I won’t waste time detailing what the Bikini Basketball Association is, since you’ve probably already seen posts announcing its impending debut on any number of click-hungry websites. All you need to know is that (1) the Bikini Basketball Association (the official website of which is set to launch in 22 days) is the latest in a line of leagues that combine scantily clad women and competitive sports; (2) South Florida’s team, the Miami Spice, will be holding tryouts later this week; and (3) the whole concept of lingerie sports should give most people serious pause.
Obviously it’s upsetting to anyone who has realized that women are people. Obviously it’s sexploitation. What else would you call nearly naked women (many of whom are aspiring models) bouncing around a court for the enjoyment of a mostly male audience (many of whom are waiting for a nip-slip)? It objectifies women and reinforces the notion that the way a woman’s body looks is more important than anything else about her.
But before you roll your eyes or start a petition, consider this: I exchanged emails with a Spice hopeful who said that she wants to join the team because she truly enjoys playing sports. “I have always been athletic my entire life,” she said. “This is not a model-career pursuit for me personally – I would love to get into sports commentating and get paid to watch and talk [about] sports daily.”
That’s not lip service. There are plenty of women across the country who grew up loving sports. They know all the players on all the teams. They watch sports on TV and dream of one day playing. Some of them want to play so badly, they’re willing to do it in dangerously little clothing.
Turns out, the saddest part about Bikini Basketball is that women’s sports are so absent from society that they have to be turned into a degrading gimmick to garner any kind of real attention. (It should be noted that as with any gimmick, Bikini Basketball will become boring fast unless it is sustained by real – gasp! – athletic talent.) If anything, the existence of Bikini Basketball affirms that someone realized that there are great female athletes out there — even if that same someone promptly devised a way to exploit them. Also, if you don’t believe that women who look hot in next-to-nothing can be good at sports, watch an LFL video on YouTube. That shit is intense.
Insidious tidbit: A Miami Spice rep affirmed that the Spice’s tryouts will have a “station” dedicated to breast cancer awareness, and that people will be encouraged to donate to the Susan G. Komen foundation. The rep failed to elaborate on why this particular cause was chosen (it should also be noted that the pink-ribbon organization has been steeped in controversy since it surrendered to pressure from anti-abortion groups earlier this year), but what’s clear is that it feels like an awkward placation. It’s a good issue to support, but sending a few bucks to a big anti-cancer organization doesn’t undo the potential societal rift caused by affirming to both men and women that this kind of objectification is OK. The only thing that even comes close to mitigating that is the idea that women with talent and passion might get a chance to play.
In the end, condemning Bikini Basketball is easy. Yes, it’s degrading and infuriating. And it’s no secret that some of these ladies would rather play with clothes on. But look at the bigger picture: Bikini Basketball is a sleazy side-effect of women’s sports being virtually invisible in our society. (If, by chance, this turns out to be the first incarnation of women’s basketball with any kind of popularity, society has bigger problems than any of us ever imagined.) And if you’re really mad about Bikini Basketball, go buy season tickets to your local WNBA team … yes, the WNBA still exists.