Lingerie Football League: An open response to an open letter

An open letter “To those who oppose the LFL in Australia” was posted on our Facebook page yesterday.

Elise – an athlete who has recently joined an LFL team – asked us to read and consider her views on the LFL.

You can read Elise’s open letter here. (Opens PDF)

Below is an open response to the open letter.
_______________________________________________________

Dear Elise,

Thanks so much for writing to share your views on the Lingerie Football League.

Firstly, we do understand that the owner of the League has changed the name and brand to “Legends Football League” and has very slightly modified the bikini/lingerie style uniform he requires players to wear, by removing some lace and a garter and modifying shoulder pads.

The changes are so minor we don’t understand how anyone could take this seriously. The rebrand is nothing more than a cynical attempt at making the League more appealing to potential sponsors who may be put off by supporting a “Lingerie Football League.”  (Readers can view the big announcement here.)

Despite a “rebrand”, the essence of the “sport” remains the same – providing titillation for men at the expense of women’s health and safety. Hence, we’re not buying into this “rebrand” and will continue referring to it as the Lingerie Football League.

Lingerie Football – whatever one chooses to call it – is not a sport. It is not recognized by the Australian Sports Commission. They do not support it.

The LFL has drained the bank accounts of former players in the US by not providing adequate compensation for serious injuries. Players understood that their injuries would be covered when they paid the insurance premiums offered by the LFL, but were instead left thousands of dollars in debt. Players who spoke out publicly about these experiences were threatened with legal action. As you’re probably aware, the US does not have the same healthcare system enjoyed by Australians, so adequate health insurance should be the highest priority for the LFL, particularly when safety equipment is the lowest priority.

Sport can indeed be an expensive pursuit and athletes are not always compensated for participation unless they are sponsored.

Now that the Lingerie Football League has a “contract” with Channel 7 and 7 Mate, will players be paid?

It doesn’t look likely. LFL owner Mitch Mortaza stated just this month to US program Inside Edition (watch below) that the league could not afford to pay players. It has been suggested by a US sports commentator that the Leagues foray into Canada and Australia is motivated in part by our health care system. Mortaza will pocket the profits from these events and Australian Medicare will foot the bill for injuries if private health insurance offered to Australian LFL players turns out to be inadequate.

The athletic skill of the women involved in the Lingerie Football League is not in question. There is no “attack” on the players of the LFL. If there is an “attack” it is directed firmly at the owner of the LFL and any corporation complicit in his exploitation of women for profit.

Some players have commented that they are not “skinny” and therefore promote positive body image. The question is asked  “would you rather your daughter look like a Victoria’s Secret model or an LFL player?”

Are those really the only options? And why is physical appearance so important? 

We would rather our girls not be pressured to look a certain way at all and instead  be recognised for their skill and expertise in whatever activities they choose to participate in.The LFL reinforces that physical appearance and conforming to a narrow standard of beauty is what is most important, over and above athletic skill.

If Lingerie Football is about skill, then unfortunately fans didn’t get the memo. The sexist, degrading comments on social media and elsewhere about LFL player’ss bodies and what sort of sexual acts fans would like to perform are absolutely disgusting. (example) The “sport” is marketed in such a way as to invite and allow this behaviour and creates an environment that is hostile and discriminatory to women and girls. This is institutional sexual harassment. No sporting body should promote or allow this behaviour but sexual harassment is built into the business model of the LFL.

Yes, the League exists because it is “marketed well.” There is a huge market demand for pornography, prostitution, stripping and other forms of sexual exploitation. Men have not suddenly decided to embrace women’s sport. Channel 7 and 7Mate has not decided to embrace women’s sport and therefore, the LFL will not encourage other stations to embrace women’s sport. The LFL is not some new cutting edge concept, this is not the “fastest growing sport.” This is not sport at all, this is the same old sexual objectification of women, repackaged and “rebranded.”

To say if “we don’t like it don’t watch simple!” – Yes, that is a very simple statement, but it is a completely ineffective response to sexual objectification in our culture.

I don’t like it, I don’t watch it, but I have to live in a community with people who do. I have to live in a community with people whose sexist attitudes towards women are reinforced by sexploitation events. I have to live in a community with people whose ideas that women are objects of sexual recreation are affirmed by these events.

A culture in which women and girls are seen as sexual objects is one in which relationships between men and women suffer and sexual harassment and violence against women thrives. I and other women and girls are harmed by this toxic culture, even if I have never personally played football in my underwear, participated in a beauty pageant or stripped off my clothes in a nightclub.

Sexual objectification of women and girls harms all women, not just those who say they choose to participate. “Don’t like it, don’t watch it” makes as much sense as saying “don’t like pollution, don’t breathe.”

Elise, we thank you for taking the time to share your views and to provide information about the recent developments in the LFL. These minor changes to the League- if they can be called changes at all – do not change our views on the exploitative nature of the League.

Clearly we disagree on this and will continue challenging the Lingerie Football League’s introduction to Australia.  However, we do wish you and your fellow athletes all the very best.

Melinda Liszewski and Collective Shout

Further reading:

Abused, called pussy and told to “pancake the shit out of her”: my experience trying out for the Lingerie Football League

A sad day for all women in sport: Deborah Malcolm reports on weekend’s Lingerie Football League game

Watch: Lingerie Football Players speak out Inside Edition, 11 November 2013

Click here to watch longer interviews with 3 former Lingerie Fooball League players discussing abuse and exploitation in the Lingerie Football League.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Posted 18 Nov ’13 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    It interesting to see you pick on this sport! Did you not get picked in PE at school. Did all the other girls pick on you at school?
    I think Elise has summed it up when she said she chose to play the sport. I don’t see you picking on cheer leaders in the nrl who are forced to wear minimal clothing in some times very cold temp. I don’t see you picking on beach volley ball who are forced to wear bikinis. I don’t see you picking on hockey for not providing protective clothing to the players. I don’t see you picking on women’s rugby union for lack of protective gear. Oh and buy the way most of these sports the female players don’t get paid.
    Rather then attacking this one sport why don’t you attack the Australian sporting association and ask them to start paying all women how represent there state/ country.
    These women choose to play this sport, it is covered by 7mate well good for them. They are forced to wear sexy clothing, again they new this when they sighned the contract, personally I think they look good.
    I can go to my local shops and see more flesh then what they are showing, I have seen girls with there bum checks hanging out there pants, girls with gapeing side holes in there shirts showing there Lacey bras and breasts. Girls with there pants pulled up that high that they have a camel toe, and girls that are wearing extremely loose clothing and no underwear at all. My point hear is that you see this stuff in everyday life, I am not saying it’s right I would never let my daughter go out dressed like what I have described, but if she choose to play a sport that asked her to wear what they wear in the Lfl that’s her choice to make. In Australia all sports have to be covered by insurance for the players. Any way if you don’t like it don’t watch it, but don’t go out there and ruin it for people that do want to watch it.
    I don’t like ballet, I don’t winge and wine and write letters to people about how it offends me. I don’t go write letters about how the women are underpaid and forced to wear skin tight leotards, I just don’t go to watch it, but I do let the people that want to go watch it and support it do that. I am sure that if you look at anything hard enough you will find a problem with it that you can winge about. Well I could write a SA on how your winging iratates me and a high majority of men and that it should not be published were men can see it.
    In the end they sign up to play, they agree to a contract, they are over the age if 18 they are old enough to make there own decisions. Maybe you should talk to the girls and ask them if they want you to winge for them and if not but out stn let it be.

    I am a arsehole
    At the end if the day! It is night!
    At the end of life! We and you will be forgotten!
    Mitch

    • Angela Burrows
      Posted 19 Nov ’13 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Hi Mitch
      Sounds like you have ‘seen’ alot. Perhaps you should stop looking?

  2. Team CS
    Posted 19 Nov ’13 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Hi Mitch,

    It doesn’t sound like you’ve read the article. Try reading it again as it addresses many of the points you raise.

  3. Rebekah Reilly
    Posted 19 Nov ’13 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    This debate is going in circles … it is time to make our voices heard by all of Channel 7′s sponsors. I just watched half an hour of Channel 7 (something I rarely do!) for the purpose of compiling this list of advertisers. Write, email and call them, telling them that you want them to use their influence with Channel 7 to voice their opposition to the LFL being broadcast:

    Lite ‘n Easy
    Pandora
    Youi
    Woolworths
    City Discount Carpets
    Subway
    Coca Cola
    Telstra
    Best and Less
    Toyota
    McCain
    Zyrtec
    Health Partners
    Qantas
    Nescafe

    I’m aiming to write one compliant a day until something changes!!

    • Scott D
      Posted 5 Dec ’13 at 12:58 am | Permalink

      You have my support Rebekah!
      It’s a shame people like Mitch are not more reasonable and mature in their thinking. Ballet does not subject dancers to potential nudity. There is an intent here that can not be ignored and that intent contributes to degrading women (including Mitch’s daughter).

  4. Randy Perrett
    Posted 9 Dec ’13 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Until Saturday night 8 December I was a staunch supporter of the “rebranded” LFL. That was until my daughter who flew to Sydney to represent her State was told that she was not approved to wear the uniform. Previously that month she had submitted a bikini photo as required so that her body shape could approved to wear their skimpy gym outfit. Now she has no problem with the lack of uniform and has for the last 18 months lived for nothing but LFL. At 18 years old and coming from an elite swimming background she wanted to play a team sport that challenged her and she thought LFL was it. Well at the end of the day it does not matter how good you are, if Mitch Mortaza thinks your too fat to wear his uniform. Since the debacle on Saturday night my daughter has been contacted by the coach of the NSW Surge with words of encouragement . My daughter is a large framed girl, that’s why she is unstoppable in defence or so we have been told by many who have seen her. So why would you bench a player who would do nothing but promote the sport as a real game, simple Mitch Mortaza and his cronies only want skinny women in his skimpy uniforms. Sure my daughter is not a size 8, 10 or even 12 for that matter. But she is a very athletic and lethal size 14 and had she played on Saturday night there would a few NSW players hurting still.

  5. Rebekah Reilly
    Posted 13 Dec ’13 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Hi Randy,
    Thanks for sharing your daughter’s experience and being brave enough to think though the issues and change your previous point of view. I wish your daughter all the best in future sporting endeavours, and hope that she finds a place in an alternative code that respects who she is, and judges her on skill not skin. As you probably now appreciate, myself and others who are voicing our opposition to LFL are putting the time into this because we are hoping for a better deal and a better future for sportswomen like your daughter.
    Regards,
    Rebekah

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