“Intimate areas: Never use a deodorant or chemically enhanced product. Simple, non-deodorant soap will help maintain the right PH balance.”
The above directive seems like an odd one to receive from an employer, but for those women who were members of the “Buffalo Jills” — the now-defunct cheerleading squad for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills — that is word-for-word one of the instructions they were given in their official handbook, according to an investigation by The New York Times. Jills were also given strict code of “glamour requirements” that covered precisely how much hairspray they should use, exactly how their fingernails should be groomed (besides natural, only a French manicure was acceptable), what size tampons to use (and not use), and other mundane things like the proper way to fold a napkin.
And the Bills aren’t the only team that has subjected cheerleaders to a Draconian set of rules often centering on the performers’ physical appearance or … err .. their PH balance. At least two teams closely monitored cheerleaders’ body weight. The Baltimore Ravens required cheerleaders to take part in regular weigh-ins to ensure that they “maintain ideal body weight.” Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders were ordered to always be within three pounds of their “ideal weight.” Some teams forbid cheerleaders from wearing sweatpants in public. Some issued specific shaving techniques for cheerleaders to follow.
The news comes in the wake of a story that emerged last week about a former cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints who says she was fired by the team over a photo she posted on Instagram showing her wearing a one-piece swimsuit. That story also revealed the Saints strict policy prohibiting cheerleaders from fraternizing with the players, one aspect of which required a cheerleader who is dining at a restaurant to get up and leave if she sees a Saints player walk in — even if she’s in the middle of eating a meal.
In the video below, New York Times culture critic Amanda Hess who has been on the cheerleader beat since 2011, and she talks about how demanding an endeavor trying out for and ultimately becoming an NFL cheerleader is for women. She also discusses how American attitudes have changed toward cheerleaders and their push for equality in recent years.
Read the full story at The New York Times.