Erotic uniforms objectify women athletes

by Madison Hopkins

MCT Campus

Professional athletes are a prime example of impeccable physical fitness. We expect them to work hard, win games and, apparently do all of this half naked. This new stipulation isn’t required of all serious athletes — just those who happen to be women and want people to actually watch them play.

The Bikini Basketball League recently announced it would soon create two California teams as a part of its national league. This new association is exactly what it seems: professional female basketball players … in bikinis. The BBL is not to be confused with the W.N.B.A. This new league is completely autonomous and mainly for entertainment purposes. Although many of the women involved consider themselves serious athletes with extensive sports backgrounds, the main focus of such leagues is the exploitation of sexuality rather than athletic skill.

In an aggressive and male-dominated sports community, it’s difficult for female athletes to be noticed, let alone respected as much as their male counterparts. In addition to being disrespected, female athletes are now being gawked at as overly sexualized bimbos. When in fact, many women involved in these leagues are actually highly skilled athletes who take the game seriously. However, they do not receive this feeling in return.

The Lingerie Football League, taglined as “true fantasy football,” preceded Bikini Basketball and now boasts 12 teams across the U.S. and Canada. Despite its popularity and obvious ap- peal to a target audience, the LFL promotes a crude view of female athletics, depicted as some pornographic ideal. Rather than giving female athletes an equivalently respectable football league, the sports industry has told the team it’s only good for its sex appeal. Kelli Scarangello, former San Diego Seduction quarterback, said although she was always very athletic, it was hard to find any kind of serious football league after high school.

“The LFL was the best option that I could see for professional women’s football and the only paid league I could find,” Scarangello said.

These leagues negatively warp the players’ own body image. Scarangello explained before game days, all of the girls were subject to harsh scrutiny of their bodies. She refers to them as “fat checks,” during which the team mangers decide whether each individual looks good enough in uniform to play. Those who didn’t make the cut were told to sit out rather than tarnish the strict image promoted by the league. The league clearly shows where its priorities are, and it’s not with athletic skill.

While most professional sports leagues have female equivalents, they are generally not as popu- lar. Traditional women’s leagues, which focus on athletics, have always been seen as boring or weak compared to the aggression and excitement of men’s games. Fans routinely write off female sports as less interesting than men’s. Now, the induction of sexualized sports has pushed other women’s sports further into submission.

The association to these sexually demeaning leagues is turning women’s sports into more of a joke than a place for serious athletes. We wouldn’t see a professional men’s soccer team running around in Speedos, so it isn’t fair to subject women to this degradation.

The objectification of players in these leagues validates the idea that it doesn’t matter what women do, as long as they look good playing. This summer’s Olympics were hailed as the “year of the woman,” referring to the abundance of female superstars. With such strong female success, you would think personal appearance wouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately for Gabby Douglas, this wasn’t the case. When Douglas won the gold medal for all around individual gymnastics at 16 years old, the only thing anyone cared about was her hair. The girl was doing things most of us could never do and apparently what she really needed to focus on was her looks.

Even with all of the negative aspects surrounding female sex fantasy leagues, thousands of women still choose to be a part of it. It is their own choice to do what they wish with their bodies. If they don’t have a problem with the nature of the league, then more power to them. But sports fans need to learn to appreciate female athletes for their actual skill, regardless of any aesthetic value.

Women who play professional sports in any capacity deserve the same admiration men receive. Physical attractiveness has no impact on the game, but is disproportionately relevant in female athletics. This creates an unhealthy image of women as foremost sex objects. In the minds of the spectators, any real skills is secondary. These women are continually told if they want to receive the same kind of respect male athletes receive, they need to make the sport more interesting.

Apparently the way to do that is by exploiting their sexuality. Women who have made it to the professional level are strong, capable athletes who ought to be held in high esteem for their physical abilities, regardless of what they look like half naked.

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