As I waited for my flight back home to Buffalo to board last Wednesday, I flipped through a Cosmopolitan Magazine. Admittedly a guilty pleasure, the magazine boasts mostly fluff articles, and I look at it as a light read when I have the time. Think of it as a self-regarding vice, in the words of Mill. However, as I skimmed article after article, I finally found one that was eye-opening. “Why Were These Pro Cheerleaders Paid Less Than a Dollar an Hour?: The Buffalo Bills are worth $935 million- but some of their cheerleaders say they’re not seeing a fair wage.” written by Abigail Pesta, delves into the shockingly low wages of the professional cheerleaders for my hometown team.
Alyssa, one of the five Buffalo Jills suing the Buffalo Bills for their inadequate wages, claims that she made only $420 for her entire season as a cheerleader for the pro team. Cheerleading was her life; she endured weekly “jiggle-tests” by the team’s manager, and was given a handbook telling her how to act at public events and how to look at all times. By rising up against this unfairness, I believe that these cheerleaders are taking part in a Marxist Revolution of sorts. Now, I understand that this is a bit radical, but bear with me. There are undeniable parallels.
Marx believes that there is an overwhelming disparity between the Proletariat, or the working class, and the Bourgeoise, the aristocrats. He writes,
“In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.”
These hardworking cheerleaders give themselves to their work; in a sense, they become it. They spend hours in the gym to fit the mold that the NFL tells them to be. They alter their hair, makeup, and even sometimes their bodies. Then, they go on a field in front of tens of thousands of people who objectify them. The profession is one of the most objectifying out there, and the sexism in terms of fair wages is undoubtedly present. The bourgoise, or the boss, the NFL, pays its players millions and millions of dollars. Sammy Watkins, my favorite team’s newest star, signed a contract for over 19 million dollars to play for four years. Yet the cheerleaders, whose job is to support these superstars, get paid well below the minimum wage.
“Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is,” Marx writes. These cheerleaders are modern-day slaves to the bourgeoise class, or the NFL. They are mere parts to the machine of what I believe to be America’s true favorite pastime. When I go to a Bills game, I’m enraptured by the whole show. The thumping rap music played during the warm-up, the reverence of the crowd during the National Anthem, and undoubtedly the dancing around by the charismatic cheerleaders. They are part of the machine of the game, and they deserve credit for it in fair compensation, which they are not currently receiving.
Since they are not getting it, the cheerleaders are mobilizing. Marx states, “The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another.” It is not only Buffalo Jills cheerleaders filing lawsuits against their teams and demanding fair wages. Cheerleaders for the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cheerleaders across the nation are forming a union desiring fair pay for their work. This is extremely relatable to Marx’s urges for workers to form workers and mobilize against the overarching bourgeoise class that dictates the lives of the proletariat. Although I’m not a Marxist by any means, I’m all for these women getting paid fairly for their undeniable visible contribution to the entertainment aspect of NFL games.