History is rife with stunningly bad ideas. Bumpits hair inserts and “Flavor of Love: Charm School”? Not modern society’s highest points. That game kids play in high school where they hold their breath while someone presses on their chest in an attempt to make them pass out? Enough said. Potato chips made with a fat substitute that acts like a laxative? Super bad idea, especially on date night.
Now we can add “Lingerie Football League, Youth Division” to the list.
If you’ve never seen an LFL game, it’s just as embarrassingly cliché as it sounds: Panty-clad women gear up in helmets, shoulder and knee pads to battle on fields in Tampa, Baltimore, Green Bay and Las Vegas. Their ultimate goal (besides, one would assume, not rupturing an implant): making it to the Feb. 5 Lingerie Bowl IX championship game.
The LFL claims its emergence in 2009 “formally shattered … the ceiling on women playing tackle football.” Thankfully, the visionaries at the LFL have devised a way to offer such athletic empowerment to our younger generation with their decision to start a youth league:
“With the growing popularity around the LFL, younger and younger girls are starting to dream of playing LFL football,” its website reads. “In recent months and years, parents of young ladies routinely contact LFL league offices inquiring about everything ranging from what size football do you use to what form of training should I place my daughter into now to prepare her for LFL Football. [sic]”
Before we eviscerate them, I spoke with LFL founder and commissioner Mitchell Mortaza, who made a key clarification: The new youth league will actually be a series of fully clothed football clinics, designed to teach young girls the basics of the sport, like catching, punting and backpedalling. “We would never put 13-year-olds in lingerie and have them play in our league,” Mortaza told me. “It’s utterly ridiculous. These are simply football clinics for the summer of 2012.” The media, he said, has grossly misrepresented their intent.
That said, “When the time comes, if the girls want to play in the LFL, now they’ll have a league where they can play football at a high level. But that’s not what we’re grooming them toward or saying they’re mandated to play in the LFL.”
The LFL has formally invited Michael Jackson’s 13-year-old daughter, Paris, who recently became the first female player on her school’s flag football team, to serve as league spokesperson.
In their defense, the LFL is hardly the first brand to market a sexually exploitative product for young girls. There are padded bras for 8-year-olds, pole-dancing kits for kids and high heels for babies.
Look, I know we can’t shield our little girls with a protective glass box and expect them to never be exposed to the harsh reality that at some point in their lives, probably sooner rather than later, they will viewed as sexual objects. But do we need them to feel it before they know how to multiply double digits? I can appreciate that the LFL youth league will be fully clothed, but just the mere association with the word “lingerie” will instill in the girls that one day, if they want to play with the big boys, they’ll be forced to strip down to do so.
Far too many members of our vulnerable younger generation are already convinced they need to French kiss each other in the school yard or sext naked pics of themselves to boys in order to be popular. Let’s empower them by showing them real female athletes who have the confidence to keep their pants on, both on and off the field.
This column originally appeared on espnW.com