According to the New York Times, NFL cheerleaders were required to pose nude and act as escorts for male sponsors.
Photo: Patrick Smith, Getty Images
In a calendar shoot in 2013, cheerleaders had been required to pose topless or only in body paint while a group of male sponsors and FedExField suite holders watched.
At the completion of the calendar photoshoot, nine of the women were told they had been “chosen” by men to be their escorts to a nightclub and to get ready. Some of the women reportedly began to cry.
While they were not instructed to have sex with the sponsors, some women said they felt they were being “pimped out”.
“They weren’t putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go. We weren’t asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing.”
“It’s just not right to send cheerleaders out with strange men when some of the girls clearly don’t want to go.
“But unfortunately, I feel like it won’t change until something terrible happens, like a girl is assaulted in some way, or raped. I think teams will start paying attention to this only when it’s too late.”
This disturbing culture of sexism and discrimination with the NFL includes a “hot or not” game on the Washington NFL team’s website, where players can rate and evaluate the women’s physical appearance. Cheerleaders barely earn minimum wage, and are not permitted to socialise with team players:
Cheerleaders are told not to dine in the same restaurant as players, or speak to them in any detail. If a Saints cheerleader enters a restaurant and a player is already there, she must leave. If a cheerleader is in a restaurant and a player arrives afterward, she must leave. There are nearly 2,000 players in the N.F.L., and many of them use pseudonyms on social media. Cheerleaders must find a way to block each one, while players have no limits on who can follow them.
A screengrab of the Redskins website, with the “hot or not” game.
See also: Washington Redskins Cheerleaders Describe Topless Photo Shoot and Uneasy Night Out- New York Times
Formula One has announced plans to end the long-standing tradition of using so-called ‘grid girls’.
F1’s managing director of commercial operations, Sean Bratches, said in a statement,
“While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 grand prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.”
Essentially, Formula One has recognised that the use of women as props or accessories for men is sexist and outdated, and incompatible with gender equality.
Photo credit: Reuters, Ralph Orlowski
The move to discontinue the use of ‘grid girls’ has attracted praise from Women’s Sport Trust, which aims to raise the visibility and increase the impact of women’s sports. In a response on their website, the organisation supported the decision and encouraged cycling, boxing and UFC to follow suit. “These changes are taking place because global businesses are making a considered choice about how women should be valued and portrayed in their sports in 2018,” they concluded.
The practice of using ‘grid girls’ (who are not girls, but adult women) sends a message that women’s most valuable contribution to the sporting arena is their sexual appeal. Women remain on the side lines in a supportive role for the real athletes and drivers, who are men, while playing the part of eye candy. Formula One’s decision to end the sexist practice is a welcome step forward in challenging sexism and in encouraging female participation in sport.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, exposing the epidemic of men’s sexual exploitation of women, the casual sexism and objectification of women must be recognised as a significant contributing factor. We applaud Formula One’s leadership and hope these changes lead to a cultural shift.
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The Para Hills West Soccer Club in Adelaide seems to have missed the memo.
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This poster is on display at the club in full view of junior playersRead more
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