Forget about Colin Kaepernick and his protest of the National Anthem, there’s a new problem with the NFL. USAToday sports columnist Nancy Armour wrote yesterday that scantily-clad cheerleaders don’t make sense in the age of #MeToo:
The underlying premise of NFL cheerleaders is degrading, presenting women as nothing more than objects to be leered at. With skimpy, suggestive outfits as their “uniform,” their only purpose is to titillate.
It’s always been an appalling message to send and, in this #MeToo era, there’s no longer any place for it. NFL cheerleaders need to go. NBA dance squads and NHL ice girls while we’re at it, too…
Proponents will say that most women who are NFL cheerleaders are professionally trained dancers who just want the opportunity to do what they love. That they play an important role in maintaining the team’s positive image with promotional appearances and community service.
All of which is true…
But that isn’t the real reason 26 of the 32 NFL teams have cheerleaders, and everybody knows it. They’re there to be eye candy, blow-up dolls come to life.
Why else would the Dallas Cowboys mandate that women wear sports bras and hot pants for try outs – “No tank tops or bike shorts” – and include “personal appearance” and “figure” as criteria on which they are judged?
It seems beyond argument to me that the main purpose of NFL cheerleaders is to add some sex appeal to the team. Last month the LA Rams added a few male cheerleaders to their roster, but I don’t think that really changes anything. Cheerleaders are there for male NFL fans to look at. Maybe some social justice warriors will make hay of that but, again, it seems undeniable.
Having said that, I’m a little confused about why that is necessarily a problem. The point of the #MeToo movement was that women were finally speaking up about decades of sexual harassment (or even rape). That behavior needs to stop, but no one is saying that beautiful actresses should abandon Hollywood. In the same way, while it may be true that NFL cheerleaders are to some degree selling sexuality, they are doing so willingly. They are choosing to try out for these positions and to wear the required outfits, etc.
Again, if there were some Harvey Weinstein-like figure taking advantage of would-be cheerleaders by promising them positions with teams in exchange for sex, inviting girls up to his room for meetings, etc., that would be wrong. But trying out for these positions because you want the job is no different than an actress who takes a role involving nudity because she wants the part. It’s a choice she’s making.
If the problem with NFL cheerleaders is that they’re being objectified by men, shouldn’t we also be shutting down strip clubs, Hooters restaurants, modeling agencies, Victoria’s Secret stores, and so-called men’s magazines? For decades there have been sincere people on the right who have warned that all of these things were a net-negative socially for both women and men. They were generally ignored by the ‘it’s just sex, don’t be such a prude’ left whose mantra was that so long as no one was being coerced or acting against their will, adults should be free to do what they want. That was, I thought, the feminist position as well. Women should be able to make their own choices and not be “slut-shamed” or harassed if they choose to dress or act sexy. Is the author of this piece slut-shaming NFL cheerleaders?
My own view would be pretty libertarian on women taking jobs like this if they want them. But I don’t know what the rules are anymore. Is it possible our culture is becoming more libertine and also more puritan at the same time?