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And the handbook had a distinct sexist inflection: Back incheerleader Malori Wampler was dismissed from the Indianapolis Colts cheer squad for attending a Playboy party in her painted birthday suit. Wampler claimed she was being fired on account of her race — she's Indonesian — but the NFL claimed it was about her disobedience. Forget that creating notoriety is the whole point of being a cheerleader. Given the notoriously misogynist allowances the NFL affords its male players — Darren Sharper is currently facing not one but two counts of rapethere was the Minnesota Vikings sex boatthe list goes on and on and on — you'd think the odd shimmy up to Heff would be permitted.
The sexist, moral probity expected of NFL cheerleaders is even more unjust.
How ironic, then, that the NFL has adopted the punitive practice of fining the cheerleaders when they go off-message — a strategy taken straight from the strip clubs, where dancers are charged for wearing the wrong shoes or underwear. Even strippers have more labor rights than cheerleaders.
From money to morals, as Raiderettes attorney Sharon Vinick points out, the greatest impediment is the lack of unionization — something with which NFL players themselves struggled for long enough, something that finally made its way into the college game last week.
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The NFL does understand the basics of revenue sharing, after all. An American Iconresearcher and former collegiate cheerleader Natalie Adams argues that the gulf between scholastic cheerleading and professional cheerleading has been widening ever since the onset of the Dallas Cowgirls in Cowboys owner Tex Schramm took his vision for the Cowgirls more from Vegas showgirls—whose understood purpose was sensual entertainment—rather than from the more modestly dressed high school or collegiate version familiar to everyone.
Exactly the way Schramm wanted it. Posting the two options opposite one another is to suggest they are both viable, that we should justify the premise that nearly naked girls dancing seductively at games was at some point deemed necessary for the enjoyment of football spectators. It was never necessary—it was always an excess that has simply gone unchallenged.
Why do we accept this?
Cheerleaders make the NFL's billions. They deserve to be paid minimum wage
To be fair, no one is forced to become a professional cheerleader. Indeed, in most cities it is a highly sought after, super competitive process to get on a team. But those who make the team quickly experience the baggage that comes with the honor.
To work extremely hard, get paid very littleand to lose personal dignity for the effort? I was moved by the way little girls looked up to me, but when I started to think about what I was a role model for, I realized I had sacrificed my entire identity just to get into that uniform.
The exhilaration of being on the sideline or court with a legitimate role to play in the spectacle itself? Deals with the devil always work that way. A couple of years ago I went to my first NBA game after a long attendance lay-off and was quickly bewildered by the environment being cultivated in the arena. On this particular night we had male breakdancers at the party, too, and the disparity between the expectations for the dance teams was noticeable.
Performers are coded according to traditional male desires—hence, men tend to be clothed while women tend toward nakedness.
There was nothing particularly sexual about the male dance moves, while the women twerked throughout the evening, a projection of heterosexual male fantasy lived out in the aisles and on the court throughout the night. Why do teams find it difficult to value the importance of occasionally hiring a black general manager but can easily recognize the value of diverse, naked female representation on their sidelines and at mid-court?
Could it be that homogeneous front offices help maintain power, while diversified sensuality satisfies a broader spectrum of ticket-buying male?
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Everyone hollers with indignation about the one—why not the other? That is, she highlighted how frequently an audience gets put into the perspective of a heterosexual man, where shots and scenes become opportunities for men to gaze at women through a sensual lens.
This pattern ultimately denies female identity and relegates them to the status of objects to be admired and lusted after according to their physical appearance. The lens she described 45 years ago still offers insight into every media production we consume to this day. Even certain Biblical narratives expose the trend see: Salome and King Herod. While acknowledging this persistent reality, the objectification of women for the satisfaction of men was still always understood to be a guilty pleasure, best left in the shadows.
That it made its way into professional, collegiate, and increasingly high school arenas is a fascinating study and raises a question worth asking: How did we come to tolerate the raw material of a stag party in the once family-friendly context of a professional sporting event?
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At a time when our Metoo meter is righteously sensitized to every perception of indiscretion directed toward women, why do women continue to conspire in their own objectification as professional cheerleaders? With millions of onlookers—many female—silent as they watch it happen game after game, week after week? Why are suddenly woke men, quick to condemn and rightfully deem inappropriate the behaviors of their recently accused male counterparts—unable or unwilling to call out this obvious objectification of women?
A male chauvinist body shamer? First, we live in a pornographic culture and pornography—regardless of foolish suggestions otherwise—has devastating effects on the minds of both men and women. Whatever else seeing a mostly naked woman does inside a man, it also creates a desire to see her entirely naked. We paid money and came to watch a sports competition, not a strip tease.
If anything should be stirred it should be their desire to go home and work on their game—not look at porn. Nor do I want my daughter comparing herself to the real-life-but-still-airbrushed-look of perfection that the dancers portray.Cheerleader goals
I want her stimulated to go home and think about how to be an executive in the front office, not to begin binge eating. Second, the women who perform as dancers and cheerleaders are being entirely objectified by their mostly-naked, provocatively moving presence at these games. They may not want to admit it. Nobody wants to say it out loud. Like other concessions further up the concourse, they are provided to be consumed.