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Cheerleaders and Other Moral Outrage

Yesterday a friend posted to Facebook so repulsed by the NFL that he was threatening to boycott football forever. Hey, I’ve got football problems of my own. I get it. Here’s how my friend reached the tipping point.

Cheerleaders and Other Moral Outrage

Last February, pro football player Ray Rice (for those of you living under the bleachers) whacked his “fiancée” in an elevator, watched her pass out and collapse, dragged her out of the elevator, kicked her about a bit, forced her to sit up while she regained consciousness, and then milled about with his buddies to make sure any and all witnesses were carefully paid off.

Cracking down on domestic abuse (as the NFL is wont to do), the Ravens suspended the abuser for…two…games. (That’ll show him!)

In order to protect herself and all other women from creeps like Rice, Janay Palmer married the dude, refused to press charges, and got all pissy about the media coverage. (Double show him!)

Or something. 

This Ray Rice incident bugged my friend. A lot. So much that he was already “on the verge” of giving up on the NFL all together back then. But he set aside his differences with the league and carried on.

But this week there was another revelation that was just too much to ignore, an act so discombobulating that it (may) put him over the edge for good! In his own words:

This might just be the final straw. Sick. Disgusting. Shameful. Unpardonable.

What was the most egregious sin of the NFL? Dissing the cheer squad.

With the above statement he posted a link to a New York Times article outlining the unforgivable sin:: “Buffalo Bills Cheerleaders’ Fight for Wages and Respect.” The internal cognitive dissonance in the title alone caused uncontrollable fits of giggling from my side of the universe. First, because everyone (presumably even the cheerleaders? uh…) knows that being an NFL cheerleader is a (mostly) volunteer position. Second, because scantily-clad-surgically-enhanced-wigglers pro “cheerleaders” and “respect” should grammatically be disallowed in the same sentence.

In other words, if looking for either wages or respect, who auditions to be a volunteer exotic dancer?

Oh, my goodness, my goodness! Oh, please, please let me strip and shake and wiggle for you! Plus pom poms! Cuchi-cuchi!

And then I demand you pay me a “living wage” and the respect…I…deserve!

Hey, I’m a libertarian feminist. If you want to volunteer to shake it, shake it, baby, for next to nothing in front of millions, you have my permission! Go for it! But you can’t demand respect for being stupid enough to objectify yourself without even reading the contract.

P.S. I anticipate that someone will bring up all the lawsuits from NFL players with long-term health problems associated with their years playing the game and wonder if that bothers me. So I’ll preempt the discussion by answering now.

To the extent that NFL coaches, staff, and doctors lied to players and misrepresented medical evidence they had — in order to keep people playing in dangerous situations — yes, I hold them accountable.

To the extent that players pretend they had no clue that having a slew of 300+ pound lineman smash into someone from opposing sides — four hours a day, many hours a month, multiple months per year — repeatedly “ringing your bell,” could possibly have a long-term impact (no pun intended) on how well the brain can function as an actual brain (as opposed to a punching bag in your head)…um…not so much.

Freedom has a price. It allows you to choose to do stupid stuff. Like playing games where the other team’s life mission is to pound your face into the dirt. And volunteer to get naked and jiggle in a stadium.

This is why we can’t have nice things (like freedom). This is why Michelle Obama dictates what goes in a school lunch and why Michael Bloomberg tries to measure our sodas. Because people are too stupid to read their own contracts and/or understand the basic physics of being systematically pummeled…and want other people to pay for it.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • IdRatherNotSay December 14, 2014, 4:52 pm

    Hahahahahaha “if I only had a brain!!”

  • MB December 15, 2014, 9:01 am

    I work with a number of different organizations that work extensively with contracted volunteers.

    It looks to me like the women signed a volunteer contract knowing that they would be paid nothing and knowing that the Bills would be directing their work, but clueless as to what exactly that directing would require of them. Most professional cheerleaders’ previous experience is one of unpaid work in dance that, though it functions under the direction of the athletic department, involves collaborative decisionmaking between the cheer squad and the athletic directors. Many professional teams follow some form of a similarly agreed upon methodology for management. Likely the women assumed that the Bills’ direction would be similar: respectful in terms of collaboration and communication. However, in this case, the direction was unilateral, unwilling to dialogue and was sexually exploitative far beyond the generally accepted norm within the “profession”.

    I also object to sexualized dancing in skimpy clothing at athletic events. I find it degrading to women. I would never encourage my daughters to participate. But my objection to the volunteer work that they signed a contract for and my distaste for what they choose to do does not give me an excuse to withhold compassion for the extremely degrading experiences to which that exposed them

    I do not respect the profession that they have chosen. But they are my sisters. And they are young and are coming into their own version of understanding the wrongness of the situation they got themselves into. As often happens when a person finds that they have made a huge mistake and gotten themselves into a horrible situation the first response is anger at others rather than self-awareness and that anger comes long before they can come to understand or admit regret for their own role in the development of the disaster.

    It looks to me like the Bills developed dictatorship managerial practices that were sexually exploitative with women way beyond the norm for professional football teams and did so with women who did not understand their rights as volunteers to refuse demands or have the chutzpah or skills to organize objection to those practices.

    Personally, I will never have much respect for the on-the-field dancing they enjoy and that they volunteered to do. However, I fully support their being respected, not for the dancing they do, but for being human beings whose concerns as volunteers should be listened to and responded to fairly by the people who direct their work. That is basic, sound, rational practice among the volunteer administrators across the board in all of the organizations that I work with.

    Clearly the Bills failed to live up to that standard.
    MB recently posted…S.R. asked “What do you do when your faith and your reality are in opposition?”My Profile

  • Margot December 15, 2014, 9:16 am

    Thank you for a reasonable reply. I’m pretty sure I saw the post you refer to, but knew it wasn’t worth arguing on Facebook. Consider the source and all that jazz.

  • carboncopy December 15, 2014, 9:29 am

    How does this rank in the ballpark of a women being knocked unconscious? Nothing but posturing.

  • Cambendy December 15, 2014, 10:39 am

    I think freedom is the most important part of this. I would never work for any NFL team in this capacity and I would never create such a team, but I support the freedom of other’s to choose.

    It’s like we are saying that these women should have the rights of adulthood, but have to be protected from others because they are too stupid to make good decisions. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Cheris December 15, 2014, 11:00 am

    If I want to be able to make decisions about my life, I have to accept responsibility for the consequences. These women make all women look dim and helpless. 🙁

  • Alison Moore Smith December 15, 2014, 10:32 am

    MB, thanks for the comment. I’ll respond to particular points, the first being that the vast majority of their admitted cluelessness was self-selected.

    Likely the women assumed that the Bills’ direction would be similar: respectful in terms of collaboration and communication.

    The very nature of the job indicates this is not the case. I’m not sure how your respectfully collaborate about an objectifying job.

    “Dear young women of God. We hold you in highest esteem. If you would be so kind as to have a little breast augmentation so you can push those precious boobies up into view of all the raving fans, it would be most appreciated! Remember what a valuable assssssssset you are to the Cowboys!!!”

    However, in this case, the direction was unilateral, unwilling to dialogue and was sexually exploitative far beyond the generally accepted norm within the “profession”.

    I honestly don’t really care about them being “unwilling to dialogue.” Some bosses collaborate. Some dictate. We get to choose where we work and if we don’t like the conditions (or the boss or his/her style) we can choose to quit. If no one is willing to work for someone with a particularly authoritative style, there are consequences.

    As for being exploitative, let’s look at the actual complaints:

    Supervisors ordered the cheerleaders…to warm up in a frigid, grubby stadium storeroom that smelled of gasoline.

    So? If that’s not acceptable to you, don’t work there.

    They demanded that cheerleaders pay $650 for uniforms.

    So?

    They told the cheerleaders to do jumping jacks to see if flesh jiggled.

    Did these women really have no idea that how they LOOK while flopping about is pretty much THE most important thing about this position? Sincerely, what the crap is this complaint given what they auditioned for???

    The Jills were required to attend a golf tournament for sponsors. The high rollers paid cash — “Flips for Tips” — to watch bikini-clad cheerleaders do back flips.

    Again, why in the world do they think tens of thousands of guys in the stadium watch them? Why do the Jills exist at all? They put on next to nothing and shimmy and shake and jump up and down. These women are offended that they “had” to go to a golf tournament to do the same thing they do at every game? Or are they offended that they are going to actually make some money doing it this time?

    Afterward, the men placed bids on which women would ride around in their golf carts…The carts had no extra seats. Women clung to the back or, much more to the point, were invited to sit in the men’s laps.

    This is the only thing from the article that seems “beyond the generally accepted norm” in the industry (and not “way beyond the norm” at all). Being individually “purchased” is the problematic issue here, not hanging on to a cart or even being “invited” to pile on with the obvious opportunity to decline.

    Bottom line: these women choose to participate in an intentionally objectifying hobby and now are upset that they are being objectified.

    Understand, we aren’t talking about a girl at a pool to work out in a swimsuit. We are talking about a woman at a football game (where the norm is to be clothed), unclothing herself in an explicitly suggestive way, using her unclothed body with the intention of enticement and ogling, and then becoming indignant that she was too successful.

    But my objection to the volunteer work that they signed a contract for and my distaste for what they choose to do does not give me an excuse to withhold compassion for the extremely degrading experiences to which that exposed them

    I have compassion. I’m sorry that they wanted to get up in front of a billion people and shake their booties. I’m sorry they didn’t realize how this hurts all women. I am sorry that they can’t read (or can’t be bothered to read). I’m sorry they think suing a company for their own stupidity is the answer.

    I’m not sorry that they are not getting paid for a job that doesn’t pay. I’m not sorry they don’t get respect for a job that deserves no respect.

    But they are my sisters. And they are young and are coming into their own version of understanding the wrongness of the situation they got themselves into. As often happens when a person finds that they have made a huge mistake and gotten themselves into a horrible situation the first response is anger at others rather than self-awareness and that anger comes long before they can come to understand or admit regret for their own role in the development of the disaster.

    Frankly, I think the anger comes before self-awareness because we have bred that into our society for a few generations now. It’s not something prevalent in all cultures nor in US culture a few generations ago. I think the misplaced compassion feeds into that. Rather than support these women in their lawsuit, my parents’ generation would have said something like:

    “Wow. Sounds like the dancing thing isn’t working out like you thought it would. I wouldn’t want to do that either. Can you quit? Can you negotiate out of your contract? If not, how can you get through the year before you quit? Oh, and next time you sign a contract, make sure you read it carefully, think through the problems, and are sure it’s what you really want to do.”

    Clearly the Bills failed to live up to that standard.

    Why didn’t all the cheerleaders quit? Why is there going to be a lineup at the audition next year (assuming they bring them back)?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Hibernating Disease and Other Reasons I Can Totally Play Wii on Thanksgiving But Not Be Able to Help with DishesMy Profile

  • MB December 15, 2014, 12:56 pm

    Allison, I’ll respond to your responses.

    “The very nature of the job indicates this is not the case. I’m not sure how your respectfully collaborate about an objectifying job.”

    Collaboration means mutually acceptable decisions. These women obviously wish to indulge in some objectification. But it is erroneous to claim that therefore they have no say in the extent of the objectification they participate in. If you research other team-cheerleader volunteer set-ups there is a great deal of collaboration in deciding what cheerleaders will or will not participate in in regards to their volunteer contracts with other teams. I agree that volunteering to jump around in skimpy attire is a stupid idea, but stupidity or lack of enlightenment does not mean that, therefore, your voice should not be heard by those who call all the shots.

    “Some bosses collaborate. Some dictate. We get to choose where we work and if we don’t like the conditions (or the boss or his/her style) we can choose to quit. If no one is willing to work for someone with a particularly authoritative style, there are consequences.”

    I agree. And I wish the women would quit. But they are human and, like you and like me, when there is something that we love to do, and we think the only place available to do that is a place that is unbearable, the first thing we think to do is to work to change that place. We hope that by forcing change we will be able to have what we most desire: the ability to do the thing we love to do in a place where we can do it without dealing with the conditions we feel unbearable. That is human nature. We do it all the time. We do that in churches, in schools, in our communities and our workplaces. We do it in our homes. That is the first step one takes when one loves to do something and the only place where you feel you can do that is a place where you feel objectified or disregarded. Attempt to change comes first. Quitting is a later step. These women are in stage one. And again, just because what they love to do is something you or I think is stupid, doesn’t mean that their decision to do step one first is not reasonable.

    “Again, why in the world do they think tens of thousands of guys in the stadium watch them? Why do the Jills exist at all? They put on next to nothing and shimmy and shake and jump up and down. These women are offended that they “had” to go to a golf tournament to do the same thing they do at every game? Or are they offended that they are going to actually make some money doing it this time?”

    These issues, which come from their sense of having no control, are at the heart of the challenges these women face right now. This is the ultimate self-deception that all of us go through in our young years, the belief that we “have to” do something. And this is common psychology: We believe we are forced to do something when actually we do have a choice. It’s just that we don’t want to experience the consequences of that choice. In this case they didn’t want the consequence of no longer being able to dance at games. A volunteer contract may be broken by either party at any time. These young women could have walked out, leaving the situation unchanged for the next set of unenlightened young women who were unwisely clamoring to get in. Instead they decided to try to make changes in the level of exploitation going on so that it more accurately reflected the desires of those who signed up for it and not the levels desired by the exploiters. They seem to believe that if they are paid, then they will be taken more seriously (“receive respect”) and therefore have more power in their ability to bargain with what then becomes an “employer”.

    (Knowing the nature of the employer, I believe they are misguided on this assumption but that is what they hope.)

    In sum…I agree that the public dancing these women do encourages objectification of women, and that the choice to indulge in it is extremely unwise. However, I disagree with your derision. I believe that it is too close to “the stupid beggar brought it upon himself, so therefore…” sort of thinking. And I think it’s wise to avoid that.

  • Lisa Raven December 15, 2014, 2:44 pm

    MB I think the part you’re missing is that these are adults. If they are incapable of basic reason and self-care, they shouldn’t be allowed to do other adult activities.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 15, 2014, 2:42 pm

    Collaboration means mutually acceptable decisions.

    MB, I know what collaboration means. 🙂 What I don’t agree with is that there is a respectful (which was your condition) way to collaborate on a disrespectful outcome.

    But it is erroneous to claim that therefore they have no say in the extent of the objectification they participate in.

    I agree, and I didn’t make that claim. The women can SAY whatever they want and they can REFUSE TO DO whatever they want. But they are SUING the Bills for running the skanky enterprise like a skanky enterprise.

    If you research other team-cheerleader volunteer set-ups there is a great deal of collaboration in deciding what cheerleaders will or will not participate in in regards to their volunteer contracts with other teams.

    While I don’t think this is universally true, it doesn’t matter. If they don’t like the amount of collaboration and/or the events, they don’t have to be a Jill. No one owes them the right to be a professional skanky dancer on their terms. If they want to create the utopian exotic dancer team, they are free to do so.

    I agree that volunteering to jump around in skimpy attire is a stupid idea, but stupidity or lack of enlightenment does not mean that, therefore, your voice should not be heard by those who call all the shots.

    It might, if the people who call the shots decide to call the shots that way. They are calling the shots because they earned the right to do so by owning the business.

    No, I wouldn’t want to work (or volunteer) for a very authoritarian boss. Some people might want to. Some people might want to given the particular opportunity offered. I’ve never had a perfect job. Every job I’ve had (including the one running my own business for 27+ years) has its pros and cons. As a free human being, I get to choose if the pros of a job outweigh the cons. If these women want to be cheerleaders at a company that does things differently, they are free to audition elsewhere.

    But they are human and, like you and like me, when there is something that we love to do, and we think the only place available to do that is a place that is unbearable, the first thing we think to do is to work to change that place.

    They think the only place to be a cheerleader is with the Buffalo Bills? Sincerely, do you believe they think that? And they are going to “change that place” by suing the employer? By acting helpless and clueless?

    We hope that by forcing change we will be able to have what we most desire: the ability to do the thing we love to do in a place where we can do it without dealing with the conditions we feel unbearable. That is human nature.

    Sorry, I think this is “human nature” only in the coddled current culture, not in a logical real world.

    If I don’t like something in a job, I look for (or create) a different one. If I don’t like what’s happening in government I work to change representative/laws/ideology, etc. If don’t like a neighborhood, I work on moving. If I don’t like the school system — and see no reasonable means to make enough change to satisfy me — I homeschool. If I don’t like things in my church (and believe it’s a salvational issue (so “quitting” isn’t an option)) — I work to bring awareness, to discuss problems and solutions, to promote change in an institutionally acceptable way, etc.

    That is the first step one takes when one loves to do something and the only place where you feel you can do that is a place where you feel objectified or disregarded. Attempt to change comes first. Quitting is a later step. These women are in stage one. And again, just because what they love to do is something you or I think is stupid, doesn’t mean that their decision to do step one first is not reasonable.

    Their “attempt to change” is to sue. They are volunteers who are demanding to be in charge.

    This is the ultimate self-deception that all of us go through in our young years, the belief that we “have to” do something. And this is common psychology: We believe we are forced to do something when actually we do have a choice.

    Agreed. And so rather than support the women in their self-deception, we help them rid themselves of it! We help them grow up and take responsibility for their lives rather than telling them they can demand to get their way from others.

    It’s just that we don’t want to experience the consequences of that choice. In this case they didn’t want the consequence of no longer being able to dance at games.

    Wah! Wah! The poor dears! They can’t volunteer to dance on the sideline and pretend like they own the team and make all the decisions. What meanies!

    So we help them grow up by saying, “Honey bunches, I totally get why you wouldn’t want to lap dance at the golf course. I’m with you sister! So here’s what you do. You quit doing the hoochie dance at the games, tell these creepers to take a hike, and find a respectable place to dance (preferably with some clothing!). It will be awesome!”

    These young women could have walked out, leaving the situation unchanged for the next set of unenlightened young women who were unwisely clamoring to get in. Instead they decided to try to make changes in the level of exploitation going on so that it more accurately reflected the desires of those who signed up for it and not the levels desired by the exploiters.

    Can someone tell me why I — never a cheerleader, never a dancer (beyond college ballroom), never an NFL fan — knew that these women were a bunch of busty showgirls appealing to the ogling masses of drunken jerks, but none of the women who watched them, aspired to be them, auditioned to join them, and signed the contracts did? How hard is it to get this information? How many brain cells must be rubbed together to glean this?

    Either we allow these women to make adult choices or we declare them mentally incompetent and take conservatorship. Apparently they need to be protected from themselves.

    Again, rather than suing the company for doing what the company has always done — and what they would have known if they weren’t acting like toddlers — why don’t they start a blog? Why don’t they write about their real life experiences? Why don’t they speak in high school (or at cheer camps) to let other young women know what it’s really like? Why don’t they start a pro cheerleading company that offers opportunities to dance in non-objectified ways?

    Because that would mean taking responsibility and doing work. Hard work. And they want to stamp their feet and have a tantrum and insist that the Bills’ owners make them happy.

    For the record, the “desires of those who signed up” isn’t relevant. If you don’t like the offer from the people who created the offer, don’t sign up for it!

    I believe that it is too close to “the stupid beggar brought it upon himself, so therefore…” sort of thinking. And I think it’s wise to avoid that.

    That is the problem. If adult women who want nothing more than to be professional cheerleaders are equated with beggars who need to be protected, we all lose freedom. We obviously can’t take care of ourselves. Better to have someone smarter and stronger do it for us.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Carl’s Jr.’s Sleaze Tithe – Sponsored by BYU AthleticsMy Profile

  • MB December 15, 2014, 3:20 pm

    Allison,
    I believe we are all beggars.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 15, 2014, 6:11 pm

    Sure, but you’re equivocating. We are beggars as humans to God, not as free adults to potential employers.
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  • a sphincter says what December 16, 2014, 12:48 am

    The righteousness on your indignation is positively glowing, AMS.

  • jks December 16, 2014, 1:48 am

    I don’t agree that if you sign up for a little, you sign up for it all. And I don’t agree that your only choice is to stay and keep silent or quit.
    Sometimes the way you are treated is wrong and it is important to speak up. And if many people speak up there can be changes. Just because a boss is a jerk, doesn’t mean they have to always be a jerk. There is potential for change.
    Sometimes mistreatment is illegal. The courts can decide that. Even if someone is willing to accept a job and work illegal hours for illegal pay (for instance) it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t speak up about the legality of it and request that the company change their policy.
    I do not like cheerleaders. That doesn’t mean I think they should be treated so poorly. If those bosses are willing to treat female employees/volunteers that badly, it probably spills over into their treatment of non-cheerleader females as well. Women are not worth as much as men. Women don’t need to be respected, or paid, for their work or their contribution. I disagree.

  • not saying December 16, 2014, 10:51 am

    My guess is that “a sphincter says what” is “the guy” who made the comments. He doesn’t see that you are actually challenging HIS “righteous indignation.” Based on that, I think I can guess who it is!

  • Alison Moore Smith December 16, 2014, 11:29 am

    jks, yes, if someone signs up for a job, they sign up for the whole job. No one is required to create jobs (of any kind) and no one is required to accept them. I’ve done lots jobs I didn’t like. There are lots of jobs I wouldn’t take under any circumstance, due almost entirely to my moral sensibilities. Other people like those jobs.

    Of course, an employee can approach the boss and make suggestions or requests or whatever. They can ask for a raise, for flexibility, for the addition of particular benefits, for days off, whatever. But the boss doesn’t have to comply with the employee. The employer might accommodate the employee’s desires. Often that is good business since it brings good will, employee retention, positive word-of-mouth, etc. But those payoffs might not offset the downside and it’s the employer — the one who created the job — who gets to decide. That is one of the upsides of business ownership, and there are plenty of downsides.

    Yes, sometimes mistreatment is illegal. But not getting paid when you were told you wouldn’t be paid isn’t illegal. Neither is it immoral.

    When I was a kid I performed regularly in community theater. I rehearsed for hours and hours and hours and missed almost everything else teenage life had to offer. And I was never paid a dime. I loved it and my life would have been incredibly diminished without those opportunities, experiences, exposure, practice, and friendships. If the upside of the work ever outweighed the downside, I would have quit and, in fact, I’ve only done a couple of volunteer shows as an adult for that very reason. But the idea of suing the theater owners because they didn’t pay me or because I had to deal with, say, rude audience members or a drafty, dingy dressing room (par for the course) is preposterous.

    This month one of my daughter’s is performing at a local professional theater. She does get paid for this work, but if you break down the rehearsals, performances, call time, makeup/hair/costume, notes, etc., the hourly wage isn’t fabulous and — perhaps more to the point — it’s not a “living wage.” For some strange reason, there are still hundreds of people who audition for every show. Are they stupid? Or did the performers decide (using actual brains) that they overall opportunity was one they wanted to participate in?

    It’s worth noting that “if someone is willing to accept a job and work illegal hours” they are complicit in the illegality. It’s at least ironic that they want to claim abuse for a conscious choice.

    Women don’t need to be respected, or paid, for their work or their contribution. I disagree.

    First, no one needs to be paid to volunteer. Both men and women do all sorts of volunteer work in all sorts of venues. Sometimes it’s charitable, sometimes religious, sometimes performing, sometimes medical aid, etc. etc. Are bishops “abused” because they don’t get paid? Time to sue the church! Second, respect is earned. It’s neither a right nor a given. If a woman wants to be esteemed, she does things that others hold in high regard.

    These women, in fact, did do something that some people think is awesome. They jiggled their physical assets in public without much on. They got attention for the thing they auditioned to get attention for. No, it’s doesn’t mean they can be forced to continue, but it does mean that if they want that position from those people, there are some requirements in place. If they don’t want to do what is required and the bosses aren’t willing to change the requirements, they need to look elsewhere.

    It’s like a Hooters waitress getting all bent out of shape because some patron looked at her chest. Women will never get respect until they start acting like thinking adults.
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  • Ma Hui Ling January 8, 2015, 5:15 am

    A totally flippant response to the cheerleaders’ demands for better treatment disturbs me for the same reason it disturbs me that, according to that one piece of data referenced in the recently-viral pro-modest swimsuit lecture I can’t be affed to track down right now, when heterosexual men view women in a state of undress, they are naturally, biologically, inevitably geared to objectify them. Underlying both the dismissal of cheerleaders and the idea that women must be covered for the right to command respect is the implication that when women are, especially by choice, not fully clothed according to the dictates of their culture, they must accept that they will, at least temporarily, be reduced to actual tools for gratification.

    Now, I am personally affronted that there are women who are willing to contribute to the commodification of their own and my gender for whatever reason, but I find the notion of women being inherently degraded on the primary basis of their attire even more problematic than the naïveté of a group of young women who are [I think, correctly] insisting that being a volunteer, even a volunteer for a degrading position, should not leave them open to every strain of indignity. Now, I can acknowledge a subtle difference between dancing in your scanties for some old geezer called Little Caesar and engaging in physical intimacy within the sacred, eternal bonds of temple marriage. But you know what? I don’t care how binding your marital union is; if a man, upon seeing his exposed wife, sees her as a masturbatory tool, then the difference between marital love and self-centered lust becomes negligible. And that’s why the Jills’ petition matters to me.

    Being undressed as a woman with a body (as opposed to those incubi you hear so much about among the kids these days) does NOT negate your humanity. Period. When we hear that straight men supposedly invariably discount women’s souls when they appear naked, why is our seeming only thought to tell our young women that they should put on the dowdy (but not TOO dowdy, because a lasting, loving union based on mutual respect and a shared vision for the future cannot flourish without that magic spark of carnality that doesn’t really count as lust because the menfolk just can’t help themselves, amirite, guys?) armor of God? Why are we not hearing this dismal report on the apparent state of the collective male psyche and immediately shaking it into our young men (and old men while we’ve got the Yahtzee cups) that it is NEVER okay to dehumanize ANYONE for ANY reason? Do NOT objectify your naked wife, even in a sexual setting. Do NOT objectify cheerleaders. Do NOT put it out of your mind that everyone, clothed or unclothed or a literal skeleton, is a child of God, and not a means to your own gratification. This and closely-related attitudes are at the heart of justifications for the countless abuses women have experienced since mankind developed a taste for apples. Dismissing the Jills only perpetuates the attitude that women wearing less must necessarily forfeit some of their humanity. As I’ve mentioned, this should not be the case even when a woman undresses for the explicit purpose of evoking sexual arousal. A volunteer cheerleader is not a volunteer prostitute or an actual slave any more than a volunteer at a soup kitchen is obliged to sweat out the chowder’s sodium content. Every position has reasonable, predictable parameters that should exist within the bounds of general courtesy. (And you can bet that the NFL is ignoring certain principles of consideration simply because the cheerleaders are not male. You just know that they are being treated badly because they’re women, whether we have a comparable control group to prove it, or not. This is the freaking NFL we’re talking about.)

    Maybe a lawsuit is the wrong way to go about this. I don’t know. I care less about the proportionality of their response. What I do care about is the message that women deserve respect as volunteers, as exotic dancers (who I realize would not have an audience in a world free of misogyny, but work with me here), as porn stars, whatever. A person’s choice of attire/sexual activity/what-have-you does not give anyone carte-blanche to treat them in whatever way they please. Yeah, these women could just leave. But they’ve chosen, instead, to issue a wake-up call to their superiors about treating people decently. And I’m not going to ridicule them for that.

  • Kelli Self January 8, 2015, 5:07 pm

    Awesome post, Ma Hui Ling. Thanks a lot. =)

  • Alison Moore Smith January 8, 2015, 8:06 pm

    Underlying both the dismissal of cheerleaders and the idea that women must be covered for the right to command respect is the implication that when women are, especially by choice, not fully clothed according to the dictates of their culture, they must accept that they will, at least temporarily, be reduced to actual tools for gratification.

    Ma Hui Ling, that’s all well and good, but the problem is, this post isn’t about modesty. At all.

    First, it’s about adult women who have chosen to accept a position with known benefits, duties, and perks and then acting like they are being abused under the very conditions they choose to accept (and, in fact, competed for).

    Second, it’s about adult women who have chosen to accept a position that is explicitly and obviously objectifying—and, in fact, has no other actual purpose than to titillate throngs of drunk men—and then acting like being objectified is grating to their moral fiber.

    The same women who are suing because they aren’t getting paid enough (per the contracts they signed, hello) to jiggle about in front of people partially clothed are horrendously offended that they are getting paid jiggle about in front of people in the same outfits.

    What’s a womanizer to do?

    I don’t care how binding your marital union is; if a man, upon seeing his exposed wife, sees her as a masturbatory tool, then the difference between marital love and self-centered lust becomes negligible. And that’s why the Jills’ petition matters to me.

    Because they thought the show they put on in the stadium is for the sake of art?

    Being undressed as a woman with a body (as opposed to those incubi you hear so much about among the kids these days) does NOT negate your humanity. Period.

    No, but no one’s talking about their “humanity.” We’re talking about a mostly volunteer offer with nationally televised results that they auditioned for without duress. On one hand we’re supposed to believe these women are of sound mind and making a logical decision and on the other we are supposed to believe they are dumb as stumps. I don’t call that feminism or helpful to women in any way.

    If we are to be treated as equals we have to grow up and take responsibility for our choices and actions. For example, if we don’t like the conditions of a job, we don’t accept it. I need to figure out the female version of “man up” and “grow a pair.” This infantilization of women doesn’t cut it.

    When we hear that straight men supposedly invariably discount women’s souls when they appear naked, why is our seeming only thought to tell our young women that they should put on the dowdy (but not TOO dowdy, because a lasting, loving union based on mutual respect and a shared vision for the future cannot flourish without that magic spark of carnality that doesn’t really count as lust because the menfolk just can’t help themselves, amirite, guys?) armor of God? Why are we not hearing this dismal report on the apparent state of the collective male psyche and immediately shaking it into our young men (and old men while we’ve got the Yahtzee cups) that it is NEVER okay to dehumanize ANYONE for ANY reason?

    Maybe you haven’t been around here very long. I harp on it incessantly. I don’t think we (as a church) do a good job of teaching modesty and the older I get the more off the mark I think we are. That said, if actual science shows particular things about how men respond to dress, whether we like the results or not, don’t you think our daughters at least deserve the truth of the matter? Don’t you think that truth can help them, all the while we are trying to change the status quo?

    Dismissing the Jills only perpetuates the attitude that women wearing less must necessarily forfeit some of their humanity.

    Only if you misread the post.

    What I do care about is the message that women deserve respect as volunteers, as exotic dancers (who I realize would not have an audience in a world free of misogyny, but work with me here), as porn stars, whatever.

    No, they don’t. No one deserves respect outside of the context of their choices and behavior. (If not, why don’t you deeply admire the NFL folks who direct the cheerleaders? Don’t they “deserve” it?) And seriously, yes there is sexism and misogyny, but this isn’t it. These are free women in a largely civilized society making choices to use their bodies as objects and enticements. CHOICE. I don’t respect that and I’ve no moral imperative to do so.

    But they’ve chosen, instead, to issue a wake-up call to their superiors about treating people decently. And I’m not going to ridicule them for that.


    And the “wake-up call” is, “We’re too stupid to know what pro cheerleaders do and we’re also to lame-brained to read our contracts—and someone else
    should pay us for that!” Yes, that’s just about as mock-worthy as it gets.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Open About LDS Temple GarmentsMy Profile

  • Maggie January 9, 2015, 8:23 am

    I was rather angrily reading along and completely agreeing with Ma Hui Ling until I realized I really had misread. I’ve been thinking all night about this issue and think you have a new convert in me.

    Often “feminism” means “defending what women do.” But you are right, that is not equality. We need to stop being reactionary and start THINKING if we want to be thought of as intelligent humans. That is the real “humanizer.” Demanding respect when we are behaving in a disrespectful way just makes us seem more like children who need special accommodations.

    Good post. Thanks for pulling my head out (at least part way).

  • Alison Moore Smith January 12, 2015, 9:33 am

    Maggie, spot on! Thank you!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Happy New Year to You and Happy 12th Anniversary to Mormon MommaMy Profile

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