I’m a fan of the retention of pubic hair. I don’t much like the idea of breast implants. Thoughts of vaginoplasty coax me into an involuntary Kegel exercise. I’ve no idea why any woman would bleach her vulva.
But feminism has to be about more than a laundry list of what individuals find unpalatable. I’m a feminist because I believe that women should have choice. Certainly as many choices as men. While the choices that are acted on might seem retrograde, offensive, and possibly even bad for equality, the existence of choice should be non-negotiable.
My immediate response to lingerie football is an eye-roll. It’s tacky and it’s cheap, but my strongest reaction is that it’s so yawn-worthily predictable. Everything about it, down to the manufactured protest, is so hideously auto-cued.
Truth be told I wasn’t even slightly interested in writing about it. At first glance the lingerie football controversy seemed like yet another incarnation of the tiresome “sexualisation” arguments. Public feminism is too often dominated by finger-waggling and whining about girls and women being sexualised. As though girls and women are dupes with no agenda and no self-determination and no ability to pull on a boob-tube without the horrible hand of patriarchy forcing their hand.
Such feminism bores me, saddens me and neglects to acknowledge that equality comes in many shapes and sizes. Even shapes and sizes we don’t all adore.
But two aspects of the lingerie football did spark some interest. One is the complicity feminists have themselves in drawing attention to this spectacle and two is the inconsistencies in some of their objections.
Sexist advertising, miscreants like Kyle Sandilands, and organisers of events such as the Lingerie Football League rely on controversy. They bank on the fact that there’ll be a ready throng of feminists ready to pitchfork them. They know that faux-news channels will be primed to pounce on an exposé, knowing – without a shadow of doubt - that there’s always an outraged feminist ready to give a sound-bite.
Marketers know this, they bank on this and time and time again feminists play into this malarkey.
Worse than just gifting lingerie football undeserved airtime however, every time feminists complain about the sexism of a product, a target audiences gets solidified. Nobody actually cares if feminists boycott lingerie football. Au contraire: a boycott all too often makes a product instantly attractive. Suddenly a whole lot of people who would never have thought about lingerie football are suddenly militant about their God-given right to cheer on a scantily clad tackles. To buy tickets, to buy merchandise. Suddenly folk who are exhausted by the thought police, by the wowsers, are hornily salivating to get to a game.
One of the arguments proffered by feminist objectors is that that bringing bras and panties to ballgames somehow sullies sport. Shock horror but sport is already “sullied”. Pretending that sex and sport are somehow mutually exclusive is delusional and evidence of commentators who have neglected to turn on the television anytime in the past decade.
Male players are sexualised every time a camera lingers on them while they train sans shirt. Many sports that have cheerleaders: women paid to wear little to entice an audience into noisy fervour. Male and female athletes pose in calendars. And on the covers of magazines. And appear in television commercials. The sport/sex fusion happened long ago.
Lingerie football is a product. A product that people can choose not to purchase, can choose to ignore. Notably, it’s a product which some women have freely chosen to be a part of.