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Women’s Professional Soccer Folds while the Lingerie Football League Thrives

Women's Professional Soccer logo
by Camille Hankins, Class of 2013

On Monday, the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league announced the suspension of its 2012 season. According to WPS, a legal battle with former team owner Dan Borislow has forced the league to implement this hiatus. However, former national team star Julie Foudy says that the lawsuit is not the sole obstacle the organization faces. Four teams in the league have folded since 2009, and the remaining five teams are all on the East coast. The failure of a professional soccer league for women to thrive is especially disappointing following the US team’s strong showing in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

With this story in mind, I turn to the Lingerie Football League (LFL). Few would argue that the women who compete in the LFL are athletes on par with the women who play professional soccer, but their website quotes NBC sports asserting that “the LFL is the fastest-growing pro sports league in the nation.” If you aren’t familiar with this “sport,” it’s exactly what it sounds like—women playing football while wearing lacey underwear.

Feminists have critiqued the LFL since it began in 2009, and the announcement in October of last year that the league was considering ways to prepare young girls to play lingerie football sparked a renewed criticism of this intensely problematic phenomenon. The issues from a pro-woman prospective are obvious: creating a space where women are valued as athletes for their attractiveness rather than their physical prowess is insulting to women athletes everywhere. The emphasis on attractiveness is even worse when you consider exactly the type of beauty the league is looking for in its players. All of the players are young and thin—they look much more like Victoria’s Secret models than football players.

In the words of bell hooks, “Being oppressed means the absence of choices.” Even in a time and place where women athletes had the same celebrity status as male athletes, Lingerie Football would be potentially problematic. In our current culture, I believe the LFL is intensely damaging for the prospects of all women who aspire to play sports professionally. I empathize with the players of the WPS—are they wondering if their league would have a season this year if they wore their underwear to play? What if they each focused more on their physical appearance than their fitness? These ideas are not far fetched—when asked how to make the sport more popular, FIFA president Sepp Blatter recommended “”Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. Female players are pretty…”

The reasons for the suspension of WPA’s 2012 season are complex, but the league’s failure to thrive provides a sharp contrast to the successful LFL. This comparison shows that our culture has yet to take the radical step of appreciating women’s athletic skills and talents even if they don’t look like lingerie models. Best of luck to the WPA in planning its 2013 season.

Lingerie Football Youth League: Fun Porn Aesthetics and Male Domination for Kids!
In Defense of Lingerie Football
Women’s Pro-Soccer League Cancels 2012 Season
WPS Suspends Play for 2012 Season
WPS suspension a setback for women’s soccer

Image credit: Women’s Professional Soccer

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