Y’all; we all have at least one story. For some, it was a friend, a co-worker, a boss, a mentor, a leader; a seemingly harmless stranger, someone we trusted, or an organization we felt devoted to. The #MeToo movement is exposing sexism, sexual misconduct, and sexual abuse throughout the nation and beyond. It has pierced through social, spiritual, educational and professional environments, and taught us that the patriarchal power structures deeply rooted in our society constantly encourage the mistreatment of women. We know this; we have this knowledge; we are way overdue for a colossal change.
I spoke recently with Bailey Davis, a former cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints. For those of you unfamiliar with the New Orleans Saints, LEAVE THIS CITY NOW BEFORE YOU ARE EXPOSED, but also, the cheerleaders are called Saintsations. Cute pun! Right? Well, they are certainly not treated in a way that would leave them feeling very sensational.
Bailey’s dream from childhood was to follow in her mother’s footsteps and dance as a Saintsation. For three years, her dreams were realized. At the young age of 19, Bailey became a Saintsation. The audition process sounds brutal. The women up for this job are nothing less than professional athletes. Just as the football players, they have been training as such their entire lives. The moment Bailey was hired; she noticed brutally strict requirements placed on her and her peers. Many were told to lose weight, to change their hair, and so forth.
Working as a Saintsation is an underpaid part time job. While dancing for the Saints, Bailey was simultaneously a full time student at Southern Miss. studying communications. Let me tell you something about Bailey. Bailey is Wonder Woman, and not just because of her abs of steel (which she has dedicated hours upon hours at the gym sculpting).
A typical day for Bailey “Wonder Woman” Davis:
1)Begin class at 8am,
2)Meet up with other Saintsations immediately after a full day of class
3)Hope to have a second to grab a quick snack
4)Review the Sainstations choreography while on the hour and a half drive to New Orleans
5)Practice with the Sainstations until 10pm
6)Drive back to Mississippi
7)Get home around midnight (or 1am at the earliest on game nights)
8)Go to 8am class the next day.
Y’ALL! I am so angry. This schedule deserves praise! Instead, Bailey was made to constantly fear losing her job. She and her peers were constantly told they weren’t special; that plenty of girls would kill to be in their position, so they cannot have any complaints or concerns regarding their treatment and well-being. This type of communication in a workplace setting is toxic and inhumane. These are young women, in the beginning of their adult lives, being told they are worthless. They are hard-working, passionate young professionals, dancing their hearts out under exposing lights on a massive field in a two piece skirt suit. They deserve to be heard and they deserve respect.
These young women don’t expect to be treated like second class citizens when they join the Saintsations. While training in high school and on her college dance teams, Bailey remembers receiving the respect she deserved. She remembers her hard work being acknowledged. Why then upon becoming a cheerleader and a dancer under the NFL, would her talents and hard work suddenly become sexualized and disrespected? This she did not and does not understand. With this said, Bailey had respect for the work she did under the Sainstations. She did not see her uniform as scandalous. She did not think of the choreography as sexual. Her dancing is her art. It is not her problem when someone decides to use her art as a source of objectification. With this conviction and deep passion for her career, she endured the mistreatment and lack of respect. Back in class, Bailey would often get phone calls and texts urging her to block a New Orleans Saints fan who had followed her private Instagram account, or texts asking whether or not she was at some random party, to name some examples.
Let us look at why Bailey received such distractions by naming some rules in the Saintsations contract:
- No fraternization with Saints players.
- Must keep social media accounts private.
- Must Immediately block any player who messages them on social media.
- No conversation beyond “hello,” or “good game” with the players.
- Must not be in the same public space, such as a restaurant or party as a Saints player.
- If a player enters such a room, the Saintsation is responsible for leaving immediately.
- No lingerie or semi-nude photos on social media.
Now, let us look at some parallel rules put on the Saints players:
Y’ALL! This is unacceptable. The double standard surrounding these two contracts is undeniably sexist and very arguably illegal under anti-discrimination laws. Bailey’s coaches have claimed that such rules are put into place to protect the cheerleaders from the players. She has been told that the players are predators, and will prey on the cheerleaders. Why those susceptible to harm are the only ones with forced responsibility to avoid such harm, I do not understand. I would also love to know how the New Orleans Saints football players feel about being called predators by their own team. Bailey notes that she has never experienced any sort of inappropriate behavior from a player nor does she consider them predators. She has, however, experienced uncomfortable interactions with a security guard who was meant to protect her from such interactions. I was unfortunately not surprised to hear that this guard was not fired. Bailey, on the other hand, was.
Bailey Davis lost her dream job for two reasons. First, management claimed that she attended a party that Saints players attended. She was not at this party. Second, she posted a picture of herself in a black lace bodysuit. You can look it up online. This suit is a one piece. It is not lingerie and it is far less revealing than the Saintsations uniform. However, HR told her that the picture is a distasteful invitation to the players. They told her that her face looked too “dirty.” Then they fired her without giving her a chance to defend herself. Bailey is an artist, a dancer and an athlete. Her body is a part of her work. If she is not allowed to market herself, she is losing future opportunities. Bailey has no motives to sexualize herself. If someone sees such a picture that way, that’s their problem. She is simply practicing self-confidence and self-love, while showcasing her athletic achievements. Athletes and dancers around the world use Instagram for this purpose all the time. When men do it, they are praised for their work. When women do this, they are called sluts. In fact, Saints players post pictures of themselves in their underwear All. The. Time. And. Nobody. Cares.
Bailey currently works at her mother’s dance studio in Mississippi. She teaches various styles of dance to students ranging from two years old to teenagers. She notes that she wouldn’t dare let one of her “babies” work for the Saintsations and have to endure the mistreatment that she experienced. Alternatively, she cares deeply about inspiring and uplifting the young girls she trains. Bailey hopes that when her female students are adults, they will feel empowered in their place of work. This is why Bailey is fighting to change the degrading treatment of the Saintsations, and their sexist contracts.
Editor’s Note: If you enjoy Maddy’s writing, check out her piece on a local author from last month’s edition! And if you love the Saints as much as we all do here at Big Easy Magazine, be sure to check out our weekly sports column on them every Tuesday!