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.
Today women involved in sport at all levels – players, coaches, administrators and volunteers – are still fighting for recognition. In the year 2012 we should be applauding the athletic feats and sportsmanship of our female athletes, not screening a show to provide cheap titillation to a few.
I deliberately call it a show, because that’s how LFL started. It began as half-time entertainment and it’s now being peddled as the fastest growing ‘sport’ in the world for women.
The purveyors of LFL can’t be described as genuine fans of women’s sport and I don’t imagine they’d be as enthusiastic about gridiron if their favourite male team was forced to play in similar attire.
The LFL is about giving viewers an opportunity to perv on women in gear that looks like it’s come from an adult shop. It’s called the Lingerie Football League because it’s almost exclusively about the underwear.
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. The LFL perverts the concept of ‘sport’ to make a profit and in doing so the promoters abandon the concept that sport should be a celebration of great athletic talent to inspire the next generation of kids to give it a go.
Lingerie Football isn’t just a distraction; it’s an assault on sport. Anyone who’s participated in sport, or followed a team, can attest to the fact sport is an incredibly powerful platform for social inclusion. The problem with Lingerie Football is that in sexualising the game of gridiron they’re undermining any future for broader inclusion in the sport, inevitably making it harder for women to make inroads or receive equitable treatment.
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.
As a community we’re opposed to the exploitation of women and our values determine we rebuke any sporting codes that don’t treat women with respect. Sadly, these values are undermined by the LFL which is about sexualising women in sport for entertainment purposes.
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Don’t get me wrong, there is little doubt that the women involved in the LFL are athletes. Many of their profiles indicate some have played at the highest level in previous sports. My point is these women have impressive skills that would still be evident with all their clothes on.
While the LFL players are willing participants, I contend they should be getting paid for playing because they’re great athletes, not because they have consented to exposing their bodies in ridiculous, sexualised costumes.
Perhaps one of the factors creating the pre-conditions for the emergence of the LFL includes the lack of opportunity for well-produced, dynamic, exciting, televised competitions with appropriately paid female sports stars.
The percentage of women’s team sports competition that get well promoted coverage with high production values is still in single digits and this limits the earning power of female athletes.
Content directors and television programming decision makers should contemplate this: How would they react if their pre-teen daughters put on lacy underwear and shoulder pads and declared their aspiration to play in the LFL?
Sports participation and an active lifestyle are things to be encouraged in all young people and encouraging young girls to maintain an active lifestyle through their teens is a big challenge not assisted by the LFL. It’s going to be hard to entice women into sport when the LFL fosters a culture that makes the focus of sport for women how they look in a bra, knickers and suspenders, rather than their performance on the field. We know already that body image, including the design and fit of sports uniforms, is a factor in whether teenage girls keep playing sport.
As Minister for Sport I’m keenly aware that the media profile of the sport women and girls play still has a way to go, but it’s building in strength and scale, albeit too slowly!
But we can do so much better than LFL. And most importantly, our daughters deserve more.
Australia is a sport-loving nation and the competition among sports for talent is intense. For the women that are considering playing in the proposed Australian LFL I urge you to take your talent elsewhere and join a sport that respects you as an athlete and a woman.
And if it’s the physical contact you like, why not try the Rugby Sevens? They’re going to Rio in 2016 and they have a serious chance at coming home with Gold!
Senator Kate Lundy is the Minister for Sport, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation.
The LFL is launching in Australia in June. The founder of the LFL has responded to Minister Lundy’s comments here.
Will you be watching the Lingerie Football League?