Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Buffalo Bills Cheerleader Handbook is a Horrifying 1950's Flashback

Some of you may have heard about cheerleaders suing football teams because they get paid shit and a good portion of their labor is unpaid. In a sport that is pretty much an idol to toxic, violent hyper-masculinity and rigid gender roles, this is not entirely surprising (though that doesn't make it any less outrageous).


This is just a section of the Buffalo Bills cheerleader ("Jills") handbook of ridiculously gross behavior and appearance requirements that seriously sounds like they came fresh from the 1950's. I got a tip from a friend of mine, but I will not be linking to the article he sent me as the headline is unfortunately ableist.

Some of these requirements are perfectly reasonable for any form of employment. "Wash hands often to prevent spread of viruses." Always a good idea. You don't want to get your coworkers sick, right? And allowing only one piercing per ear is pretty standard. Beyond that, it starts to get weird.

The amount of attention that these women have to put into their appearance is staggering. It's downright creepy how controlling it gets.

These cosmetic products must be worn while auditioning or while in Jills uniform: Foundation, blush, 3 natural eye shadow colors (lid cover, highlighter, definer), eyeliner, mascara and lipstick.

Holy crap, that's specific. And you know they don't get paid for all the time it takes to put on all of that makeup and have it look super nice.

Then there's this:

Do not over tan!!! Too much tan or redness is unattractive. (and unhealthy)

I love how "and unhealthy" is stuck in as an afterthought. It's really not about the health of the employee, only about how they look, being sex objects on display for the pleasure of the straight male fans. But what's worse is just how racist this is. It completely fails to acknowledge that some cheerleaders might not actually be white while also promoting the idea that being "too dark" is unattractive. Ew.

Then there's the audition attire requirements. Swimsuit with heels? Wow.

Ready for it to get creepier? Come along with me.

"General hygiene & lady body maintenance"

2. Remove make-up every night before going to bed! 
A. Make-up left on pillow cases causes break outs. Even if you washed one night and not another, you've left bacteria on your pillow case for a clean face.
B. Make-up left in the creases of your skin creates early wrinkles.
C. Make-up left in your eye area can cause infection and affect your vision.
3. Don't use lufa's or sponges. They hold TONS of germs! Throw them away now!

This doesn't seem like something that was meant to protect coworkers from catching illness and missing work. But it gets even worse.

11. Intimate area's: Never use a deodorant or chemically enhanced product. Simple, non-deodorant soap will help maintain the right PH balance.
12. When menstruating, use a product that right for your menstrual flow. A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus. A product left in too long can cause bacteria or fungus build up. Products can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night.

Literally telling their employees what to do with their vaginas. Not to mention the rank cissexism, not that I think the writers of this handbook have even heard the word "cissexism." But, I mean, wow. What exactly is the point of telling an employee what kind of tampon they should use? Why are they so concerned about the pH balance and fungus content of their employees' vaginas? Unless they think that the condition of said vaginas has something to do with the job.

What in the name of bell hooks are they doing to these poor underpaid cheerleaders?


"Appearance Etiquette"

I had always thought that cheerleader responsibilities were limited to, you know, cheering. But it appears that they have to do some kind of meet-and-greet or something that involves meeting and talking to people, like they're ambassadors for the team. Well, I would say "ambassadors," but based on these guidelines, they don't seem to be very respected.

 14. Do not be overly opinionated about anything. Do not complain about anything- ever hang out with a whiner? It's exhausting and boring.
26. Do not consume conversations & watch body language. Be aware of female companions and children. Always turn the conversation back to the other person. Never flirt!
Always avoid:
-Sexual references
-Talking "about last night"
-Don't try talk about your personal life: job, boyfriends, what you're doing later, etc…
-Inappropriate jokes
-Strong opinions
-Saying "I" or "me" too often.

First of all, except for the "Never flirt!", this sounds like shitty, sexist advice for going on a date. Second, the 50's called, they want their creepy handbook back.

Always avoid strong opinions? Do not complain about anything? Do not "consume" conversations? You know that's code for "don't talk to much." "Always turn the conversation back to the other person."

What the hell is this? What are they having these poor cheerleaders do? With how controlling their employers seem to be, it practically sounds like they're in a cult. Until recently, I assumed cheerleaders were well paid, like models. I don't know how they put up with this.

But what's worse is just how stark the sexism is here. If you weren't convinced that football reinforces traditional, harmful gender roles before, I certainly hope you are now.


1 comment:

saber86 said...


Professional sports teams (PSTs)have misnamed their dance teams for decades. Today's PSTs' "cheerleaders" are not cheerleaders, they're dancers whose sole purpose is to be eye candy for male fans (and, most likely, potential investors or financial supporters). These women are trying to earn a living and perhaps are using this gig as a step up in a chosen career or educational path. It warms my fuzzy little heart to learn they're demanding what they're owed: a living wage and being treated as human beings.

Cheerleaders are skilled acrobats who combine dance routines with various tumbling and gymnastic movements, performed with as precise as possible synchronization.

Regardless, professional sports-team dancers should be paid a lot more than they're getting now, and be treated as professionals.

(Never been a cheerleader, just wanted to make a distinction because the functions of dance teams and cheerleader squads aren't the same.)