lifestyle

JAM: On the lingerie football league.

The Australian lingerie football league. 'Legends'
The Australian lingerie football league. ‘Legends’

By JAMILA RIZVI

Last Wednesday, I spent the evening talking about feminism with a lingerie footballer. (As you do).

And by the end of the night something very strange happened: I started to forget what my opinion was.

Let me take you back to the beginning. The wonderful folk at Triple J‘s afternoon news and current affairs program Hack, gave me a buzz. They wanted to know if I’d come into the studio and talk about the media’s coverage of women’s sport.

Mamamia recently launched its own dedicated women’s sport coverage, Sport on Saturdays, so I thought it was a good opportunity to do some spruiking and have a bit of debate.

I assumed that I’d be arguing my case against some sports obsessed bogan bloke who was shitty that Serena Williams earns just as much prize money for winning the Australian Open as Roger Federer when she ‘only plays three sets’.

Boy, was I wrong.

In the Triple J reception, I was met by what can only be described as the most formidably impressive looking women ever to have walked the planet. Tall, glowing, broad shouldered, large breasted, smiley, naturally tanned and unbelievably toned and muscular; it was as if an all-female Amazonian tribe had somehow got lost in the Sydney CBD and ended up at the ABC’s Ultimo studio asking for directions.

They were three players in Australia’s new Legends League, which is a women’s American-style football (commonly called ‘gridiron’) competition where the players wear their underwear.

And I’m not exaggerating for creative effect here. They really do wear underwear: actual push up bras, complete with bows and lace and frills on the panties. They wear this.

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Lingerie football league

….. To play sport.

My general attitude to lingerie football is not a positive one.

I think sport should be about achievement, not aesthetics. I think the costumes the players wear (let’s not be so oblique as to call them uniforms) are objectifying and demeaning. The lingerie makes the athletic abilities of the players a sideline affair compared to how the players look. Lingerie football makes joke of women’s sport more generally and does little to advance the cause of women’s sport being taken seriously by the media, the industry and the public.

I said as much on the air. You can listen in to my chat with Hack’s Tom Tilley and lingerie footballer Brooklyn, here:

But by the end of the interview, I was a little confused. I started questioning my own opinion.

Lingerie footballer, Brooklyn spoke eloquently about how the league has changed her life. She’s lighter, fitter, stronger and healthier than she used to be. Playing her sport has also meant that she has developed life long friends, gained new leadership skills and become an incredibly determined individual.

So much of this is exactly what I love about sport. The competition, the team work, the win-together/lose-together spirit. Why in the world had I just spent half an hour on the radio ripping into this woman for participating in something that obviously makes her so happy?

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To play gridiron, you need to be extremely fit. You need to have excellent hand-eye-coordination and both upper and lower body strength. You need to be nimble, flexible and always light on your feet. Height is an advantage and muscle is a must. Otherwise you just end up getting slammed into the ground. A lot.

Hack host Tom Tilley with players from the NSW Legends League.
Hack host Tom Tilley with players from the NSW Legends League.

None of the lingerie footballers I met had the body shapes you’d see walking down a Victoria’s Secret runway.

They were different to the stylised, slim and delicate pretty-pretty sort of image we see so often in magazines or in advertising.

These chicks had bodies that can DO stuff. Lots of stuff.

And this is the kind of body our society needs to see more of. Female physiques that are strong and healthy.

If I had a daughter, I’d much rather she was striving for that physical form than the near-starving models we see on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week.

We look good and we work hard to look good, lingerie footballer Brooklyn explained to me. So why shouldn’t we show that off? And if it means more attention for our sport, more people at our games and more money to support what we’re doing, then what’s the harm in a little bit of cleavage, some midriffs and some lace? Well, what indeed?

Gah. My beliefs were unclear. My resolve unsteady. My steadfast opinion suddenly shaky.

I hate not knowing what I think!

Lingerie football league
Strong, fit, healthy.
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I regularly rant and rave about how women’s sport doesn’t get enough attention. I am frustrated that it doesn’t get the air or screen time it should.

I hate that these phenomenal female athletes, who are some of the best in the world, are forced to supplement their income by working part time.

And I’m saddened that girls give up playing sport earlier and in far greater number than boys because of a lack of role models and negative feelings about their bodies.

But I’m not really doing anything about it.

I rarely have the time to play organised sport any more. The sport I spent the most money on is AFL because I love going to watch a game live. And on TV my preference is generally for tennis, where I tend to watch men and women’s matches in fairly even number.

Brooklyn and her lingerie wearing friends are actually doing something to heighten the profile of women’s sport.

They’re out there every day, training hard and playing even harder. The method they’ve chosen to try to grow the player and fan base for their sport is not one I personally feel very comfortable with. But that doesn’t mean it’s automatically oppressive or detrimental. If the women who are playing feel genuinely empowered by what they’re doing then good luck to them.

I definitely don’t like the lingerie football concept. But I’ve come to realise that I quite like lingerie footballers.

I just wish they’d start playing sport with their clothes on.

Would you play sport in your underwear? Do you think lingerie football league harms or benefits women’s sport more generally?

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