Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The Australian Christian Lobby says the Lingerie Football League has no place in Australia.

 ACL’s Wendy Francis said she was disappointed that Brisbane and Sydney venues had agreed to host the event as a sporting match and offer family tickets when it is a blatant attempt to objectify women for visual entertainment.

“An event like this sends a strong message to women and society that sportswomen can’t be taken seriously without stripping to their underwear,” Ms Francis said.

“It demeans women to objects of visual entertainment and is a step backwards in treating women as equals,” she said.

Ms Francis welcomed comments by Federal Sports Minister Senator Kate Lundy about the event when she said it was a ‘cheap and degrading’ and that ‘our daughters deserve more’.

However, Ms Francis said comments by Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi in an exchange with Senator Lundy during Senate Estimates last week were extremely disappointing.

Senator Bernardi said “... people like to go and admire the athletes not only for their sporting performances but, in many instances, for the way they look or their physiques. That is not unusual and it is a very reasonable thing. I found it an unusual thing for you to wade into as sports minister, when many people out there would regard it as entertainment more akin to the WWF—and that is not the World Wildlife Fund.[i]

“Senator Bernardi is kidding himself to think it’s reasonable to watch an event like Lingerie Football League as a sporting performance and it doesn’t matter that these women are wearing lingerie,” she said.

A transcript of Senator Lundy and Senator Cory Bernardi's exchange is found below.

Senator BERNARDI: We had not heard that one before. Finally, I am going to ask you about the Lingerie Football League.

Senator Lundy: I am guessing you are not a fan.

Senator BERNARDI: I have not actually seen it, to be honest.

CHAIR: I have. I was flicking. I was watching a gardening show—

Senator Lundy: That is quite enough from you, Senator Sterle.

Senator BERNARDI: Minister, I read a blog that you had written about it and your objection to it was basically the attire that the women are wearing. Is that right?

Senator Lundy: Fundamentally, yes.

Senator BERNARDI: Yet it has been pointed out to me that it is not that different to a number of other of our elite athletes competing at an international level.

Senator Lundy: I have not seen any other athletes competing in costumes that are supposed to emulate underwear. I have seen them wear zoot suits, I have seen them wear briefs, I have seen them wear sports tops, but I have not seen them wear faux silk lingerie.

Senator BERNARDI: For example, someone said to me that at beach volleyball there is not much difference.

Senator Lundy: You think?

Senator BERNARDI: I do not know. I have not seen it.

Senator Lundy: You should go and have a look.

Senator BERNARDI: What is the difference?

Senator Lundy: There is a great deal of difference between suspenders hanging out the back of underwear and the briefs worn on a beach volleyball court, which for all intents and purposes are at least a sports uniform.

Senator BERNARDI: I am not sure that people play in suspenders.

Senator Lundy: They do in «lingerie» football.

Senator BERNARDI: Do they?

Senator Lundy: Yes, they do. I suggest you go and have a look at it before you wade into this in an uninformed way.

Senator BERNARDI: It is not about wading into it. I am just wondering whether you are being selective for some reason.

Senator Lundy: No. I have thought long and hard about this and I care very much about the body image of young women and the impression it leaves on aspiring young sportswomen in particular. I have made a comment about «lingerie» football because I do not think it is the kind of entertainment that is in any way analogous to that of sport and the sport that women and girls play.

Senator BERNARDI: But specifically it is about the attire they are wearing. As I said, people have referred to your comment and said, ‘What’s the difference between what they’re wearing’. I did not know they wear suspenders. If they do, it is entertainment.

Senator Lundy: But it is being pitched as sport.

Senator BERNARDI: And you have acknowledged yourself that some of these women are excellent athletes.

Senator Lundy: Fantastic athletes.

Senator BERNARDI: I just wonder what distinction you are going to draw in the sense that there are many—

Senator Lundy: Sorry, Senator Bernardi, but it is very clear in my mind that the wearing of «lingerie» is designed to objectify and sexualise the players in a way that is not commensurate with the spirit of sport as we know it in Australia.

Senator BERNARDI: Because it is skimpy?

Senator Lundy: No, not because it is skimpy but because it is underwear as opposed to a sports uniform.

Senator BERNARDI: I do not know whether they play in underwear or it is thematically designed—

Senator Lundy: I suggest you go and have a look because it is pretty obvious when you see it.

Senator BERNARDI: Is that going to be one of your defining characteristics about how you assess whether a sport is suitable for entertainment or not?

Senator Lundy: I have long made comment about the issue of women’s body image and how precious our sports role models are in inspiring the next generation. I have formed the view that «lingerie» football does not fit the definition of the kind of sport we want to be inspiring our daughters with.

Senator BERNARDI: That may indeed be the case and I do not think the government has been asked to fund the sport but—

Senator Lundy: No, we have not. I know you are the type of person to express a view about what people wear.

Senator BERNARDI: Sure.

Senator Lundy: I have in this case expressed a view that I do not think silky underwear is analogous to a sports uniform. If you are suggesting it is, then write a blog post about it.

Senator BERNARDI: I read your blog posts and that is enough.

Senator Lundy: Then what is your view?

Senator BERNARDI: I do not know enough about lingerie football. For example, I find it extraordinary, if we are going to talk about blog posts, that in debates in this chamber you have defended the rights of the Territory to allow prostitution or X-rated videos or something like that, yet you get up in arms about the LingerieFootball League. I think that is unusual. You are entitled to your view, but you are a sports minister.

Senator Lundy: Sport is a precious thing in how we inspire our next generation and I believe that how we present and promote sport is something we should take a great deal of care with. It is why we spend time making sure it is free of performance-enhancing drugs. It is why we take time to make sure it is free of illicit drugs. It is why we take time to ensure that, preferably, our sports role models are on their best behaviour. That is the line I think we all share and the values that we share in sport.

Senator BERNARDI: Yet consistent through many sports, not just women's sports, is the fact that people like to go and admire the athletes not only for their sporting performances but, in many instances, for the way they look or their physiques. That is not unusual and it is a very reasonable thing. I found it an unusual thing for you to wade into as sports minister, when many people out there would regard it as entertainment more akin to the WWF—and that is not the World Wildlife Fund.

Senator Lundy: Senator Bernardi, I refer you to some of the reflections on why young women discontinue playing sport through their teenage years. Body image and self-consciousness often associated with sports gear is a part of that. All of these issues fold in and I think I am entitled to my opinion about this matter.

Senator BERNARDI: Indeed you are, but once again I just ask why you waded into that when there are many people who contact me and say, 'There is not much difference'? I accept the fact that if they are wearing suspender belts, it might be—

Senator Lundy: Different.

Senator BERNARDI: somewhat different. But, in the main, the fact that the garments themselves are rather brief is not altogether inconsistent with some other sports.

Senator Lundy: Senator Bernardi, I think lingerie is different from a sports uniform.

Senator BERNARDI: You cannot tell me these ladies are out there in Victoria’s Secret gear, can you, really?

Senator Lundy: I think you should go and have a look, Senator Bernardi, because, yes, they are.

Senator BERNARDI: I would be delighted to go to a game with Senator Sterle.

CHAIR: All I said is I have seen it.

Senator Lundy: I suggest you go and inform yourself, come back, and we will have another conversation when you are apprised of the facts.

Senator BERNARDI: But even if they are—and I will accept what you tell me—

Senator Lundy: You are going to be so embarrassed tomorrow morning when you go and have a look at this.

Senator BERNARDI: That may be the case. I am not in the habit of watching it.

CHAIR: You have not seen it?

Senator BERNARDI: No, I have not.

CHAIR: Who set you up with the question?

Senator BERNARDI: Someone emailed me today and said, ‘Can you ask Senator Lundy’—

CHAIR: You have been set up.

Senator BERNARDI: Quite possibly.

CHAIR: Senator Fifield should have asked it.

Senator BERNARDI: The question goes to the very nature of it. That is all I am saying. If it is simply that what people are wearing negates whether or not something is a sport that is worthy of participation in this country, I find it an unusual parameter.

Senator Lundy: I urge you to go and form a judgment by looking at it. It is what they wear. It is also the camera angles and the way it is pitched. But go and have a look at it and come back and tell us what you think.

Senator BERNARDI: We know what you think. Maybe I will.

Senator Lundy: I am interested very much now in what you think once you have seen it.

Senator BERNARDI: I will google it, if the parliamentary filter will allow me to see it.

Senator Lundy: I suspect it will not.

Senator BERNARDI: The senator there is not allowing it.

Senator Lundy: Have you tried it, Senator Nash?

CHAIR: Hang on, I am running the show here. Where are we up to?

Senator Lundy: Senator Nash is about to tell us whether or not she can google it.

Senator Nash interjecting —

Senator BERNARDI: Have you seen it, Senator Nash?

Senator NASH: I have not seen it.