There are a few things you need to know if you want to be a successful Buffalo Bills cheerleader. "When menstruating, use a product that [sic] right for your menstrual flow," reads the "General hygiene & lady body maintenance" section of the handbook given to cheerleaders, known as the Jills. "A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus. A product left in too long can cause bacteria or fungus build up. Products can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night."
This is what it means to be a Jill. A Jill is told what tampons she should wear and how she should keep certain "intimate areas" fresh, and in general has to submit to a series of byzantine and comically infantilizing requirements and guidelines governing everything from "appearance etiquette" to "etiquette for FORMAL dining" to "communicating with people with disabilities." A Jill is paid next to nothing—no money for gameday cheering, none for practice, none for the bulk of her minimum 20 personal appearances, none from the tips she receives but must turn in during the mandatory Jills Golf Tournament—and is classified by the team as a volunteer/independent contractor, though the thickness and thoroughness of the handbook makes you wonder just how independent she is.
You can find both the 2013-14 code of conduct for Jills and a list of the various beauty, hygiene, and social requirements they're expected to fulfill at the bottom of the page. They come to us courtesy of the law firm representing five former Jills who are suing their old handlers for allegedly violating a number of New York labor laws. Named in the suit are the Bills themselves, Stejon Productions, and Citadel Communications Company. (At different times, Stejon and Citadel managed the cheerleading teams for the Bills.)
The bottom document is the "NFL Buffalo Jills Cheerleaders Agreement & Codes of Conduct 2013-2014," which is essentially the boilerplate rulebook for cheerleaders around the league. There, the basic practice and gameday rules are laid out, including how many excused absences from practice a cheerleader is allowed before dismissal, where she must get her hair done, and the scores of ways she can be fined, benched, or dismissed. It's all pretty standard.
The more interesting stuff is in the 12-page list of glamour, etiquette, and hygiene rules. This is where we see just how much of a peppy automaton a cheerleader has to be. Shoulds and musts abound. "Hair must be worn in a glamorous style with no clips or tie-backs," the cheerleaders are told. "A full curled or slightly bent, free-flowing style is required. Short hair must be worn full and fabulous!" The whole thing reads like a 1950s-era all-girls boarding school's guide to landing the star quarterback. (Not the Bills' QB, of course; any fraternization is grounds for dismissal.)
There are the instructions on how to facilitate a breezy yet enjoyable conversation (everything quoted below is sic):
14. Do not be overly opinionated about anything. Do not complain about anything- ever hang out with a whiner? It's exhausting and boring.
18. Do not use slang in conversations. Never use words/phrases such as: "like", "I seen it", "You's guys", "dude", "them guys" "pee" & "ain't".
19. Use "Oh my goodness" rather than "Oh my GOD".
26. Do not consume conversations & watch body language. Be aware of female companions and children. Always turn the conversation back to the other person. Never flirt!
29. Watch other poor manners or nervous habits such as: Nail-biting, knuckle/neck cracking, excessive sniffling and too many arm movements.
30. Always say "excuse me" when you burp, sneeze or cough. Even if you think there isn't anyone around.
-Talking "about last night"
-Don't try talk about your personal life: job, boyfriends, what you're doing later, etc…
-Saying "I" or "me" too often.
You also learn the proper way to keep a clean, healthy body:
1. Wash hands often to prevent spread of viruses.
2. Remove make-up every night before going to bed!
A. Make-up left on pillow cases causes break outs. Even if you washed one night and not another, you've left bacteria on your pillow case for a clean face.
B. Make-up left in the creases of your skin creates early wrinkles.
C. Make-up left in your eye area can cause infection and affect your vision.
3. Don't use lufa's or sponges. They hold TONS of germs! Throw them away now!
7. ALWAYS shower after a work out and change undergarments.
9. Try to cough or sneeze into your arm, not your hand. If you use your hand, wash immediately.
11. Intimate area's: Never use a deodorant or chemically enhanced product. Simple, non-deodorant soap will help maintain the right PH balance.
12. When menstruating, use a product that right for your menstrual flow. A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus. A product left in too long can cause bacteria or fungus build up. Products can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night.
13. Clean/rinse razor often while shaving. Especially after going to a new "area". Change razors often, they harbor bacteria.
16. Wash your feet daily ! This will help control foot odor & keep fungus from developing in toenails. Cotton socks also help with odor. Nylons and nylon socks create sweaty feet which creates odor.
You get a good two and a half pages on formal dining etiquette:
1. When several of the same utensils are offered, start with the outermost utensil and use one for each course. In a formal setting, the silverware will be removed with the dish, leaving you with a clean slate.
2. When cutting meat. Never cut the full piece of meat all at once. Cut as you go, American style (cut and switch fork to right hand to eat) or European style (keeping fork in left hand to eat) eating is acceptable.
3. When trying to "capture" a small piece of food onto a utensil, it is acceptable to use another utensil for aiding it aboard. Never use your fingers.
6. Soupspoon. Dip the spoon into the soup, moving it away from the body, until it is about two-thirds full, then sip the liquid, without slurping, from the side of the spoon without inserting the whole spoon into the mouth. This prevents soup from being spilled onto your clothes.
10. Bread. Should be torn to eat and/or butter, not cut with a knife. Do not overeat bread at a formal setting.
12. Eat at the same pace as the people you are dining with.
16. Never talk with food in your mouth. If asked a question while chewing, simply hold up your index finger to imply "one moment" and then speak after you swallow.
25. Never debate politics, religion or any other sensitive issues while dining.
And you get some general etiquette tips, like "Don't ask for cash gifts as wedding gifts (in print), Rely on word of mouth instead," and 17 actually reasonable points about navigating a conversation with the disabled so that no one feels alienated.
All of this is more or less the accumulated wisdom of sensible aunts everywhere. The difference here is that it's being used as the means by which an NFL team and its subcontractors can exert dominion over the lives of people it can barely even be bothered to pay. Douches.
Photo via AP