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As the NFL season moves inexorably toward its climax with the Super Bowl, it is time that we revisit the strange phenomenon of the scantily-clad, female cheerleader. For who would have thought that 50 years after feminism, women would feel no offense when they are reduced to go-go dancers in underwear cheering a quarterback’s touchdown pass?
When I get into one of my rants about the place of women in society, where they have been relegated to in the past and where they are now vs. where they should be, I find myself mourning the lost opportunities. I become frustrated by the corruption of femininity in our society. Look at the ultimate arena of male prominence – the sports world.
From the early days of the Greek Olympics, men have dominated athletic pursuits while women, until recently, have been relegated to the viewing stands. With great pains, women have fought to open the field of sports to women and to gain the respect they deserve as proficient and talented athletes. This is, undoubtedly, a real accomplishment.
If the goal all along had been to assert the power of women so as to disseminate the idea that women have an elevating influence to impart to the world, we would find that even the heavily male world of sports would have been impacted. In an overwhelming testosterone-laden field, however, where do we see women? Take football, for example: No one is asking women to slap on some shoulder pads and get out there on the field with the likes of Tom Brady, but we are certainly aware that they are there.
But in what capacity are they present, and how does the NFL’s treat women? Where do ladies come into play in this mainstay of American culture? Why do they get to be seen on the sidelines as a bunch of dimwitted go-go dancers, reduced, basically, to a pair of bouncing breasts who egg on the muscle-laden athletes?
CBS, one of the main networks that airs football games, has a network rejoin they often use as they come back to a game after a commercial break. Amazingly, it does not show a football player. Instead, it shows cutaway shots of cheerleaders, with a few pictures of these overly made-up dolls jumping up and down, and then one shot – I kid you not – of a woman’s behind. A five-second close up of a woman’s rear end – that is a commercial for football? The connection? Must be esoteric because I am not sure how the one illustrates the other.
This is truly a shame because sports arenas are an ideal case to note how the very presence of women can impact the surrounding environment. After all, look at the behavior of men who attend English football (that’s soccer to us Yanks) matches. They are notoriously violent. There have been tragic stories about the crowds getting out of hand and about rival fans brutally assaulting one another.
Additionally, if you have not been to a match yourself, let me tell you that you had better not be prudish or refined because you are going to hear an earful of outrageous screaming that even the crassest NFL fan might find blush-worthy! When you go to a British soccer game, you run the risk of being trampled to death by the usual army of drunken animals.
And why are they such embarrassing brutes? Search the stands the next time you watch British football on television and you will scarcely ever find a single woman (assuming you can stay awake for the predictable nil-nil final score, international soccer being the one exception to the rule that men are goal-oriented).
Some might propose that this riotous behavior is a product of socio-economic factors in that English football tickets are cheap – which means that the men in attendance are often working class or out of work altogether. I do not doubt that these sorts of contributors impact the behavior one sees at an English football match, but how does that explain the crowds at American football matches?
Tickets to an NFL game are not cheap, which means that we are not dealing with a crowd of aggressive and frustrated out-of-work men who need to let off a bit of steam. Yet at Oakland Raiders’ games alone there have been incidents that have escalated as far as stabbings. It is not even a matter of rival fans getting out of control since, according to Gary Schellenberg of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, 95 percent of the violence at Raider games involve Raider fan on Raider fan.
Apart from crazed Raider fans, however, most American football fans really only run the risk of having their eardrums burst by earthquake-like burps from bare-chested brutes on a Heineken drip. Still, where are male fans the best behaved? Even amid the disgusting brawl that broke out between the Indian Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, by and large, it is at basketball games, because they attract the largest percentage of female fans.
Men are simply more civilized around women. Flatulence jokes are common among men who can think of nothing funnier than passing gas around each other and guessing “whoever smelt it dealt it.” But when’s the last time a man walked over to an attractive woman at a bar and asked her to “pull my finger”?
Just think about it: Even in this very masculine world of sports, even when there are scantily clad women to cater to the lascivious nature of men, the very presence of women in the stands can at least curb the more animalistic nature of man – the violent, aggressive traits that helped men survive before civilization developed. If, under even these adverse circumstances, women can have a positive influence, think of what they might be able to accomplish if they band together to assert their value and insist upon the respect they deserve, rather than pandering to the baser expectations that have become popular.
And speaking of catering to the basest of instincts, I found it pathetic to see the replays of Brandi Chastain who celebrated her teams’ victory in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Championship by taking off her shirt. It was every couch potato’s dream: dirt, sports, women and breasts. I can not tell you how many men I met who said that this sort of fantasy is what inspires them to watch women’s sports in the first place, the thought that at any moment, the female players may rip off their clothing and jump all over each other.
So much for an appreciation of athleticism. But what do we expect when the women who work their way into the spotlight at major sporting events are doing so in their underwear when they parade around as cheerleaders? How could this possibly be an ennobling role? Only a society that harbors an utter lack of modesty and a constant debasing of the commodity and dignity of the female form could ever produce a women who would think nothing of whipping off her shirt on national television as Chastain did.
Yes, friends, it is time, finally, to get rid of the cheerleaders and condition men to respect women rather than merely be titillated by them.