This is an open letter to the Board Members of Channel Seven about lingerie football..
Dear Mr Stokes and Board Members,
It was recently announced that 7 Mate will broadcast the first season of Australian lingerie football, beginning in December. With unabashed disingenuity, though, it will be called the ‘Australian Legends Football League’.
I would like your help. Because I have no idea how to explain to my daughter why women’s sport is only deserving of commercial air time if the women are playing in their underwear, and meet social expectations of “hotness”.
Let me pre-empt the arguments in favour of this frankly Neolithic programming decision:
Lighten up, it’s just a bit of fun
Sure. I like fun. I like a dirty joke, I like sport and beer too. I don’t even have a problem with porn, provided it’s non-violent and age-restricted.
But the ‘Australian Legends’ Football League conflates sport and porn in a way that is offensive to women by intimating that their athletic prowess is only valuable if their boobs are on display too. And it’s offensive to men because it reduces them to ogling, beer-swilling cave men. Surely we can set a slightly higher standard for ourselves.
Let me give you 3 reasons why people are telling me to cool down about this and why they’re bogus.
1. 7 Mate is aimed at men – you don’t have to watch
Yes, the station is aimed at blokes. And this programming choice is no doubt a marketer’s dream, combining contact sport and near-naked women. I can see the Lynx ads now. But as a broadcaster, do you take no responsibility for encouraging in men a healthy respect for women in all professions? It’s not the fact that you don’t televise women’s sports, it’s the fact that the one female sport you do televise reinforces the message that women are only good for looking at and fantasising about.
The treatment of women in sporting culture is front page news at the moment. I’ll leave you to ponder how lingerie football contributes to the creation of a society that respects female athletes and sport fans.
2. Women’s sport is not as exciting
We’ve all heard this argument a million times. Anyone who watched Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Olympics, the Williams sisters on the tennis court or our world-class and ridiculously ballsy aerial skiers would disagree. But you have to go with your market research, right? Fine. Don’t show women’s sport – leave it up to SBS. But don’t cloak a T&A fest in the guise of “sport”.
After all, we don’t ask male lawn bowls professionals to nude up, do we?
3. Companies must act in the best interests of their shareholders.
Indeed. I note that your 2013 Annual Report includes a Diversity Policy which states that Seven West Media “recognises the benefits of a workplace culture that is inclusive and respectful of diversity”. Can you, in all honesty, describe lingerie football as respectful?