Meandering thoughts on Daisy Cousens

I’ll admit it, at the risk of supporting her cause: Daisy Cousens gets under my skin.

It’s not, as she’d probably claim, because she’s a conservative and an anti-feminist. There are plenty of women who hold those beliefs who I consider friends, even if I don’t agree with them.

And it’s not because I’m a snowflake or I’m “triggered”, in her gross misunderstanding of that term. There are plenty of others who write about similar things that don’t fill me with rage the way she does.

No, it isn’t her views that bother me about Daisy Cousens. It’s her lack of seriousness. It’s the fact she’s so open about courting controversy and attention. She shamelessly celebrates the worst of modern conservatism’s impulses while undermining the work of both people she agrees with and those she doesn’t.

So when the Sydney Morning Herald published an article by Jane Cadzow about Cousens and two other conservative women today, my first reaction was to be dismissive. I didn’t need to read about her, think about her any more than I already have (even now, I’m unconvinced that I should be spending precious writing time sharing my thoughts on the piece). My automatic and poorly-considered response was that any attention paid to Cousens was inherently wasted.

But as Amber Robinson pointed out on Twitter that she thought the piece was very good because, and I quote, “Cousens in particular comes off as a complete imbecile”, I had to rethink my response.  She was right, of course. The piece draws stark contrast between the three conservative women. The difference between Cousens and Helen Andrews was clear. I may disagree with almost everything Andrews says, but the fact she thoughtfully considers her views is clear.

Cadzow deftly gives Cousens just enough rope. If there’s one takeaway from the piece, it’s that she’s just not a thinker. She plays the provocateur — a time honoured tradition — without the requisite thought to make her positions in any way insightful. It’s not that she’s my political opponent, it’s that she’s a bad one.

And that’s probably why it enraged me so.

She’s often lumped in with Caleb Bond in the conservative wunderkind category – either ironically or seriously – but  I think that’s unfair to Bond. I think News Ltd do Bond a great disservice by publishing him and that most of what he writes is flimsy, poorly thought-out and easily contradicted, but I don’t doubt his seriousness. He believes what he says. I can imagine him having a serious change of heart when he’s older, in part because I thought similarly to him at his age, with similar levels of conviction, and now I disagree fiercely.

I should take a brief minute here to note the fact I know this whole complaint comes from a position of MASSIVE privilege. I am white, upper-middle class, cis-gendered, I am in a straight relationship, I have a child who I stay at home with most of the week in our house with a backyard in the suburbs, while my partner gets the train to work at his job.

I get to quibble with the things about Cousens that I find irritating because who I am is not fundamentally threatened by her and people like her. In fact, my life is probably closer to the conservative script of how you’re “supposed” to live than many actual conservatives.

Actually, you know what? I should just shut up now. There’s no point explaining the rest of my feelings about Cousens because, again, my life is not fundamentally attacked by her and people like her.

She can fully inhabit the role of the Manic Pixie Dream Fascist. She can treat all that as a joke and play the ingénue and think being young and pretty means getting a pass on doing the hard work of thinking critically about what you believe, but that’s far less of a problem than what she actually says. What she says offends me, but it doesn’t affect me* like it affects other people.

The real affects of what she and others with similar beliefs have on other peoples’ lives is by far worse than her posturing.

And now I’ll be quiet.

*”There’s a difference between what offends people and what affects people” is a Kellyanne Conway quote. I have been thinking about it a lot lately because I think it’s really important.

Choice, abortion, motherhood

Yesterday, I published an article on the ABC about how International Women’s Day — a day that is supposed to celebrate women — rarely makes room for women with caring responsibilities. I received lots of wonderful responses from women who felt the piece reflected their experiences. I also received this email, which I would not share except that it give me a reason to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

dear ms riley
i have never written to a writer such as yourself before but at this moment i felt the need to find you and write once i read your op-ed piece about feminism. as a mature, childless by choice, single woman, i have no sympathy for what you describe. in fact, i am fed to the teeth, after being in the full time work force for more than 30 years, covering for my pregnant/new mother/mother colleagues- and never a work of thanks from any. i assume the following: to have a child was your choice, even if the pregnancy was unplanned?? where the expletive-deleted do you get off? you have CHOSEN to do this. you volunteered. you had months to change your mind but you went through with it. (you probably had to set out to do a few things deliberately as well to achieve this). and you expect/want even more than what has been very generously assigned? i would like to do some full time study once again- very useful to my work as well for as myself- i dont get time off work/paid/job held for me while i choose to do this. feminism is not about this, at all. having a baby in the current state of the world is the ultimate self-indulgence and yet you sound annoyed and aggrieved at the fact that your life is not as easy/straightforward as it was before you chose to do this??!!!! you didnt think to factor in the presence of an entirely dependent for years and years individual in your life?? WTF!!! this relates to feminism how?? entitled younger generation is what it is.

There’s much I could respond to here. First, the idea that childless women and women with children are each others enemies is tiresome and self-defeating. I’ve written about that before, but it’s always worth repeating.

But this is the part that I think is worth thinking about a little further:

i assume the following: to have a child was your choice, even if the pregnancy was unplanned?? where the expletive-deleted do you get off? you have CHOSEN to do this. you volunteered. you had months to change your mind but you went through with it. (you probably had to set out to do a few things deliberately as well to achieve this). and you expect/want even more than what has been very generously assigned?”

It’s hardly a secret that my pregnancy was, in fact, unplanned. I was on the pill. But like many others, I didn’t realise how the risk of failure increases over time. In fact, in five years of typical use, 38% of women will fall pregnant on the pill. So when that second line appeared on the test, I had a choice.

But that choice is not made in a vacuum. My personal values and beliefs informed the choice that I made in this situation.

This is something I find it difficult to talk about as a feminist who is absolutely pro-choice: abortion is not something that I felt I could do. I have a certain personal beliefs about life and they were incompatible with me having an abortion.

I don’t think laws should be made based on those beliefs. I don’t judge other women for their decision to have an abortion. I think they should be entirely funded, legal and easily available. I support full decriminalization. While I did consider it a moral decision, I don’t think it is for everyone.

But it is for some people. And I think we should respect people’s decisions to personally reject abortion.

This is why I have a problem with talking about abortion as it is always purely a medical decision. No doubt, in many cases, it is. But in others, it is not and the consequence is that it’s it socially acceptable to demand women either have an abortion or live with the consequences — no matter how much those consequences are due to discrimination toward women. We’ve made child-rearing a *lifestyle choice* rather than something that is socially and economically valuable.

The choice to have a child is not the same as the choice to go on a holiday or buy a luxury car or quit your job and move to a commune. It is far more complicated than that. Demanding that the substantial number of women who fall pregnant accidentally every year (In the US, half of all pregnancies are unplanned) either accept the ways society fails to make accomodations for the work of parenting or get an abortion is not supporting women or choice. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the argument that if you can’t afford children, you shouldn’t have them. Forcing poor women to have unwanted abortions for financial reasons is not supporting reproductive choice.

I could make an economic case for the value of the work of raising children. I could ask who’s going to be your nurse and physiotherapist and librarian when you’re old and need the social support. But we shouldn’t have to do that.

We should absolutely support women to make the choices right for their lives. We should also understand that women should not be expected to accept the status quo outcomes of their choices.

*** EDIT***

I wrote a response to the letter writer — let’s call her K — but it bounced. Apparently she gave me a fake email address. So K, if you happen to find this, this is for you:

Dear K,

I’m sorry you feel that people in your life have not supported the decisions you’ve made. The way society treats single, childless women is often cruel and exclusionary.
I do not, however, think that mothers are the enemy. As women, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t, as I have written about previously here: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/news-and-views/opinion/when-it-comes-to-motherhood-women-cant-win-either-way-just-ask-gladys-berejiklian-20170124-gtxhlr.html
I do, however, take exception to the implication that as I did not choose to have an abortion, I should accept the way society treats motherhood. Abortion should be available to all women, but I do not believe any woman should be compelled to have one, nor punished because she didn’t. None of the consequences of having children I mentioned in my piece are inevitable. They exist because of how we have historically understood motherhood and the way our social and economic system has been built in response to that. But that does not mean they have to exist into perpetuity nor that they should go unchallenged.
I sincerely hope that the experiences of single, childless women like yourself, by choice or otherwise, improve as we expand our understanding of the roles of women. I would hope you could wish the same for women who are parents.
Kind regards,
Erin Riley

Men: do some work this International Women’s Day

Men who live with women, there’s a simple thing you can do to show your commitment to Women’s Equality this International Women’s Day: spend an hour doing housework you don’t usually do.

Find a job that needs to be done — don’t ask, just find one — and do it. And then commit to doing it every week.

Clean the toilet, scrub the shower, plan and supply dinner, buy the birthday gift for the kid’s party this weekend, take on an extra few hours of child care: whatever is appropriate for your situation.

Because even in couples where both partners work full time, on average women do a disproportionately large amount of domestic unpaid labour. And where they don’t, the total number of hours a women spends on work — paid and unpaid — still adds up to more than men, on average. This data from the ABS is the most recent I can find, but shows the difference pretty starkly:

 

 

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You can be bold for change this IWD by doing this simple thing. Return to the women in your life something invaluable: their time.

Grace and gumption

Seven weeks and four days ago, after 54 and a half hours of contractions, I gave birth to a little girl. We named her Abigail, a name from the very first page of the baby name book, a name we both loved immediately. Abby is a delight. She’s already so funny and inquisitive and loving. I had worked as a nanny for years and so had plenty of experience with babies, but nothing could have truly prepared me for the seismic shift that is becoming a parent.

I’m a baby parent. By that I don’t just mean I am the parent of a baby, but that I am a baby at being a parent. The last seven weeks have been exhausting not just because of the broken sleep, but because the learning curve is so steep. After so little time, I’d never presume to speak with any authority on parenting, but I would love to share some of the things I have been thinking about since October 28.

Abigail

Abigail

Parenting Abby is a daily lesson in accepting my imperfections. I’ve lost count of how many things I’ve done wrong in the last seven weeks. The first time I accidentally bumped Abby’s head on her rocking chair as I was putting her down- and I promise, I don’t make a habit of this — and she screamed, I was starkly confronted by my own imperfections. I had hurt my child. Not badly, nothing she wouldn’t forget in a moment, nothing that would cause any damage; but still, I had hurt her.

And despite my best efforts, I will continue to hurt her. There will be times I won’t be available to her as she needs. There will be times when I will brush her hair and hit a knot. There will be times when I say no and mean it and believe it’s best for her, but she will be disappointed in me nonetheless.

The love I feel for Abby, that consuming parental love I had been told about, came with fear. I have so much on the line. My capacity to be hurt, and to hurt, increased exponentially from the moment I first loved her, somewhere between when I found out she existed and when she was born. My failures could cut me deeper than they ever have before.

And so being a parent has not just been a lesson in humility, but also in grace: extending it to myself and to others. There is a degree to which it is self-kindness, but it is more than that.  It is learning to live with the fact I am going to fail, while also attempting to address my failures. It is apologising and accepting apology. It is recognising my own imperfections, but also being accepting of the imperfection of others.

This, perhaps more than anything, has been the rupture between my life before and after Abby. The all-consuming worries of before pale in comparison to my concerns about raising her to be a compassionate and good person. And my own past failures and failings to be a compassionate and good person are both clearer and more important. I need to be the sort of person I want her to be.

I have been wrong often. I am sorry to those I’ve hurt, intentionally and unintentionally. I will make more of an attempt to apologise where I can, but I know that’s not always possible. We can’t always make amends.

But at the same time, I am not going to let my failures, past or present, consume me. Because that is the thing about parenting for me: I can’t hide out, I can’t delay trying again. I have to pick the baby up again, I have to do the next night feed, I have to change the next nappy. There is no escaping from the consequences of my mistakes: I have to face them immediately.

The grace of parenting comes from living through that. Being forced to face and work through my failures every time emboldens me to do so in other parts of my life. It has taught me gumption. I will solve the problem. I will figure out how to handle this. I will do things I don’t want to do because they’re best for her.

Being Abby’s Mum means I now live with fears bigger than any I’ve ever known. But for me, the tools that have enables me to face this are grace — towards myself, towards her, towards others — and gumption. Grace is not letting my imperfections consume me. Gumption is not accepting that my imperfections are permanent, and working to do better.

Sports Writers Festival: A story

I was very excited to see that the Sports Writing Festival was happening again in Melbourne this year. I contemplated heading down for it, but as it starts exactly two weeks before I am due to give birth, I thought that probably wasn’t the best idea. But despite my general good feelings about the event, there was something I couldn’t help but notice when looking at the program:

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There are some great women on the program, but all but one have been pigeonholed into the “Women’s sport” event. Everything else was dominated by men.

Of course, it could be an oversight, so I was hesitant to be overly critical. Instead, I said I was disappointed. These were my tweets:

tweet

tweet-2

 

I also retweeted one of @Nichmelbourne’s tweets, that she’s since deleted, so I can’t link it.

So imagine my surprise when I opened my account to receive this direct message from the founder of the Festival, Francis Leach:

 

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I’m not going to lie: I was pretty angry about this. I was angry that such a mild criticism — which I specifically framed positively — received such an indignant response. And angry that it came to me directly, rather than publicly.

And I get it. I get that it hurts when someone criticises something you’re doing for free.

But you don’t get a pass on addressing the problem of women’s representation in sport because you’re already working really hard. There are plenty of us who would be delighted to recommend people who are able to speak about it. And maybe just take the criticism on the chin, say “fair point, we’ll try better next time.”

I was not a kind as I could have been in my response: I admit to that. I was fuming. Here it is:

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No response. Not surprising. But I did notice a couple of other people making similar criticisms and receiving (public) defences similar to the one I received. I briefly tweeted about it here.

Anyway, I thought that was that, until someone this morning pointed out that Francis Leach had been tweeting today about the difficulty of being a woman in sport and how that issue would be addressed at the Festival:

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Though I had to get my partner to send me that screenshot, because:

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I have many thoughts but, really, I think this whole story speaks for itself.

Dear S: A reply

S Letter

 

Dear S,

I was intrigued when I received your email this morning, both by the entitlement of demanding a reply from me, while also being both condescending and insulting, and also utterly incorrect. I’m not usually in the habit of replying to such emails, but since you were so eager to hear my responses, I figured you probably wouldn’t mind if I did so publicly.

I read your comments in an article on Triple j’s Hack website regarding the pay rates of women’s football (AFL), and was struck by your lack of understanding of the issue, in which you are certainly not alone.

Ok, I admit, this was a good opening. What didn’t I understand? I’ve spent fifteen years studying and writing about sport and sporting institutions, but hey, we all make mistakes. So I was eager to see what you had to say.

Professional AFL footballers are paid on a commission basis,

Wait, no they aren’t. They are paid a salary. Yes, there are bonuses that align with performance, but there are also base salaries.

they negotiate salary caps with the league as a percentage of projected income,

Hmm, have you read the news lately? There is talk about the next deal being proportionate to the TV deal, but that’s not the case currently. I’m starting to wonder if you’ve read the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is where all my information comes from.

the individual pay rates are then decided by the clubs and individual players, resulting in players being paid at a rate similar to their revenue raising skills.

Well… yes, there are negotiations between the clubs and players, but there are also standard minimum payment rates and conditions that are established in the collective bargaining agreement, both for Rookies (who were my point of comparison on Hack) and drafted players.

This is decided by the best people to do so, those putting on the show and those running it,

Hmm, hundreds of years of labour negotiations would suggest that employers alone aren’t the best people to determine wages…

your angle has no validity at all, you are talking about cutting male players wages, or benefits to junior football, neither of which is desirable or forward moving.

I didn’t say anything about cutting male player’s wages (though whether that’s undesirable to correct a 1:39 average pay discrepancy is highly subjective).

It strikes me as strange that you don’t understand this, given that you have a job you should understand the different ways people are paid and the reasons for this.

Well, my job is as a freelance writer who writes about sport, so my understanding is rather more based on research into this specific issue than the assumption my experience is universal.

I find myself questioning your motives, as I find your comments so naive or perhaps stupid.

Or perhaps just based in the actual facts about the way players are paid.

I would like to receive a reply from you to explain your view, particularly in relation to the points I make in this e-mail, I find them obvious, I would like to know why you don’t, after all you put your view out to the public, so please defend it.

Can I make a recommendation? Next time, before you email someone, maybe do a bit more research to make sure a) your “corrections” are, in fact, correct and b) make sure you’ve read the other things the person you’re writing to has written, as they may have already answered some of your questions. Also, maybe don’t call someone stupid when you, in fact, are incorrect.

Thanks for reading, I look forward to your reply.
Sincerely, S[redacted].

I hope you have found it instructive.

Dear Mothers: an apology

Dear Mothers,

I owe you an apology. I am sorry for being a crappy feminist and not including your issues in my fight. I’m sorry for not realising how significant those issues were until I faced them myself. I’m sorry for not listening to you as I should have.

I’m sorry for the times I, frustrated with the marginalisation of childless women, failed to realise those with children were marginalised too. I didn’t see we are damned no matter our choice. I didn’t see we are seen as less whether we are mothers or not. I felt judged for not having children, never realising you felt equally judged for having them. I didn’t see that women are often defined by our reproductive status, and that there is no winning.

I’m sorry for the times I didn’t realise how much the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood changes you. I’m sorry for when I thought you meant it made me less of a woman not to have experienced it, not just a woman with different experiences. I’m sorry for the times I didn’t respect your experiences or how much they can change you. They’ve certainly changed me. And I promise now I won’t expect that my experiences are yours.

I’m sorry for not realising how truly painful it all can be. I’m sorry for the times I have dismissed or minimised your pain, just because another friend told me it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t realise that every single birth and every single pregnancy and every single child is different. I should have trusted you.

I’m sorry for not believing you when you said you loved differently as a parent: not that you loved better than me, but you loved better than you had before. You were talking about yourself. I thought you were judging me. I thought you were saying I hadn’t experienced love like yours. And it’s true: you were. But I never will experience love like yours. Every love is different.

I’m sorry for not worrying enough about the financial implications of parenthood. I’m sorry for using “choice” as an excuse not to support you. I’m sorry that I didn’t realise the huge financial burden that biology has place on women, and that in a civilised society, we should be attempting to limit such burdens.

I’m sorry for every time I laughed “haven’t they ever heard of birth control”. I knew the odds but I didn’t realise how real the failures are.

I’m sorry for the times I took your choices as a judgement on mine. I know they weren’t. You did what was right for you. My choice to spend 14 years of adulthood child-free was right for me. Our choices were unrelated to each other.

I’m sorry for the times I was a bad friend. For the times I didn’t listen. For the times I thought that the gulf between us was impossibly large. It wasn’t. You were still you. I was just too wrapped up in my own experiences to listen to yours.

Now that I’m approaching the other side, I hope I can avoid making the same mistakes with my friends without children. To remember that their love is not better or worse than my love, just different. That their fights matter too. That their choices having nothing to do with my own.

To remember the gulf is not so wide, and that if we listen, our burdens can be shared.

And I’ll re-read this, regularly, to remind myself that we are all in this fight together.

 

Erin

 

 

The gas bill saga

Hello friends,

This is a bit of an unusual post for me, but I just wanted to share an experience I had recently in the hope that maybe it will help someone else out.

In January this year, I received an ENORMOUS gas bill ($450 for a quarter for a one-bedroom apartment, gas only on stove and hot water) It was more than three times my previous gas bill. I called the gas company I was with who told me in no uncertain terms that there was nothing wrong with it, and that it was based on actual usage. They said it was probably that other people in my building were using more hot water and that it was being split evenly between us all.

But it made no sense. That might explain a small increase, but not a tripling. So I spoke to the building manager, and he told me that that isn’t even the way it works in our building: each apartment has an individual gas metre.

Over the coming months, I raised the issue with my gas company no less than four times, and spent over eight hours on the phone to them. There was absolutely no progress. They threatened to cut off my gas because I refused to pay a bill I knew was incorrect, and despite them raising three complaints, it was never sorted. They were threatening to send bill collectors after me. There were days when they’d call me five times but because I didn’t answer, that was totally legal. The fact I had three outstanding and unresolved complains on the bill didn’t stop them.

Finally, late last month, I called the Ombudsman. Within three days, I had someone at the company – actually based in Australia- on the case. She put a hold on any cancellation and phone calls from their recovery team, then over about three weeks, sorted the issue out.

It turned out, in some apartment complexes, there is a thing called a conversion factor. It is the number by which the gas reading is multiplied. Instead of being 0.19, which it should have been, it was around 0.65. Thus the threefold increase in my bill.

My gas provider is the default provider for my building, yet apparently nobody else had noticed or complained. So my gas company was likely getting thousands of dollars in totally unfair bills from people who weren’t paying attention or took the first answer of “it’s based on actual use, it can’t be wrong” as fact.

So I learnt two lessons from the whole saga. 1) If something doesn’t seem right, ask questions. And keep asking if the answer doesn’t make sense and 2) call the Ombudsman. They are great.

It’s never a joke…

Last year, I came across a post about something I wrote in a BigFooty forum. My blog shows me the various links people click to reach my page, so I was interested in where they were coming from. It was a mistake. I was immediately greeted by post after post about what a terrible person I was, a disturbing number posts speculating about the state of my vagina (one suggesting “Erin Riley’s Dry Vagina” be a location status visitors could read) and a whole range of various sexist comments, many suggesting my place was in the kitchen, not in football.

My crime? Writing a couple of fairly mild pieces calling for the AFL to be more inclusive. That’s it.

But among them, one post stood out. It read: “If I ever saw Erin Riley in person, I would put a bullet in her”.

My blood ran cold at that moment. And it has haunted me since. I’m scared to ever post anything that might suggest where I live or where I am at any given moment. I get especially nervous when I’m doing public speaking events: what if he decides to show up? And going to the football, especially to Swans games, is an anxiety-inducing experience now. What if someone there who hates me recognises me?

Now this guy may have been “joking”. I have no way of knowing. I also have no way of knowing how the people reading it took it: whether they thought it was a joke or maybe not a bad idea. Because we live in a world where men kill women for doing things they don’t agree with, whether it’s leaving them or being a vocal politician. Women are killed for doing their jobs, for merely existing in a way that is unpleasing for some men.

This is an important context when talking about the comments McGuire and the Triple M team made about Caroline Wilson. People claim it’s just about Wilson, it’s just a joke, it has nothing to do with gender. But we live in a world where gender and violence are linked in complicated ways. Men joking about drowning a woman cannot be held in isolation: it is part of this gender dynamic.

And as much as people claim to just not like Wilson (remember how they claimed to just not like Goodes?), her gender is absolutely part of it. Women who talk about football are treated differently to men, especially women who talk about football in a way men disagree with. Our acceptance in football is contingent on our acquiescence: we must not push the boundaries or rock the boat. If we do, it is then we experience gendered language and violent threats.

I’m very confident saying this because I have plenty of male friends who are professional sports writers. When they say literally the same thing I say, they experience very different responses. To my knowledge, none of them have received death threats or rape threats, and certainly not on the scale I have.

I’m a pretty small fish in this pond, and very happy that way — I earn a living writing and it works for me. Yet I personally have experienced torrents of hate and vitriol for what I’ve written. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they’re clearly just abusing you online. But every now and then, one stands out.

I can’t imagine the scale of the abuse that Wilson receives considering her profile. I can’t imagine how many of those genuinely scary messages she gets, that ones that make you look over your shoulder. The ones that make you scared to go out of the house.

It also has a silencing effect. I can’t tell you how many women I know who love sport who are either afraid to speak about it or who have given up speaking about it because it isn’t worth the abuse. It drives women from the game, and it drives women from the profession.

So when McGuire and co joke about drowning Wilson, they are feeding this culture. They are feeding a culture that says it’s ok to abuse those who aren’t like us if they say or do something we don’t like (again, remember Goodes?). They are absolutely culpable in making the world a little bit scarier and a little bit worse for women.

And if the AFL wants the game to be more inclusive, to truly be everyone’s game, they can’t just accept this. They need to show that the culture of misogyny in football will not be tolerated. Nothing short of bold action will do.

 

Eddie McGuire, Caroline Wilson and violence against women: the AFL must act.

Tonight, the Western Bulldogs are playing Geelong in the White Ribbon match. It is a game designed to raise awareness of domestic violence and violence against women. But at the very time the football world is casting light on the issue, it is allowing dangerous, toxic and violent language toward women to be part of mainstream football conversations.

The most recent incident happened on last Monday’s episode of “The Rub” on Triple M. Prior to the “Big Freeze” at the MCG, they crossed live to Eddie McGuire, who was preparing to take part. The event consisted of a number of high profile figures going down an ice slide and landing in a pool of icy water, all to raise money for the very worthy cause of research into Motor Neurone Disease. The horrifying exchange involves not one but two current AFL Club Presidents (McGuire and James Brayshaw)

But during the cross, McGuire made the following comments (Audio is from Triple M’s The Rub. Clip use covered under fair use provisions):

 

(Transcript)

McGuire: In fact I reckon we should start the campaign for a one-person slide next year. Caroline Wilson. And I’ll put in ten grand straight away- make it twenty. [laugher] And if she stays under, fifty. [louder laugher] [laugher]

What do you reckon guys? Who else is up there? I know you’re in JB?

Brayshaw: No, yep, Straight in

Danny Frawley: I’ll be in amongst it Ed

McGuire: Is Duck there?

Wayne Carey: Yes, I’m here mate.

McGuire: Duck’s in. Danny’s in — already spoken up.

Frawley: Yeah I’m in Ed.

McGuire: I could do an auction here today.

Frawley: I’ll actually jump in and make sure she doesn’t — I’ll hold her under, Ed.

McGuire: I reckon we could charge ten thousand for everyone to stand around the outside and bomb her.

Damien Barrett: I’m on Caro’s side now, Ed. I’m on Caro’s side these days, Ed.

[indecipherable]

McGuire: She’ll burn you like everyone else, mate. She’s like the black widow. She just sucks you in and gets you and you start talking to her and then BANG! She gets you.

Brayshaw: If you ran that auction from down there, I reckon you’d start grabbing some bids out of the seats too. There’d be money piling in everywhere

McGuire: It’s be magnificent. I think we should do that next year. It’s all good for footy.

Brayshaw: Bloody oath!

Bloody oath indeed, though I suspect for entirely different reasons.

The first notable thing about this is, of course, that is is absolutely awful. These are some of the most high-profile men in football joking about hurting one of football’s most prominent women. So much of our discussions about violence against women acknowledge the importance of language and of attitudes in shaping the way men think about women. As the current government campaign says, “violence against women doesn’t just start.” While McGuire and co were undoubtedly joking, the underlying attitude is dangerous: it reenforces the attitudes of those who are willing to take their hatred of women beyond a “bit of banter”.

The image of a woman being held under water against her will while people jump on her body is a horrifying picture of violence. It is nothing less.

And make no mistake, the damage McGuire and co are doing by normalising attitudes of disrespect and violence toward a woman does more harm than a thousand themed matches and white ribbons on uniforms do good.

The other notable thing about this incident is that it happened a week ago, yet has received very little coverage: until yesterday, it seems only to have been covered in a short piece on SportingNews titled “Eddie McGuire’s controversial Caroline Wilson comments“. Then, on yesterday’s episode of the wonderful “Outer Sanctum” podcast, the hosts discussed it, which led to others paying attention for the first time. But to now, that’s it.**

How was this missed? How has violent language against one of the most prominent women in football so accepted? I absolutely count myself as part of the problem here — I’d rather not endure Triple M’s football coverage, so I don’t listen to it. But without attention from people who care, this sort of thing goes on unchecked. By ceding these airwaves to those with these attitudes, we allow them to survive and to thrive.

At some point, enough has to be enough.

If the AFL and its clubs are genuinely committed to doing something about violence against women, they need to respond to this, and not just brush it under the rug. This is absolutely unacceptable. Something must be done.

 

**As an aside, I think this incident shows how important the rise of podcasts, and new voices, is in footy. They can help direct attention to things and start conversations that the mainstream media largely ignores.

*** Edit: Originally this post incorrectly said the incident happened on the Sunday edition of The Rub. It was the Monday edition.

Edit 2: the sound was updated to be hosted on Soundcloud rather than on this site to preserve bandwidth.

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