If I had to write a quote that exemplifies all that is wrong with the LFL and why its popularity is troublesome to those of us who advocate, study, play, teach and research women’s sport, I couldn’t do it. Wachter write, “While playing in the NFL takes a rare combination of strength, speed, and coordination, in the Lingerie Football League, says its founder, Mitchell Mortaza, “You have to be athletic, confident, and beautiful.“ I would argue that beautiful is the most important and valued attribute of the LFL and LFL players reflect what society has constructed as the beauty norm for women. I have no doubt some of the LFL players are great athletes who love to play football. It is unfortunate that to play a sport they love, it is necessary to do so in what is barely a uniform–a uniform which accentuates and sexualizes the female body. There are other options (see below). I doubt NFL players, 1) have contract stipulations that reads “players must cope with the possibility of “accidental” nudity” or 2) gets fined $500 if he wears any “additional garments” underneath his uniform.
I agree with my sport sociology colleagues Mike Messner and Mary Jo Kane who are quoted in the Bloomberg piece, that the LFL is not selling sport or promoting female athleticism, the LFL is selling sex.
It is well documented that sex sells just about anything, and unfortunately when women’s sport is packaged as sex, it appears to do well. Mortanza states, “We’re 260 percent more profitable so far this season than at the same point last year.” The dangerous down side of the LFL’s success is that it reinforces what many already believe: To sell women’s sport and female athletes successfully sex and sexualizing the female body must be primary. However the distinction is the LFL is selling sex, NOT sport. The LFL claims to be a “women’s pro sport” but it is little more than athletic Playboy bunnies running around for the benefit of male consumption.
Conversely, the The Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL) is about the sport of football. Founded in 2000 by a group of women, IWFL currently has over 1600 women playing for 51 teams. The Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), founded in 2009, grew to 32 teams in the first year earning the distinction of becoming the “fastest growing league in the history of the sport.”