When I was growing up in St. Louis, being a cheerleader was the ‘it’ thing. If you were on the cheer squad, it meant going to games free, being in plain sight of those players you were crushing on and being part of a sisterhood that for some will last a lifetime. You were seen as popular and let’s face it for some chicks being was all that mattered.
The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders took cheering to a whole new level and were hands down more popular than the team they cheered for. They had calendars, commercials, multiple appearances on the hottest television programs of that era and even had a prime time movie starring Jane Seymour called Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders in 1979. The ladies were gorgeous, physically fit and had the best dance moves of any squad in the country.
Holding up to the standards, glory and reputation of that hit squad had become an all too common theme amongst dance/cheerleading crews of NFL and NBA teams. What has also become common is the reality these women are not adequately compensated for their time. In many instances, a variety of teams (not all), grossed a grand total of $1250 a year. Yup…that’s right. Now subtract the tanks of gas, nail and hair appointments coupled with and a gym membership to stay in shape for those skimpy uniforms and you will end up with a figure even less than that!
Directed by Yu Gu and recently screened at the AFI DOCS film festival, A Woman’s Work: The NFL Cheerleader Problem bust this scandal wide open by showcasing the lives of one the first girls to actively sue the NFL and become triumphant in their lawsuits. Did it come with a price? Of course it did. Being the first and being a woman who is questioning the mostly male status quo of the National Football League will always come with a price. Why? The ideology that women should be seen and not heard, wash dishes, clean and cook still permeates in a time where Times Up! and #MeToo permeate headlines on a weekly sometimes daily basis. The NFL believes women should be satisfied with the ‘honor’ to be associated with such a highly successful organization.
In an effort to avoid future lawsuits and controversy, many teams are eliminating squads altogether to squash the controversy. Very similar to what they’ve done with the CTE (Chronic traumatic Encephalopathy) issue amongst its players resulting in brain damage from multiple head injuries over a period of time.
Yu Gu and I spoke about all that and more. Check it out…
A Woman’s Work should literally be called A Woman’s Worth, as that is what is being questioned and challenged by the industry. If you missed this at AFI DOCS, be on the lookout for it soon on PBS. I will keep you in the loop for sure!