When you hear the word “football” what comes to mind; a green field full of your favorite aggressive NFL team in tight pants or the scan the cameraman does of the cheerleaders on the sidelines? What if the next time you thought of “football” you thought about beautiful women wearing controversial “performance gear” (pretty much negligee) and scoring you chdowns while trying not to break a nail in the process. According to an article written by Emily Kaplan, getting a spray tan and putting on their favorite perfume are rituals to these women’s game day preparation, but don’t let them fool you. Surprisingly, former NFL coaches and players coach many of the Legends Football League (LFL) teams, which could be a surprise to many. Move over cheerleaders, the LFL players are tougher than we might’ve assumed, however they are not showcased in the noblest approach. By marketing physical attraction to the female body, the LFL objectifies women to portray hegemonic masculinity in exchange for playing a sport they love, which is proof that sex sells.
Hegemonic masculinity is a concept that plays an important role in today’s culture. Whether we like to admit it or not, images of male athletes are highly reproduced in American society. Communication scholar Nick Trujillo defined hegemonic masculinity as “the culturally idealized form of masculine character.” This idealized form of masculine character stresses masculinity as it relates to certain aspects of what we know to be, manhood. These qualities include toughness and competitiveness. Hegemonic masculinity, also emphasizes the subordination of women through power and control mechanisms present in our society.
Trujillo presents distinguishing factors of hegemonic masculinity, two of which can relate to the objectivity of women within the LFL. The first is physical force and control. Physical force and control signify important characteristics of the male body that represent power. Trujillo refers to an Australian sociologist, R.W Connell, by stating that the superiority of men becomes naturalized because women are seen as subordinate. Power, in itself, is highly masculinized as being strong and tough. As long as you possess those two qualities, you are powerful. The second feature of this idea of hegemonic masculinity is when it is expressed through occupational achievement. Unfortunately, work can become divided between genders. We have grown up to believe that there are certain occupations men obtain throughout their lives and different occupations that are said to be appropriate for women. The men are usually known as the “breadwinners” while women stay home and are seen as sexual objects.
The Legends Football League, formed in 2009 (previously known as the Lingerie Football League), was in fact, a spin off of the pay- per- view annual airing of the “Lingerie Bowl.” Four years after the LFL was formed, it was completely revamped. Instead of being known as the “Lingerie Football League,” a new and professional name arose called the “Legends Football League.” Mitchell S. Mortaza’s (LFL founder) main goal in the name change was to establish more credibility towards the sport and to not be seen as a joke. Mitchell claims,”While the Lingerie Football League name has drawn great media attention allowing us to showcase the sport to millions, we have now reached a crossroad of gaining credibility as a sport or continuing to be viewed as a gimmick.” Not only was the league’s name enhanced, they were also upgraded from competing in small, skimpy bikinis to well, small “performance wear” uniforms, which might as well still be considered bikinis if you ask me. What might look like a positive gender equality movement is a really poor attempt disguised by sexual objectification. An article that was recently published in September of 2015 from “Sporting News” titled “For NFL Teams, Treating Women Like Real Fans Can Offer Big Payoff” claims that although women account for 45 percent of the NFL’s 150 million fans, official fan clubs that are tailored to women could potentially be hurting the sports environment. Kathryn Smith has made the idea of a woman being in the NFL a reality by being the first female full- time head coach for the Buffalo Bills. She is slowly making this idea socially acceptable by proving to her colleagues just how valuable and hardworking she is. Unfortunately, many women do not have this opportunity, which is exactly why the Legends Football League exists. According to an article by Jordan Ritter Conn in July 2015, the women join this league because they want to play football in a real arena to feel the rush of a competition, however the audience wants to see skin and the commissioner wants to make money. The LFL offers an outlet for women athletes, just at a high price.
This league objectifies women which portrays how hegemonic masculinity is still prevalent in the 21st century. In his article, Trujillo examined Nolan Ryan, a national phenomenon; to study how hegemonic masculinity is reproduced in mediated sport. This league objectifies women which portrays how hegemonic masculinity is still prevalent in the 21st century. In his article, Trujillo examined Nolan Ryan, a national phenomenon; to study how hegemonic masculinity is reproduced in mediated sport. His theory of hegemonic masculinity, as previously discussed, also applies to the “macho” ways the media illustrates the women of the LFL. The first feature of hegemonic masculinity, force and control, relates to the LFL and the way it objectifies women simply by the way the game is played. Although the NFL has “toned down” with physicality over the years, the LFL sure seems to be making up for it. Take a look at some of their game day footage online or on the Fuse network, where it is predominately played, it just might surprise you. LFL women are not afraid to showcase their talents and show much pride for the team they play for. Their main focus is to win and that is what they set out to do. Heather Furr, an LFL player for the Los Angeles Temptation claims, “I love playing football. I love to compete. I love to win. I love being the best.” These women in the US, Canada, and Australia spend hours practicing for game days. Their practices sometimes lasting longer than three hours at a time (practicing seven to eight months out of the year). The players of the LFL are proud to play the sport they love. One of them claims, “There is nothing like stepping onto that field and getting ready to knock a #$@! out.” The amount of training and preparation these players put into the sport they love can be compared to the amount of training, preparation, and work male athletes in the NFL obtain before a big game, as well.
By exerting physical strength, force, speed, control, toughness, and domination women are depicted in a masculine way not only by the way the game is played, but also by how it is mediated on various outlets. Taking a look at the NFL web page it is visible that the men players show much dominance over it. For example, the way the men look in the photo galleries portray a feeling of dominance for the fans scrolling through. The players portrayed on the website illustrate manliness by wearing uniforms that draw attention to their muscles. The feel, the look, and ambiance of this website have one common theme, masculinity. The colors used, the dominate color currently is blue and even down to the type of font that was chosen- screams the many ideals and concepts of manhood, which reinforces hegemonic masculinity within the NFL.
Now open a new tab and visit the LFL website (LFLUS.COM). This web page mirrors the NFL website almost down to a “T.” The first image you see when you visit the NFL website is a picture of a football on a shiny gold rock with the San Francisco city landscape behind it, gearing viewers up for the upcoming Superbowl by demonstrating a sense of pride and accomplishment. On the LFL website, the first picture you see there is a player getting ready for the next play wearing the provocative uniforms and shoulder pads that end mid- chest, to showcase more than just the player’s muscles. By scrolling down you will see a “Game Day Gallery.” Some may argue that these photos are just like any other game day gallery you would expect to see, however, these pictures of sexuality towards the female body are thinly camouflaged with “athletic” football images. The players are so thinly camouflaged that you may end up seeing a wardrobe malfunction. In fact, when you google search “LFL” one of the top searches is “LFL wardrobe malfunction.” The portrayal of hegemonic masculinity is seen visibly in the two logos, as well. The two league’s logos are almost identical to one another, both displaying large bold fonts in a shape of a shield, also signifying manhood and masculinity. With all these examples, there’s no secret that the LFL portrays the physical force aspect of hegemonic masculinity however, men remain dominant over the league that does not pay them, which is a part of the control aspect of hegemonic masculinity.
Some of the names of the various teams within the league have a feminine feel to them such as, Dallas Desire, Los Angeles Temptation, Chicago Bliss, etc. however, the branding of this mediated sport is anything but feminine. It is the 21st century and the fact that there are so many women’s sports leagues that constantly struggle to get the media’s attention and recognition they deserve, for example the Olympics and World Cup is the only event that is highly mediated for women’s soccer but is not included in apps made by Fox Sports or ESPN, is proof that inequality still exists. According to an article by Cloe Axelson the women’s U.S national team is not getting the respect and attention they deserve. She made valid points in her article by stating that some may say a reason for this inequality within the men’s and women’s world cup is that more attention is given to men’s because the men attract more viewers and money however, in 1999 the women’s final was the second most-watched match in U.S history. It was this year that Youth player registration jumped up 2.3 million in 1995 to over 3 million in 2000.
The last portrayal of hegemonic masculinity through the LFL I will discuss is the second feature Trujillo presents, occupational achievement. According to Forbes in 2013, the average salary of a professional NFL player was around $2 million. NFL players put in countless days and long hours, even risking their bodies, for the sake of the game to achieve the financial stability they work hard for regularly. The LFL players do not get paid a salary for what they do because they are considered “independent contractors.” According to an article in the “Baltimore Brew,” three former “LA Temptation” players sued the League for being paid less than $8 an hour (California’s minimum wage), failing to collect overtime, and lastly for not obtaining compensation from the 2010 $100,000 LFL Championship purse. If that doesn’t paint a picture perfect of sexism, the women of the League also do not receive healthcare. Applying Trujillo’s feature of occupational achievement to the hegemonic masculinity portrayed by the LFL is truly the fact that sexism sells and there are obvious gender lines between divisions of labor. On the LFL website, NBC sports claims that they are the “fastest growing pro sports league in the nation,” so why can’t they be treated as the professionals they are?
What some may say is a modified version of the NFL, is solely entertainment for desperate men. It is my hope that the LFL will evolve into a league that is more respected. The WNBA is a perfect example of this. When women’s basketball first started, they wore skirts and look at them now! I do believe that in order to be respected these women must first respect themselves, however, that does not and should not defend how men degrade this League. These women are sexualized to receive media representation to play a sport they enjoy. I’ve never seen anything as ridiculous as this and am shocked that a league like this exist. This league objectifies women by portraying what our culture views as masculine character. The LFL truly contradicts sexism by mirroring the league as masculine. Hegemonic masculinity is present within the LFL through the many ways in which media presents these women. They are seen as having physical force and toughness, but the way the media tackles this, just makes these women look like clowns in their underwear parading on the football field. This league is unrealistic and displays an immoral picture of women athletes everywhere.