Monday, April 9, 2018

NFL Cheerleaders are people, too...

Over the past few days, The New York Times has been running an interesting series about NFL cheerleaders.  Although I have never been a cheerleader myself, I do find them fascinating.  I'm not really sure why.  Maybe it has to do with the mystique that comes from extraordinarily beautiful women who are also great dancers working for minimum wage...  and they had to fight in court to get even that!

I've watched Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team for years now.  I watch, even though I don't care a lick about football and can't even so much as turn a cartwheel (and never could, even when I was a kid).  I'm sure there are a lot of reasons why young women aspire to be NFL cheerleaders, even though the pay sucks and the demands are high.  They get a lot of fringe benefits for their status as cheerleaders, as well as the thrill of performing for a huge, appreciative crowd.  But they also have to put up with a lot.  The cheerleading organizations for professional football teams can be very controlling, dictating to the women how they must dress, how they must style their hair, and how much they are allowed to weigh.

Consider how much time and money it takes to get the right "cheerleader" look.  Generally speaking, most cheerleaders must spend years taking dance lessons to develop their skills.  They have to spend a lot of time and money on perfecting their looks, having their hair and nails professionally maintained and wearing the "right" clothes.  And they have to maintain perfectly toned cheerleader bodies, too.  That means a lot of working out, probably with a trainer, and eating the "right" diet.

Then, when it's time to try out, they have to get a headshot made and, in the case of the Arizona Cardinals, have to pay an application fee.  The only "job" application for which I was ever asked to pay an application fee was for a multi-level marketing scam.  Fortunately, I passed on that.  In defense of the fee; I suppose it helps cut down on people showing up simply to show up.  If you have to pay to play, you're more likely to be realistic about your chances of success.  It probably keeps out some of the overweight, elderly, and uncoordinated people who might try out on a lark.

I have blogged about the DCC before.  What's inspiring me to write today was reading about some of the insane requirements some other teams have for their cheerleaders.  For instance, one team goes as far as dictating to how the women are to handle their feminine hygiene needs.  Although being a cheerleader is considered a "part time job", the women are expected to be "on" 24/7.  They aren't allowed to wear sweatpants in public, go to the store without a full coat of makeup, or leave the house with ungroomed hair or nails.  They are expected to always be smiling and approachable, even if someone is obnoxious.  And yet, they aren't allowed to seem "fake", either... even if that's kind of what they are when they when they suppress their natural feelings and are forced to wear false eyelashes, hair weaves, and lots of makeup.

Social media is also very closely monitored, even on a cheerleader's personal pages.  One New Orleans Saints cheerleader was fired because she posted a picture of herself on Instagram wearing a lacy body suit that the powers that be felt was too revealing.  And yet, every NFL cheerleader I've ever seen in a uniform was wearing next to nothing.  For all of this, these ladies get paid barely more than minimum wage, while football players can earn millions.

I know a lot of women who have been involved in professional cheerleading for the NFL have said that the experience is amazing.  They end up with lifelong friends, travel opportunities, and perhaps personal and business connections that they can capitalize on once they're retired from cheerleading.  But, I have to go on record to say that I'm actually kind of glad it was never one of my goals to be a cheerleader.

Maybe when I was in high school, I might have had the silly notion that if I was a cheerleader like all three of my sisters were, I'd be more popular.  That idea makes me laugh now.  First of all, in those days, I was way into my horse.  Secondly, I can't even do a cartwheel.  And thirdly, I don't have the most compliant personality.  The first time I got fat shamed by one of the directors, I'd probably have to go home and vent on my blog.

Seriously... I don't think it's a bad thing that some people are questioning whether or not it's time to rethink NFL cheerleading.  We're in the era of #MeToo now.  I have written about my disdain for these kinds of viral campaigns, but I will admit that #MeToo is getting people to think about how women are treated.  I think if I had a daughter, I would encourage her to use her brain rather than her looks to get ahead.  I think that's the more sustainable course of action, because the luminous beauty that comes with youth is usually fleeting.

Amanda Hess has done a lot of writing about the NFL cheerleaders.  I enjoyed this video, but was very sad to read the shitty comments about Hess, especially regarding her less than glamorous looks.  Most of the comments, not surprisingly, came from men...

Amanda Hess may not be "glamorous", but she's obviously very intelligent.  In my book, that makes her appeal a lot more lasting.  Beauty fades, after all...  

Megyn Kelly talks to Bailey Davis, who was fired from the New Orleans Saintsations for posting a photo on Instagram.

And... on another note, I am SO sick of men who have nothing but derisive comments for women who stand up for their rights.  So many guys were apparently born in a barn and think women are here just to look pretty, satisfy men's sexual desires, and fix sandwiches.  It's a shame.  Thank God I married a guy who's much more evolved.  I try to tell him every day how very much I appreciate him.  A man who respects women is the sexiest man of all, in my book.

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