Imagine you’re at the center of a field. The stadium roars and millions of fans are cheering in their seats. The lights cast down. The music starts. You hit your mark. Your adrenaline is pumping and you’re living for this moment. All your years of blood, sweat, tears and your relentless ambition.
You love this sport. You love to dance. You’ve made it to the “top” of all tops of your career.
You’d think you’d be properly compensated for such a feat as this, right?
Director Yu Gu’s documentary A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem, is an incredibly eye-opening and engaging documentary that shows just how much inequality goes on for cheerleaders in the National Football League (NFL) — and in all industries if we have to be honest.
The film centers around a group of former NFL cheerleaders across the nation who have fought against wage and gender inequality for the past 50 years. With intimate portraits, engaging clips and an informed sense of storytelling, A Woman’s Work is an excellent piece that highlights both the highs and lows of getting into this industry, the glory of being in this industry, and yet the many perspectives of flat-out (pardon my French) bull c**p that goes into keeping this way of treating women alive.
Growing up in the high school I did (a private high school in the Bay Area with a record-defining football team and incredible dance team), with some friends who are now an actual NFL Raiderette, I know how insanely hard these women work. And I can’t believe our world still functions the way it does in 2019.
Primarily focusing on Oakland Raiderette Lacy Thibodeaux-Fields, we find that these cheerleaders go on to audition for these coveted roles, working just as hard — if not harder — than the NFL’s professional football players, working unpaid for up to 9 months, expected to raise their own money, fund their own outfits, fundraise at their own events, go on to work countless hours practicing on and off the field, take photographs and meet fans, and still not get paid even the minimum wage (an embarrassingly lower wage than the players and football concession workers themselves).
It’s an incredibly disgusting statistic to see that after all these years, with the NFL being a multi-billion dollar industry and the “pride and joy” of American sports, that these women are still incredibly sexualized in this sport, to serve as dancers for men to gawk at and not even get compensated for the amount of work they put into their work.
As these women play a vital aspect for the NFL team, as part of the team and as part of the live football experience, there is no other reason to say why these women are taken advantage of, except simply that the NFL is incredibly sexist.
Throughout the documentary, we see former Raiderette Lacy stand up to the inequality she couldn’t let slide, and took her efforts to court. To her surprise, it was difficult to get the support of her cheerleaders, and the organization as whole.
A Woman’s Work shows just how prevalent the #MeToo movement is — and still is — and how these battles of wage and gender inequality are still being fought.
One moment that absolutely moved me was when Lacy mentioned how she wanted her daughter to grow up in a world that is different from the one she grew up in — and whatever work or movement you create today, can set forth change for current and future generations of women, children and the NFL.
And I believe that’s where this documentary talks beyond just football and feminism. Its message relays to all people, industries, cultures, etc. It’s about creating a better world for our kids, our daughters and those after us, to grow up in a better world, where women are paid right and compensated equally.
No ego. No sexism. No entitlement. Just equality.
I thought Director Yu Gu, Writer-Producer Elizabeth Ai and their team did a wonderful job with this documentary. As part of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) this past May, Gu was awarded the inaugural Emerging Filmmaker Award for her debut solo directorial film.
For updates on the film and your chance to see it, go to awomansworkdoc.com.