The NFL cheerleader

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“How would you like it if there were beautiful women whose only job was to keep you entertained? Women who kept their bodies toned to your exact specifications; spent thousands of dollars on their hair, makeup and clothing so they always looked their best for you; and had invested in years of training to do complicated acrobatics designed to bring you joy. Now add to this fantasy that these women brought you hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits and you give them almost nothing in return. Sound like a fairy tale? It should be.”

– time.com 

NFL season is back and the next several months will be consumed with Facebook posts, commercials, billboards, merchandise, and all things football.  I am not a big football fan by any means but my spouse genuinely enjoys following a specific team and I like to watch with him.

This past weekend, we were invited to join some friends for the home opening game.  I had several observations throughout the day, but what struck me the most was watching the cheerleaders.  I have never sat and really focused on them much.  I couldn’t believe how little their uniforms were, how small their physique was, and how tanned and airbrushed they all looked.  I don’t live in a hole, I know that cheerleaders exist and that they look a certain way; but it struck me how overly sexualized these women were.  While the discussion misogyny in the NFL is a whole different animal, watching the girls this weekend got me wondering, how much does an NFL cheerleader make?  What is the history behind cheerleading and the NFL?  Do cheerleaders really add anything to the sport and why are they necessary?

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I got home and starting to do some digging… my findings were disappointing to say the least:

A brief history

In 1954 the Baltimore Colts were the first NFL team to showcase cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Today

26 out of 32 NFL teams have a cheerleading squad

Wages and Pay

  • Cheerleading is an extremely physically demanding sport that requires many years of training and hours and hours of practice
  • Most cheerleaders make approximately $50-$150 per game
    • Some game days can be 12 hours long, leaving cheerleaders making less than minimum wage ($4.50-$12.50 per hour)
  • Cheerleaders are not compensated for practice time
  • Many Cheerleaders are not compensated for uniforms, make up, hair, and beauty treatment requirements
  • In a recent lawsuit many strict rules that the cheerleaders were held to were exposed.  These rules encompassed everything from; skin tone/tanning standards, beauty products that were acceptable to use, diets (ex. the amount of bread you can consume at an event), hair color, and what feminine products to use during menstruation
  • It is a cheerleading industry standard that women can be benched or fined for weight gain
    • A recent lawsuit agains the Buffalo Jills sited that the cheerleaders needed to undergo a weekly “jiggle test” to discern who would perform at upcoming games
  • During promotional events several Buffalo Jill’s reported that they were sexually harassed.  They claimed that they walked around in bikinis at a casino event and were auctioned off to ride in golf carts on men’s laps

What value do they add?

“Eric Smallwood, senior vice president at Front Row Marketing, has estimated that the TV appearances of cheerleaders on game days alone are worth about $8.25 million to the NFL, or $317,000 per year for each team in the league. Cheerleaders also provide value by promoting ticket sales and promoting the NFL brand.” – time.com

What’s being done about it?

“The issue is gaining traction. In just the last two years, professional cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals have filed wage theft lawsuits against their respective teams, alleging labor violations including misclassification, meaning that some cheerleaders were treated as independent contractors, not as employees, and therefore didn’t receive the wages or benefits they deserved. (So far, the Raiders and Buccaneers have settled lawsuits by agreeing to pay more than $2 million in back wages.)”- newyorktimes.com

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***Read the full articles here*** 

Time.com: http://time.com/3752957/nfl-football-cheerleaders-minimum-wage/

NewYorkTimes.com: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/12/opinion/cheerleaders-until-they-see-their-nfl-paychecks.html?_r=0

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Photo Journey: Toys

In celebration of my few weeks as a stay at home Mom… I am focusing my posts this week on the gender-ization of toys.rachel_giordano_hed_2014

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I took a journey through the toy aisles with my son the other day.  I didn’t take pictures during our trip but wanted to share some of my observations in a visual format.

I put together some pics of toys from 20 or so years ago and then today.  The gender-ization of toys is apparent when looking through these pics:

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Lego treehouse for boys and Lego treehouse for girls

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Strawberry Shortcake

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Candy Land

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Rainbow Bright

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My Little Pony

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Blocks

As I walk through toy aisles…

I have a few weeks off from work and I am loving spending my days with my son.  We plan little adventures every day but also make sure to take time, slow down and spend one on one time doing art and reading books.

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Today we took a trip to … Toys R’ Us…and oh my…SENSORY OVERLOAD.  We don’t frequent toy stores and I try to keep the stuff in our house to a minimum.  I have always believed in owning fewer quality toys as opposed to loads and loads of inexpensive toys.  Thankfully, we have also been blessed with hand me downs and haven’t had the need to do much shopping.

With that being said I was totally overwhelmed with trying to shop in Toys R’ Us with C.  Holy cow, there is so much junk!  We walked through the store and it was hard to navigate the isles.  I was also shocked by the amount of plastic.  Everything was plastic, it was difficult to find any wooden toys.

Of course, I couldn’t resit taking a stroll down the gender aisles.  Everything was as expected, overly feminine dolls, babies, and dress up clothes and hyper masculine action figures, cars, and sports for boys.  I was interested to see that the majority of the toddler and infant toys were fairly gender neutral; kitchens, learning toys, stackers, blocks, etc… there wasn’t a lot of pink and blue designated toys.  It was the older kids toys that really started the separation.  I made a point to walk C down both the boy and girl isles.  Honestly I think he was so overwhelmed by everything around him that he couldn’t take it all in.

We won’t be taking a trip back anytime soon.  I only wish I had thought to take photos!

Visbility Matters: Gender Observations at a Recent Conference

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I have worked in my industry for almost 10 years now.  I am passionate about my profession and am proud of what I have achieved in my career.  I have experienced the “glass ceiling” a few times with different companies.  When that happened I simply moved to a different company, or location, and the problem solved itself.  Currently, I enjoy the corporation I work for, and ultimately believe in their vision and values.

From time to time, a few of my colleagues and I have talked about feeling like our workplace can be a “Boy’s Club”.  I have always thought that was something I felt solely based on the location I work at and that my concerns were not a company wide problem. Additionally, I have recently heard more and more about our company’s initiatives to better diversify and have more female leaders in key positions. This excites me!  The thought that my career could be fast-tracked to help diversify our North America leaders is promising and something I am very excited about.

Recently, I spent a week at a National convention for my corporation.  There were approximately 800 attendees in key positions from all over North America.  While the overall message of the conference was a good one, I felt baffled and frustrated throughout the week.  I have noted my observations below:

  • Presenters:
    • Total # of key speakers: 12
      • Total # of women on that list: 2
    • Total # of talks I listened to: 32
      • Total # of times a woman spoke: 7

Within the first few hours of the conference I was disappointed by the lack of representation of women on the stage.  How is that we could have a captive audience of 800 people and only 7 women presenting?

Throughout the week I thought a lot about the term “visibility”.  While I think it is great that companies have programs to support women, visibility matters.  If you want your company to be diverse, and for women to feel there is equal opportunity,  make space for them.  Make sure that you have women presenting and speaking at meetings.  It is that simple, if you want to be more diverse, then be more diverse.  Make a conscious effort to have equality in presenters and information.  Appeal to both the women and the men.  Strive for balance beyond one or two token women.

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Gender observations in travel 

I had a long layover yesterday in Dallas and thought I’d go for a walk/gender scavenger hunt in the airport. It was fun to walk around and look at different representations in airport gift shops.

Hope you enjoy my photo journey….

Kids t-shirt Unfortunately they didn’t stock the “Big Book of Girl Stuff” 

Where are the female action figures? Why is Kobe Bryant a super hero?

A Texas style boot shop. Not a single piece of pink or purple leather. Impressed!

I could have taken all day analyzing magazines but here are a choice few September issue covers:

Gender Roles in our Library

I LOVE LOVE LOVE children’s books.  Some of my favorite memories growing up include listening to stories before I went to bed, and reading books aloud to my Mom and Sister on road trips.  When I was pregnant I could barely wait to start a library of our own and pass on my love of stories and children’s books to my son.

I began reading to C from the day he was born.  We would sit in front of the fire, in his room, or on the couch looking at pictures and starting to formulate words and stories.  Now we have days where it seems that he would be perfectly content to spend the entire day on my lap reading his books.

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Recently I started to notice how many representations there are of mothers and their children in his books.  As we read stories together I have become more and more aware of just how many books are about Moms and how frequently a 2nd parent is left out.

This got me thinking… so… tonight we pulled down all of his books.  I wanted to look and see the percentage of mother figures that there are in his books as compared to father figures, or entire family units.

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  • Total # of children’s books we own: 77
  • Total # of books that include a parent or family unit: 31
    • Total # that  represent only the Mother/Child relationship: 22 (71%)
    • Total # that represent another parent or the entire family: 9 (29%)

While it wasn’t surprising to me that 71% of our stories, with some form of parental representation, are about the mother, I find myself wanting more diversity in our library.

I think that the maternal relationship is an amazing thing to celebrate and can attest to the beautiful bond that exists between a mother and her child.  However I have also been so touched by the interactions that I observe between my spouse and our son.  Seeing the relationship that they have is beautiful and I wish that we had more books that equally celebrated the strength and power of that bond.

When I think about gender equality, it is important to look at all representations of gender on both a macro and micro scale.  Something as simple as the stories we read to our children can make an impact on the roles that they will one day feel the need to fulfill.  I hope that we can diversify the books we share with our kids and find ways to show them, in the everyday stories we tell, many different representations of parental relationships and families.  Stories in which fathers can be nurturers and deep and meaningful bonds can exist between both parents and their children.

Moving forward, I plan to be more discerning about the books I buy and authors I support.  I am also eager to have an excuse this weekend head to the bookstore to see what I can find to diversify our reading material.

Rule the World

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I was out and about tonight and saw this sign.  It’s a bit hard to read but it said “Those who tell stories rule the world”.  I could not think of a more perfect way to end such a beautiful week.  I have been so touched and inspired by the reactions and support of my blog this week.  I am also excited for what’s to come.  I honestly feel that one of the best ways to drive political and social change is by telling stories and sharing life experiences.  I am excited and hopeful for all that’s to come with mamathefeminist and can’t wait to share stories from the amazing women in my life.