Only in America.
Five members of the Buffalo Bills cheerleading squad are filing a lawsuit against the organisation, relating to inappropriate working conditions.
According to the suit, Bills cheerleaders suffered numerous financial violations, strict appearance instructions and embarrassing physical examinations, which one cheerleader, Alyssa U., referred to as the ‘jiggle test.’
“We turned around, had her (cheerleading coach) look at our backside, and then turn forward again and she had us do jumping jacks in front of her to see what parts of our bodies were jiggling. That’s where it got it’s name – the Jiggle Test. We had to stand in front of our coach in our uniform in rows of five as she stood before us with a clipboard and had us face forward as she reviewed our bodies.”
Along with the uncomfortable physical examinations, cheerleaders also endured demeaning instructions on how to conduct themselves outside of work from lessons in formal dining, strict hair and nail colour requirements and more shockingly, lessons in how to wash their private areas.
“My hair was blonde, but I was told it was not natural looking, and that I needed to go see the Jill’s hairstylist who knew “the Jills look” – who also happened to be the coach’s best friend. And it wasn’t free. You have to pay her, that’s not for free – but we got a $5 discount, so it was around $85”
The embarrassing physical evaluations would occur once a week in the lead up to the weekend’s game, to determine which cheerleaders were deemed to be ‘field ready.’
“The next day, you receive an email which was categorised by different body parts and let’s say, if she thought you had a stomach issue for that week, you got a check. If you had two checks, you weren’t field ready. If you had three checks, you were benched for the next game.”
Further to the embarrassing working conditions the cheerleaders are subjected to, financially they are barely compensated for their work. With the Bills generating around $256 million in yearly revenue, the five cheerleaders only made between $105 and $1,800 in a single season.
We confess ourselves confused, Dear Reader. What exactly did the women concerned think they were being employed for? Their athletic ability? Superior pom-pom waving? Without a doubt mixed-sex cheerleading has evolved, somewhat ironically, into a complex, highly athletic and exciting spectator sport in the USA, albeit a bit weird in the rah-rah way Americans are often so adoringly peculiar. But that’s a world away from a small group of lovelies practicing high kicks and wiggling their collective tush on the sidelines at a game itself.
Well, hell. Look,we are sorry to appear uncaring, but in our honest opinion cheerleading at games is sexist nonsense, a hangover from days long gone. Paid participants – even low-paid participants – can hardly complain when their employer judges them by their physical attributes, when that is clearly what is on display to the beer-ed up overwhelmingly male patrons. The fact that America is the most litigious nation on earth is no excuse. We think the women concerned should pull their, er, heads in. Unless you think differently and can convince us otherwise?
Or, on the other hand, if the issue was really about their compensation, why not strike for better pay and conditions? Now that really would have made the “news”.