Feminism in the Workplace: Misogyny, Football and Fundraising

women and footballGuest Post by Nonprofit Maven

I love my job. I work with women and men who are passionate about raising money to help find a cure for the disease that debilitates our patients we see on a day-to-day basis.

It’s challenging work…in the era of the viral Ice Bucket Challenges and walks and runs to raise money for x, y, and z, how does one find innovative and effective ways to raise money to fund disease research in an ethical and meaningful way?

In the past couple years, my nonprofit has been trying a new event where we use a football stadium and people get their friends and sign up as teams. For one day, you get the opportunity to play on real football field with your friends. It’s a great idea and a fun time. Even with this great model, it can sometimes be difficult to hit our fundraising goals.

If we don’t hit our fundraising goals, we don’t have the money to pay future researchers for their work to find new medications and eventually cure this disease.

My boss recently came to us with a dilemma. Other nonprofits have found it effective to have a game for people to come watch. Ideally, one would get some celebrities to play against each other, but our disease isn’t super sexy and doesn’t attract the big names.

Another idea that has garnered support among the board members? Have two bars known for their scantily-clad female servers play against each other…in their work attire.

We all shuddered when my boss told us. My office is entirely staffed by women, and I think we all self-identify as feminists.

But, we’re also career women who want to keep (and succeed) at our jobs. If we don’t raise the goals we set, we’re in trouble. This is a doable fix and is one that will likely help us reach our goals.

But, at what cost?

We’re still debating at our office, and while I’d love to make the big, bold statement that we won’t do this, no one will know that we gave this sexist practice up. They’ll just see that we didn’t do everything we could to hit our goals.

What would you do?

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7 Responses

  1. Emily U says:

    Gah, I am sorry the board put that option forward and that you have to deal with this question now. It seems to me that solidarity among the staff is really important here. If the board hears that it was unanimously rejected then they won’t be able to blame and fire ALL of you if the fundraising goals aren’t met (that is, if they attributed unmet goals to the absence of this particular fundraising event, which would be hard to prove, IMO). Another argument could be that this is a disease that affects children and whole families, and it’s important to have events that families can attend. You don’t want to risk offending other potential donors who want to be able to take their kids to events for an organization they care about.

  2. Caroline says:

    Oh, that’s hard. I think for me the scanitly clad women players would be a last resort. I know the end (raising money for a good cause) is a good one, but the means is so problematic. I hate the idea of deliberately objectifying women like this.

    But it’s easy for me to say that, because it’s not my job on the line. Perhaps a compromise position would be to do something like this this year, but then you and the other women in your office put your heads together and come up with something spectacular for next year that would raise money. Maybe look into ways feminist non-profits have creatively raised money?

  3. Reminds me of “A League of Their Own”. You want to change the world but you still live in the world. You’re making a difference, but that still requires money and press attention.

    I don’t think the option is to “give em a little leg”, but I don’t know what is.

  4. Em says:

    My mental image is of hairy men with hairy thighs playing in speedos while paunches (and other bits) jiggle. If barely there clothing would be inappropriate and borderline obscene for one gender, it isn’t okay for the other.

    I agree with the point that this disease probably affects families, children, mothers, grandmothers. Is it really best to associate in everyone’s mind your cause with something so cheap and degrading? Not all events are appropriate for all audiences – gala dinners are inappropriate for children, the elderly and frail cannot compete in races. But all events should be something that would be in no way embarrassing. If a picture of you at a charity event came up online, it should not be the sort of thing that might compromise your career or family life. Maybe you can pitch it that way? Not just that it is degrading to women, but that it might alienate or cause problems for donors, and associate your cause with something that ultimately could be problematic. The race for the cure. The boobfest jigglethon in the mud for MS. It doesn’t have the same ring.

  5. Jenny says:

    That is a really tough call to make. You said that no one will know that you dropped this sexist practice, but the board members will know right? It seems like they could benefit from seeing you drop it, if you can find a better way to raise the money. Good luck. I’m interested to hear what your team decides to do.

  6. MB says:

    Nope. I couldn’t do it. I flat out could not support a voyeuristic spectacle as a source of funding for a good cause. Let the chips fall where they may. I’d take failing to meet funding objectives and no one ever knowing that we’d “made a statement” over that, hands down.

    Whether or not the scantily clad participants willingly engage in the sport they are, in my opinion, not only being exploited but also participating in another activity that facilitates others objectifying them. And my religious convictions put me absolutely against exploitation and objectification.

    “But if they want to participate in the game it’s okay” is a justification that will be thrown at you. That doesn’t cut it for me. I’ve heard that “but if they want to” used to justify all kinds of things that exploit women and children as well as men.

    EM is on the right track. Noble causes require noble actions in order to maintain integrity. Encouraging voyeurism and exploitation and objectification is not noble.

  7. Anne says:

    Hire the girls. Have them play in normal football gear. Advertise using just their faces, height/weight stats, football position, and place of employment. But omit that they will be playing in normal football dress. Uniforms could be feminine but not seductive. Announce each player entering the field and include things like, “mother of three,” “nursing school student,” “volunteers at food bank.” The men in attendance will feel duped but the women will feel empowered. Your company will receive positive press.

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