priority, and give the teams names like the San Diego Seduction, the Philadelphia Passion, and the Los Angles Temptation. Blatant and unapologetic degradation of the players would ensue. I mean, c’mon, you women knew what you were getting into when you were born with vaginas, right?
Fortunately for everyone out there that was nodding their head at the very thought of a football league of cheerleaders, Mitch Mortaza had an idea. Think of him as Joe Francis, founder of Girls Gone Wild, mixed with that sleazy older uncle that always used to leer at you getting out of the swimming pool. A winning combo, I know. Ol’ Mitch is the founder of the Lingerie Football League (LFL), which is now ending its 2nd season. And yes, it is exactly as described above.
Mortaza and the LFL make no apologies. In fact, during a recent try-out session that was chronicled by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s John Gonzalez, Mortaza eloquently explained what he is looking for in a LFL player:
The women of the LFL need three things… confidence, athleticism and, finally, they have to be gorgeous. We’re not looking for the best athletes. We want our league to have women like Anna Kournikova, Danica Patrick and Gabby Reece. They’re not the best at what they do, but they’re the most marketable. We know why men turn out.
A trip to the LFL’s official site backs up Mortaza’s statement. The site’s content is flanked on either side by black and white pictures of two women dressed in their underwear and covered with dirt. The woman on the right looks into the camera seductively, while the woman on the left actually has her face cut off by the edge of the webpage. I think that is a kind of unintentional statement about the league’s overall attitude toward its players and women in general. A half-hearted effort to “get to know” the players on the official LFL blog, LFL Unlaced (Get it? It’s a pun, right? UN-laced? Haha! The fun never stops), is another thinly veiled chance to show more pictures of the women in their underwear. And some of it doesn’t even make sense. Okay, a picture of the player in her “uniform” I could see, or maybe even enjoying a day at the beach in her favorite G-string, but the editors at “Unlaced” are hardcore, they don’t give a fuck. A rousing expose on Chicago Bliss’s Danielle Moinet has a lead-in picture of Danielle (presumably) in a lace bra and underwear set with some black lace Madonna gloves, circa 1984, followed by a picture of her in a red bikini standing in front of what I can only assume is the industrial garage door of a commercial loading dock. Scrolling down, I kept expecting a list of her “turn-ons” (long walks on the beach, men who fart in public, and Miller High Life) followed by a pictorial of her favorite sex positions.
So who is Mitch Mortaza? Not surprisingly he started his career of douche-baggery on the low-budget reality show Blind Date. His segment gets off to a stirring start when he lists toe rings among his turn-ons and refers to himself as a “white shark in captivity” when it comes to his dating style. I won’t go into too much detail (you can watch it on YouTube if you need to induce vomiting), but he is exactly what you would expect from the founder of the Lingerie Football League, dayglo tan and all. Unfortunately for everyone, except maybe the poor women on Blind Date, Mortaza moved from reality dating shows to founding the yearly Lingerie Bowl that ran during half-time of the Super Bowl for the first time in 2004. Mortaza claims that he was inspired by watching all the people leave their seats during half-time at a Super Bowl game he attended and wondered if he could capture that audience somehow. However, my bet is that it had more to do with his copy of Chicks with Balls that didn’t leave his DVD player for all of 2001 and the first half of 2002. Either way, the Lingerie Bowl got corporate backing (I’m looking at you Partypoker.com, bodog.com, and Horizon Productions) and became a relatively huge success. The popularity of the Lingerie Bowl was the spark for the woman-hating brushfire that became the LFL.
Okay, so what is the point, right? I mean, anyone with any kind of capacity for introspection, empathy, or sense of humanity can see that Mortaza is a piece of shit and the LFL is a ridiculous mockery of the personhood of women. When I first heard of it I thought that same thing. However, after some thought, further research, and personal observation my perspective started to change.
The LFL, to me, is the culmination of privilege that surrounds men and their sports. It is not unusual for men to make disgusting and degrading comments about the women on screen while hanging out with their buddies watching their favorite football team, and often it is in front of their wives/partners/children. But because it is in the arena of “sports” it is somehow protected. Saying anything about it results in being labeled a “nag” or a “bitch” that is “bringing down their man time.” Men often feel that they have a “right” to dehumanize and degrade women as long as it is in the confines of their “guy time” and that the women in their lives should have to not only be okay with it, but laugh it off while serving their buddies sammiches. The only thing missing from the picture is the string of pearls, the 1950s haircut, and a box of Betty Crocker cake mix. The men I am talking about are those that think they are “enlightened,” who “watch” the kids and “help” around the house (for those that are interested in the split of domestic labor among married couples with children that both work full time please see Coltrane, 2000, “Research on Household Labor: Modeling and Measuring the Social Embeddedness of Routine Family Work” for a good summary. Yes folks, in some ways we are still living in the 1950s). These are the same people who tuned into the Lingerie Bowl at half-time. And I can guarantee you that they make up most of the followers of the Lingerie Football League. They have turned in their Dallas Cowboy cheerleader calendars for Lingerie Football League trading cards and it falls under the category of “sports” and so is therefore untouchable.
I know that most of the people that read this blog won’t think that this applies to them, believe me I have read the comments sections closely, but that is not the case. I, as a married woman with a young child, am certainly closer to this world then most of the “regulars” here (not that this describes my husband in any way), but this IS the world that we are living in. This IS more the norm than not. I do think that we, as feminists, should be concerned about women whose lives are dramatically different from our own. This includes those that are in pornography, strippers, LFL players, prostitutes, mothers, and housewives. Well, either that or we should admit defeat and turn in our feminist cards for a football and a really nice bustier.