UFV athlete, coach, and sociologist tackle Abbotsford’s Lingerie Football League

Tessa Klassen wishes more people would appreciate women's sports as exciting to watch, without it having to include playing in lingerie. Photo by Jean Konda-Witte

 

 

From Abbotsford Times, Feb 15, 2012, by Rochelle Baker

For the most part, University of the Fraser Valley athlete Tessa Klassen is puzzled by the very concept of the Lingerie Football League, which is going to be based in Abbotsford this fall.

Klassen, captain of the UFV Cascades women’s basketball team and last year’s MVP, has been playing competitive sports since Grade 7.

“I’m all for female athletes but I don’t really understand the concept, or why they should have to be in lingerie,” said Klassen.

“It just seems odd or sexist for females to dress down for the part. You don’t see male athletes dress down to play their sports.”

The Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre will be the new home to the LFL’s second franchise team in Canada.

The still unnamed team will play in the LFL’s Western Division, which kicks off a 12-week regular season Aug. 25.

The league’s teams play seven-on-seven tackle football, but the decidedly attractive female players are garbed in bras, panties and garter belts, with only shoulder and kneepads and hockey-style helmets as safety gear.

Deemed amateur athletes by the league, the female players do not get salaries to play the game.

LFL founder and chairman, Mitchell Mortaza, said the league’s skimpy costumes aren’t any worse than those donned by volleyball players or swimmers.

The women who play for the league are former college-level athletes that have few other alternatives if they want to continue to compete at a high level in women’s sport, Mortaza said.

Fans may first be attracted to the sport because of the costumes but they remain loyal due to the intensity of the game and level of skill demonstrated by the players.

“These are competitive college-level athletes looking to tap back into a national stage,” Mortaza told the Times last week.

“They have the opportunity to play in major arenas and be sports heroes.”

Klassen questions what kind of sport heroes the LFL players would be, particularly to young female athletes.

“Being on a [university] basketball team, we are looked up to by younger girls and you are kind of a role model,” she said.

“It leads to some negativity for girls to aspire to play football in so little clothing. It kind of gives them the wrong idea.”

UFV Cascades women’s basketball coach Al Tuchscherer said the LFL is a form of entertainment that does nothing to support women who participate in legitimate sport.

“There are a lot of women playing at an extremely high level in all sports that this does a disservice to, as they are striving to achieve, in some cases, life-long goals,” said Tuchscherer.

“I think one of the barriers and debates to women’s athletics is getting beyond sexuality and enjoying the sport for the competition, athleticism, and teamwork.”

A father to two daughters and UFV coach to hundreds of young women over the past decade, Tuchscherer would rather have young female athletes emulate women like Theresa Gabriel or Christine Sinclair, members of the national basketball and soccer teams.

“They are considered amongst the best in the world and seem to hold the true spirit of sport when they compete,” he said.

UFV sociology instructor Martha Dow said there are two schools of thought when approaching events such as lingerie football.

One camp suggests endeavours like the LFL further objectify women while the other argues women are taking power and making decisions around their own bodies and sexuality.

“Those two positions are alive and well in this debate,” Dow said.

“But you have to worry about one more message to women that says to be successful, you have to take off your clothes.

“The message to young women is potentially a harmful one.”

It must be disheartening for university-level female athletes engaged in a high level of sport who are working hard to gain respect and no longer be seen as secondary athletic citizens, she said.

Klassen, who has never felt compelled to use her looks to achieve in sport, doesn’t dismiss the notion of a woman’s football league – just the means to popularize it.

“I would probably consider it if players were more fully dressed,” she said.

“But to have to draw fans in that way . . . if people are going to be really interested, they would come regardless of what the players were wearing.”

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8 Responses to UFV athlete, coach, and sociologist tackle Abbotsford’s Lingerie Football League

  1. Chad February 23, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    I absolutely agree with the points in this article. One thing they forgot to mention was the advertising endorsement that comes with this “sport”, which has been rumored to be a strategic plan to advertise the Abbotsford Heat AHL team in Abbotsford. I have my own doubts that the league will find sufficient fan interest for the long term of this initiative, and hopefully will not leave the City of Abbotsford and its taxpayers with a big fat bill.

    Go Cascades GO!

  2. Peter February 23, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    The LFL is to real football what women”s jello wrestling is to real wrestling.

  3. JF February 24, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Great article.

    “LFL founder and chairman, Mitchell Mortaza, said the league’s skimpy costumes aren’t any worse than those donned by volleyball players or swimmers”

    This made me lol. While volleyball/swimming uniforms may show some skin, they do not carry the same sexual undertones as lingerie, which is for wearing under clothes and designed for the sole purpose of looking sexy.

    Like Klassen says in the article, you don”t see men doing this. It”s sad the focus is on their bodies and how attractive they are, instead of talent and athletic ability.

  4. BD February 27, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Is it really necessary to have women parade in lingerie in order to play football? Their skills and talent on their own should suffice to attract a large fan base. Those who come do so for the interest of watching the game, not to watch girls prance around in lingerie which can easily be seen in other arenas. Is it not enough to degrade female sexuality via the magazine, tv, billboard images showcasing so-called attractive women that bombard the media outlets of today and lead many of our females to devalue themselves. We should aim to project a positive female body image in all avenues, if society is ever to going to become progressive in its goal to acheive equality amongst its genders.

  5. Janet February 29, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I do agree that women should not objectify themselves in anyway to be successful. However it should be noted that since LFB is considered an amateur sport and no money is paid to the competitors the women are playing out of their own choice. Let us consider this point further. They are (as claimed by Mitchell Mortaza) all university level athletes. This means they have degrees and are able to work a normal high paying job. This also means that these women choose to compete in this competition for their own personal reason and not because of money or other reasons. I have talked to some LFB players from the USA and they have explained to me that they do not play LFB for a living, they work regular jobs and compete in the game because they enjoy the level of competition and the exercise that they get. Upon questioning the costume, the women who I talked to did not feel a problem with the outfits and honestly do feel that it is no more revealing than swimming and vollyball uniforms. I found this quit intersting and was surprised at their awnsers. I would imagine that you need to be incredibly comfortable with your body or have a certain type of confidence/personality to make such a comment.

    In regards to the comment “Men do not have to do such things”, contrary to popular belief many studies in psychology and sociology have showed that on average men are actually more objectified than women and are actually more effected by such objectification more (This difference is in the fact that we notice women objectification more than male objectification. This is because men objectify women bluntly and women are very subtle in how they objectify men). The problem is that men have been raised or conditioned to not express these problems. This leads to an ever increasing feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. The obsession to go to the gym, to make a lot of money, etc. all things we think we need to do to find a mate or attract women. I do not agree with women or men objectification and feel that it is detrimental to society.

    What truly needs to change in society is the negative connotation that we have toward human bodies and sexuality. Both are natural beautiful things that have been skewed in meaning because of tradition, religion, and a failure in society to correctly teach our children to be comfortable with their bodies and sexuality (Many parents are too uncomfortable to talk to their children about sexuality, note I am not talking about sex but sexuality).

    In conclusion, the LFB players are educated with a degree, work high paid jobs, are physically in shape and healthy, are confident, and comfortable with their sexuality. They are the pinnacle of what women have hoped to achieve since we gained freedom and power. We need to not attach a negative connotation to these women but instead recognize them for their achievements.

  6. Jenea Tallentire April 1, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    Excellent points in this article and comments overall – however I must contradict “Janet”s” assertion that “men are actually more objectified than women and are actually more effected by such objectification more” – this is simply NOT true.

    And the mere fact women choose something does not make it empowered and value-free. They are choosing it because they have been sold that being a sex object is a thing they are supposed to be.

    For a very accessible look at this, go to CBC”s recent documentary _Sext Up Kids_ (http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episode/sext-up-kids.html). We can see how objectification from an early age (infused with sexualized messages from media including pornography) has molded girls into thinking they must dress and act sexy as a primary focus of their existence, up to and including sexting and sexual acts, in order to attract and please boys. Boys, on the other hand, are being positioned as the consumers of pornography (according to the documentary, 70% of school boys are viewing hardcore porn), and are highly influenced to frame their identities through viewing women as sexual objects. This study accurately reflects countless studies on the effects of sexualized images of women on both women and men.

    The LFL simply follows through on this training: young women “choose” to take part because looking good in sexy lingerie for the approval of men is what they have been told all their lives is what they should be, the ultimate female success and “power.” It”s not powerful or free if you are just doing what you are told.

    Hardly the “pinnacle” of what women have achieved. Instead, it”s exactly an example of how much we have NOT achieved, that women must be seen in sexual terms regardless of the context. The message is clear: “you have no worth if you”re not showing T&A for the viewer”s pleasure.”

    The LFL is a soft porn show with a novelty gimmick of football. They can blow whatever smoke they like about it really being about the sport (or elite college athletes, right) – if it was, give them clothes and let them play.

  7. Sandy W Class 2001 June 2, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    While earning my degree at UFV I was also VP External for SUS. We fought for keeping student fees low, equality, and especially a code of ethics for student and faculty relations. Stephanie M and myself brainstormed the first Diso not for fun, but to get the student activity centre built after the govenmnent had pulled the funding . I am still proud of our efforts, but now 10 years later as an alum, I see that LFL is entering the arena of sports that we fought hard to put a roof on for the Cascades sports teams. LFL? Martha Dow is very right when she states there are two schools of thought around this sport . Janet seems to think that because some LFB players in the US don”t feel their costumes are any more daring than elite swimmers and volleyball players and that men are even more objectified and damaged by women subtle ways. Only elite athletes have coaches and sponsors that spend ten of thousands on designing gear that help the athletes play to their top potential.
    I am not sure what rose coloured glasses Janet wears, but in the real world having multiple degrees does not gurantee a career or job without a glass ceiling. I was on the front line fighting for equality and freedom for women and truly if LFL was mentioned it would have been a kick in the teeth for those that fought long and hard to smash the glass and have the freedom to have equal pay. My daughter wants to go to UFV, but if all young women feel like Janet then I will her send her somewhere else where “Sexual Violance on Campus” and the sexual abuse of men being a full circle affect to the abuse of women, is more in focus than LFL and the Powerful Sexuality while adjusting garters in the mirror.

    • Anne Russell June 11, 2012 at 6:43 am #

      Just to clarify, Sandy. The LFL will be playing in the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (where the Abbotsford Heat hockey team plays), which is adjacent to the Abbotsford campus, but not on UFV property. It will not be playing in the UFV Student Activity Centre.

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