The rise of the women’s movement and the decline of the single-bar face mask 1967-1981

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 at 6:32 am


A mainstay on NFL football uniforms from the early 1960s through the late 1970s the single bar face mask was worn with less frequency by the mid 1970s and had become obsolete by 1987. Our data set indicates that the three underlying vectors for this change were as follows:

1.) The empowerment of woman in the American workplace.

2.) An increase in the female viewership of prime time television owing to the popularity of shows with women in leading roles e.g. The Flying Nun, That Girl, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

3.) The debut of ABC’s prime time Monday Night Football in September of 1970.

The convergence of all three vectors in the American cultural landscape resulted in a concomittant shift in female behavior with more American women than ever viewing prime time professional football telecasts, beginning in the early 1970s. We analyzed Nielsen ratings of American Professional Football ( NFL) telecasts from our data bracket 1967-1981 and clearly established a pattern where the number of single bar face masks worn in the league declined ( from 48 in 1967 to 3 in 1980) as female viewership for professional football telecasts increased ( women were 5% of the viewing audience in 1970 but 27 % by 1981). Much of this was owing to the increasing popularity of Monday Night Football which by the late 1970s had become one of the most popular programs in prime-time American telvision. We theorize that as more women tuned into watch professional football, the league aimed to reduce levels of violence hoping to make the game more appealing to this new and growing market segment. Our data seriously contradicts our initial hypothesis that the single-bar face mask was was phased out by the league as it sought a sleeker image for itself in post-Nixonian America ( Wilcove and Collingworth 1986).

Sherman L. Peabody PHD
Winston Collingworth PHD
Reddenbacher Institute for Sports and Gender, University of Tulane


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