By Adam Welsch
Have you heard of the Lingerie Football League? Founded last year, it’s the newest incarnation of the pay-per-view Lingerie Bowl that was created to compete with the 2004 to 2007 Super Bowl halftime shows. Consisting of teams from ten American cities, it’s a full-contact, seven-on-seven, tackle football league in which players’ uniforms consist of matching satin-and-lace bras, panties, and garters (along with ice-hockey-style helmets, shoulder pads, knee pads, elbow pads, and athletic shoes).
It’s undeniable that the women who play on these teams are attractive. Obviously, that’s the point of creating and marketing a bra-and-panty football league. But they’re also athletic, and many play the game quite well. And though make-up is a part of the uniformed look of the players, no one should be under the illusion that the competition is of the powder-puff variety. The players hit each other hard, and injuries, like torn ligaments, concussions, and broken bones, are not uncommon.
But given the uniforms, and the requirements that players possess a high degree of physical attractiveness, the league’s existence is met with disapproval by those who see it as exploitive. The women don’t earn a lot of money, and must maintain their full- and part-time off-the-field jobs. So why do they do it? Many play as a way to gain exposure (the media kind), hoping to launch more lucrative modeling or acting careers; others play because they love playing football. In both cases, the players understand that they’ll be parading around in front of thousands of fans (mostly men, of course) – in the stands, on TV, and across the internet – in their underwear, subject to the ever-present risk of “uniform malfunction” resulting from the game’s contact.
There are plenty of interesting angles (no pun intended) to approach a discussion about the Lingerie Football League, and most would create a spirited debate between its supporters and its detractors. But as this blog is all about bras, panties, and shapewear, let’s stick with the subject of the league’s uniforms.
It seems that the nature of the garments being worn, that of intimate apparel, rather than the skimpy amount of material of which they consist, is at the heart of the controversy surrounding the league. After all, when comparing these uniforms to those worn by athletes in some other sports, the skimpy complaint just doesn’t hold up.
Here’s a picture of the uniforms worn by the players in the Lingerie Football League:
Now, here’s a picture of a typical outfit that was worn by the players on the (now-defunct) AVP Tour (women’s professional beach volleyball):
And here’s a picture of the traditional outfits worn by male Olympic swimmers:
As you can see, the female football players actually show less skin than the female volleyball players or the male swimmers. Therefore, it seems that it’s the display of undergarments, not the display of partial nudity, that wraps the league in a socio-cultural taboo and infuses it with an air of sexism.
Put another way, it’s not the size of the lingerie in the Lingerie Football League that’s controversial. Rather, it’s the spectacle created by the juxtaposition of underwear and protective gear (less than that worn by men playing full-contact professional football, by the way) on the one hand, and underwear and physical contact on the other. When it comes right down to it, playing football in lingerie is like mud wrestling without mud.
It’s interesting, however, to stop for a moment and think about how the recent fashion trend of wearing underwear as outerwear has coincided with the creation of this league. After all, it’s now become acceptable to wear bras as visible ready-to-wear or athletic tops. And, in the realm of shapewear, meant-to-be-seen camis are all the rage. So, is there a double standard here?
If you’re in the camp that wants to see the Lingerie Football League flourish, enjoy it now while you can. Tomorrow night, the San Diego Seduction battle the Dallas Desire at the Cotton Bowl. Weekly highlights will be shown on MTV2. If you’re in the camp that’s offended by it, take heart. History shows that the odds of this league surviving long into the future are pretty slim.