Fight the Spread of Bikini Leagues!

If you are a female fan of sport, a fan of women’s sport, or care that female athletes and women’s sports are portrayed as legitimate and athleticism is the primary focus, I need you to be a Sports Minister!

There is a proliferation of “Bikini Leagues.” Starting with the expansion of the Lingerie Football League (which I’ve critiqued numerous times) into Canada, the LFL is trying to expand globally to Australia where it is being met with resistance from the Australian Sports Minister Kate Lundy who stated “As Minister for Sport, I can’t abide a spectacle that degrades women and threatens to undermine the progress of women in sport in Australia. It offends me that the promoters are hiding behind the guise of LFL being a ‘sport’. Lingerie Football objectifies and exploits women by trading on their sexuality to make money pure and simple.I am particularly concerned that young women watching the LFL will form the unfortunate view they can only ever hope to be taken seriously or even noticed in sport if they get their kit off.”

This is precisely why the US needs a Sports Minister!! We don’t, therefore we ALL need to take responsibility to fight Bikini Leagues and the spread of activities branded as sport, that clearly are not.

I am very troubled by LFL expansion efforts as well as the commencement of a Lingerie Basketball League and a Bikini Hockey League.…especially when Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS)–a REAL league, suspended play for 2012. Clearly there is a market for the sexualization of females, but if women refuse to play in these “leagues” there will be no leagues and no product to sell. Women who play or are considering to play in Bikini Leagues (many of whom are legitimate athletes) need to take some individual and collective responsibility.



Do not let yourself be objectified for entertainment under the guise of sport.

Are these leagues going to increase respect for and interest in women’s professional sport? Are these leagues going to garner you respect and legitimacy as an athlete or a person? Are Bikini Leagues good for the individual, women’s sport in general, or society? What messages do Bikini Leagues send young girls about their bodies and self worth? What messages to Bikini Leagues send young boys and males about objectifying and consuming the female body, and respecting females as legitimate athletes?

What can you do to fight Bikini Leagues!?

What other suggestions to you have so that we can all take responsibility in our own ways to fight Bikini Leagues.

The Irony of a Woman’s Professional Uniform in Sport

This blog is about the irony of what is deemed appropriate workplace attire for women in the context of sport.

I have written quite a bit about the Lingerie Football League and my disdain for the league and their claims it promotes women’s sport (to read all my posts on the LFL, click here). Evidently I am not alone in feeling the LFL marginalizes female athletes, and women who  play real professional football. Two players from the KC Tribe team, Katie and Liz Sowers, put together an entertaining and informative video expressing how many women in the Women’s Football Alliance feel about the LFL.  This video is worth watching and sharing! One of their main points is that female athletes seem to only get recognized when they take off, or have very little clothing on (i.e., when they are portrayed is sexy ways…another topic I have written extensively about). If you want to see the most recent example of this, click here to see a calendar made by a Vancouver women’s hockey team.

Relatedly, on the other end of the spectrum….this week the MLB came out with a dress code for media personnel. If you read the new code, it won’t take you long to surmise this code is targeted towards females. For example it reads: Visible undergarments, sheer clothing, one-shouldered and strapless shirts or clothing exposing bare midriffs will be banned. Skirts, dresses or shorts cut more than three or four inches above the knee will be deemed to be in violation. I’m not in many MLB press boxes but I’m guessing there aren’t many, if any men, who are in this attire, so the rule must be aimed at females.

Phyllis Merhige, an MLB senior vice president stated, “There’s no one who expects reporters to wear a suit and tie (My commentary: i.e. suit and tie are typically associated with a white-collar, White male dress code). But with the advent of different media, there are now individuals who are not part of a bigger organization that may have a dress code.”  If you read this statement critically, the “norm” in press boxes refers to traditionally trained, older male sport journalists, and “different” means anyone is who falls outside that norm (i.e., women, and Millennial bloggers both male and female).

Data supports that females are the minority in press boxes and this fact is problematic as I wrote in a previous blog: “According to a 2008 report commissioned by the AP Sport Editors, females comprise less than 10% all sport reporters. Given that female sport journalists are statistical tokens (< 15% of a population) they are under constant scrutiny, have to perform above and beyond their male peers to be deemed competent, and are subjected to overt and covert forms of discrimination.”

The dress code policy for MLB reminds me of the Jets-Sainz incident of 2010 where Ines Sainz was harassed in the Jets locker room, and criticized for not dressing professionally. Despite what one is wearing, attire does not give permission for males to harass or act boorishly. Speaking of boorish, if you doubted that harassment, discrimination and sexism are not part of the reality for female sport journalists, look no further than sports columnist Rick Bacon’s recent DeadSpin post.

In his blog, he wrote: “that the rules are really there to take on the princess female reporters, like ESPN’s Erin Andrews and Suzy Kolber, ladies so caked in makeup that Papa Bacon would have slapped me twice had I brought them home. Notably, the rules mention ripped jeans and midriff-revealing shirts, things you won’t find in my closet or my nieces. And good for Major League Baseball. These gals might be lookers, but they distract the whole team’s attention. It’s awkward enough having them in the clubhouse to begin with. Some of us came here to ask questions, not to flirt. We came here to do the reporter’s job. When reporters talk about “inches,” we’re not talking about the hem of a skirt or the height of a heel. We’re talking professional copy…It’s good that the locker-room peekaboo act will have to cover up. Fans deserve better coverage too..”

Bacon certainly lives up to the origin represented by the animal associated with his last name. Bacon’s generalized, gendered, dichotomous assertions do not make for a collegial work environment. The MLB is trying to head off or prevent workplace harassment, but educating everyone on professional behavior might be a bigger step forward in changing the culture.

In summary, ironically what is considered an appropriate and desired work place “professional” uniform in the LFL, is now ruled an inappropriate uniform for professional sport media spaces.

Not everyone is “giddy with excitement” about the LFL

So tryouts for the Minnesota LFL team were this weekend. Potential LFL’ers (i.e. Valkyrie) were instructed: “DRESS ATTIRE IS CUTE GYM WEAR (SPORTS BRA & SHORTS)…PLEASE BRING A PHOTO TO LEAVE BEHIND.” Huh?

Some of our local MN news stations chose to cover it, despite the fact they rarely cover women’s sport.

To see the founder of the LFL (I think it is Mortaza but they never give him a title bar) talk about how “giddy with excitement” he is about the LFL in MSP, watch video of tryout footage and his interview click here.

In the video he says, “Heck we have fans who have never cared about football before coming to these football games…it is the ultimate night out.” He basically says on camera that it isn’t really about sport, not even about the football. What is an “ultimate night out” for many (not all) men? Strip clubs, alcohol, sex, and hanging out with other guys watching sports? While I am not even close to being giddy about the LFL coming to MSP, I have to hand it to them…they do seem to have hit upon a successful mix of marketing entertainment (i.e. sex, not sport) to their target market.

stay tuned….

LFL Steals Name of the REAL Minnesota Valkyries, A Women’s Rugby Team

I did not need another reason to dislike the Lingerie Football League (LFL).. I got the announcement today, that tryouts for the new Minneapolis expansion team of the LFL will held Saturday, April 9. It wasn’t that tryouts will actually occur and a team will form, but that the LFL held a contest for fans to submit and then vote for a name for the Minneapolis team.

Evidently “Valkyrie” was submitted most frequently, received a “record 31,451 votes” and was subsequently chosen as the new name. The LFL already has a logo for the NEW Minnesota Valkyrie (notice in their tryout bulletin they stress “NEW”).

Why does this have me upset?

Minnesota ALREADY HAS a Valkyrie team of female athletes!! The Minnesota Valkyries Rugby Club has a long standing tradition of excellence as one of the elite organizations within USA Rugby, and has been around for as long as I can remember. The REAL Minnesota Valkyries have a mission statement and core values that include integrity, unity, respect, development and strength! The mission statement reads “The Minnesota Valkyries Rugby Club is an organization of former and present rugby players dedicated to the development of rugby, our team, and our community. We strive to maintain our position as one of the elite organizations within USA Rugby by creating a positive and enduring impact in all that we do. We bring honor to the sport of rugby by upholding our traditions, competing with pride, and understanding that every time we step onto the pitch we play for the legacy and future of The Minnesota Valkyries Rugby Club.

The First and Authentic Minnesota Valkyries

The LFL MISSION STATEMENT “The Lingerie Football League has become the Ultimate Fan-Driven Live Sports Phenomenon – Blending Action, Impact and Beauty.” No core values exist that I could find. Enough Said.

Can the LFL just hijack a team name? I don’t think so, if not legally, certainly by principle.

If you are reading this and are outraged, then please do something, anything….blog, call, tweet support (@valksrugby), tweet outrage (@MyLFL), “Like” the rugby team on Facebook, and pass the word.

If this is allowed, it is another way that real female athletes can be marginalized, co-opted and erased. What I find interesting is that I am guessing that the individuals who sumibtted and voted for the Valkyrie name are mostly 18-35 year old me who have NO CLUE that Minnesota has a tradition of high performance women’s rugby, let alone know what the team names are (yes, there is more than one women’s rugby team in MN)

Support the Valkyries Rubgy Club and help them make the LFL change their name.

p.s.-please don’t comment and tell me the names are different because the rugby team has an “s” on the end, and the LFL team name does not.

p.s.s.-I’d like to invite the Valkyries (the REAL athletes) to attend the LFL tryouts and help educate those in charge

My comments on the LFL and league founder Mortaza

Click here to listen to some comments I made on the Minneapolis Lingerie Football League expansion team. I’ll write more later to refute the LFL founder Mitchell Mortaza’s statements on marketing women’s sports.

Here is what I would of liked to have said on camera in response to Mortaza.

1. He claims “there is a reason why women’s sport has struggled…is you need some kind of marketing hook. How about marketing females as serious athletes, show their athleticism, give them equal quality and quantity of media coverage, and stop selling them as sex objects so that people will take them seriously as ATHLETES, rather than an object of consumption for the male fan? Mortaza, have you ever considered that because the LFL exists that it undermines the athletic achievements of real female athletes?

2. To my knowledge there are not “various women’s soccer leagues that have folded”, there is only one–the Women’s United Soccer Association. The Women’s Professional Soccer league is currently seven teams strong

3. Mortaza claims the WNBA can’t be marketed because “no one can dunk a basketball in the WNBA”….SEE PICTURE.

4. Mortaza claims, “you can’t market a 330 lb. woman as well as you can a model”. What Mortaza is marketing is not sport, it is sex and sex appeal. What he doesn’t realize is that when men like him “market” models and package them as athletes, it only reinforces that only certain types of women and certain types of bodies are desirable and marketable, which perpetuates unrealistic norms of beauty and gender. I would also argue with him, that he is making a big assumption. How do we know you can’t market a 330 lb professional female football player….has anyone tried???… I mean seriously tried to market and promote a real women’s football league like the IWFL or the WFA? What if the same amount of coverage, money, sponsorship, and structural support the NFL enjoys, were given to the WFA?

I would love to hear how you would respond to Mortaza’s statements.

The LFL Comes to MSP!

Breaking news, the Lingerie Football League (LFL) has just announced that Minneapolis is being awarded a franchise. I’ve written previously about my disdain for the LFL and why I think the league is problematic (click here and here).

What troubles me is that while the LFL is expanding, REAL women’s professional teams and athletes are struggling. The LFL is adding up to five additional teams–which would bring the league to 15 teams. The WNBA has 10 teams. The WPS has 7 teams. Let me be clear, the LFL is not sport. The LFL is about sex, and selling sex. The target consumer of the LFL is not female sport fans, or serious fans of women’s sport. The LFL target market is the coveted 18-35 year old male fan. The LFL is selling sex, not sport. As I’ve written before, sex sells sex. Sex does not sell women’s sport.

There is one small silver lining this for me. The good news about having an LFL franchise in Mpls is that I can finally do some research around the league–who attends, why do they attend, who tries out and plays in the LFL, what is the motive for playing and attending, what is the fan perception of the league, and so much more! Maybe I’ll submit my suggestion for the MSP team name….that way I can win lifetime season tickets so I can conduct my research with lower cost.

“A Women’s Pro Sport That is Growing”

A Bloomberg Business Week piece posted Nov. 24, 2010, outlined the Lingerie Football League (LFL)  is a women’s pro sport that is actually growing. I originally blogged about the LFL a while back.

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.

Portryal of LFL athlete on LFL website

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.

Portrayal of WFA on WFA website

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.

To see a number of additional, interesting and controversial comments made on this blog which is also posted at the Women Talk Sports Network, click here.

The LFL Sells Sex, Not Sport

During the recent sport sociology conference (NASSS) I heard inspired critiques of  sport and had many great conversations about sport media and female athletes. Ironically, I returned home today to this tweet by the Lingerie Football League.


As you know, I’ve written previously about the LFL and I’ve been keeping an eye on what is happening with the league. At the NASSS conference I heard some great audience reception research on why sex does not sell women’s sport, sex sells sex. More specifically, sexy images and sexy female athletes sell sex to young male consumers ages 18-35. I would be really interested to see the market research—who are the consumers and fans of the LFL? (any guesses?)

The LFL is a perfect example of how sex can and does sell sex. The numbers prove it. Arguably, the LFL is not sport it is a dramatic spectacle aimed at entertainment and consumption of the female body.  No where in any of the promotional materials is the athletic competence of LFL “athletes” highlighted or portrayed in any serious way. The  sexualization of the LFL women is overt and aimed at appealing to male sexual fantasy. In fact their website promotes the LFL as “True Fantasy Football” which merges two primary desires and interests of many (not all) US men— football and sex.

If you watch the many videos of LFL games posted on the website, you will see continuous images of women tackling each other, acting violent, and slamming each other to the ground.  Yet one women (New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert) acts aggressive and pulls a ponytail and we have a national outcry (see the video and read examples of indicative responses on Perez Hilton’s blog).  Male athletes act aggressively and unsportsmanlike all the time (remember Zidane’s head butt in the World Cup? or Florida football team member Brandon Spikes fingers through the face mask? , both of which were similarly caught on national TV). Yet, the sanctions for Lambert were severe and quick (permanent dismissal from the team), while Zindane and Spikes punishments were much less in scope and severity.

What is our take home? Females can act aggressively as long as they are sexy, but if a real female athlete acts outside of the rules in real sport, she will be met with quick and severe sanctions…not only within her sport but will be berated by the public…while male athletes can “act like men” with comparatively less fanfare.

What is most interesting to me is the societal discussion and the media’s construction of Lambert’s transgression, rather then the event itself.