Women working for the NFL as cheerleaders have to obey strict rules. These rules, which also happen to be somewhat sexist, were recently revealed in an incriminating media report.
As everyone knows, cheerleading is an important part of the American football culture. Youth leagues and the NFL all offer this experience.
However, one question has persisted over time: does the cheerleading culture degrade women?
What makes the issue confusing is that many cheerleaders are pretty proud of what they do. However, some of these teams have many controversial demands on the women that form their cheerleading squads.
For instance, New Orleans Saints requires that cheerleaders possess public speaking skills in addition to some dance skills.
Some see the profession in a less positive light, thinking that the women represent issues like sexism and misogyny.
A recent media report revealed that NFL cheerleaders have to pay for their own uniforms. However, some are issued with uniforms, but the maintenance and mending are usually on the girls.
Cheerleaders with the Carolina Panthers are required to arrive five hours before the start of the game.
More alarmingly, it was reported that Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders have to ensure their weight is "within three pounds" of the recommended weight.
Such requirements are apparently quite common since Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are also required to undergo regular weigh-ins. Apparently, violations in this regard, according to a former cheerleader, can result in suspension from the team.
According to Carolina Panthers cheerleaders, water breaks are only allowed when the team is on the offense. Women also have to ensure that any visible tattoos and body piercings are covered up.
Additionally, these cheerleaders cannot remove their cheerleader outfits unless they have left the stadium.
Women cheerleading for Oakland Raiders has to pay fines for showing up with the wrong pompoms. The financial penalties are also imposed if the girls fail to polish their boots or forget part of their uniform on game day.
Baltimore Ravens has some pretty insane rules for its cheerleaders as well. For instance, the women can't pose nude or even semi-nude.
These cheerleaders are also not allowed to take up jobs as exotic dancers or participate in "tasteless films," whatever that means.
Women who work with the San Francisco 49ers cannot let people know they are associated with the team. They are not even allowed to post pictures of themselves in their cheerleading uniforms.
The Jiggle Test
Without exception, cheerleaders are given certain conditions concerning their appearance by their teams. However, different teams have a unique way of enforcing this rule.
For this reason, many of the girls often undergo "physique evaluations," which might consist of the girls jumping as coaches watch to see how their stomachs and butts jiggle.
The jiggle test can determine whether or not the cheerleader is "fit enough" to be in the game that's about to start.
Unfortunately, many of these rules don't just apply when the girls are about to take part in a game. For instance, some franchises prohibit cheerleaders from socializing with the players.
In some cases, they cannot even speak to them, get their autographs, or follow them on social media. Some teams demand that the girls block players who follow them.
The women are apparently denied these privileges as a way to keep them from attracting stalkers.
Teams Are Trying To Change Some Things
Times are changing, and some teams are trying to change their cheerleading traditions. For instance, The Los Angeles Rams recently said they would introduce 2 men to their team of 40 dancers.
In the past, men took on the role of acrobats and baton twirlers, which was a less significant role.
The introduction of the men is supposed to show that gender roles are changing. That said, the changes are happening at a pretty slow pace.
Other changes being introduced include increased pay.
In general, cheerleading rules have remained largely unchanged because demand for these roles remains pretty high. Many girls would kill for a chance to become a cheerleader.
It is estimated that thousands of girls try to be cheerleaders, but the teams can only hire a few of them at a time. That is why cheerleaders have to fight so hard to keep their jobs, and that includes putting up with potentially sexist and misogynistic demands from their employers.
So, even though things are changing, teams don't have a powerful incentive to introduce these changes.