Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : AFL Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

VILIFYING WOMEN ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD

Dr Jocelynne A. Scutt*


Football clubs and the law have at last begun to come to grips with racial vilification on the ground and amongst the players. What are the chances of vilification of women taking centre-stage, or even being considered seriously?

When Michael Long was called a 'black cunt' by a fellow (sic) player, the AFL was at long last galvanised into action. Mediation was hastily convened between the players. Although initially the offender seemed reluctant to acknowledge any offense, the incident precipitated changes that have affected Aussie rules football ever since. A 'code of conduct' now ensures that on and off the field, racial (and racist) epithets against opponents are unsporting.

Now, in every state and territory, anti-discrimination laws target 'group defamation'. They make racist speech unlawful and provide redress for people vilified because they belong to racial or ethnic minorities.

The New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act says a person, by a public act, must not incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons on the ground of the race of the person or members of the group. A fair report of a public act, or acts done reasonably and in good faith for academic, artistic, scientific or research purposes or in the public interest are not caught by this provision. But odious remarks made about people on the football field, the tennis court and elsewhere are now caught by the law, and can be punished.

Around Australia, people who are offended in this way can seek compensation through commissions, courts and tribunals.

Yet what if women are vilified, smothered in obscenities, or forced to participate in a public world where sexual contempt and ridicule are seen as the everyday right of the good bloke in the pub and sporting arena? What redress is there for the woman who believes respect is her right, and calling women whores or cunts is an affront?

The offense to women, and particularly Aboriginal women, contained in shouts on the football field about 'black cunts', was never acknowledged by the AFL. There is no 'code of conduct' governing vilification of women in what players do and say to each other on the ground.

When Wayne Carey was accused of indecent assault in Melbourne, in the nightclub end of King Street, team mates spoke out on his behalf. Some accused the woman of having been drinking with him earlier, and turning on Carey when he refused to grant her his sexual 'favours'. Far from it. The truth was that she, a stranger walking down the street, had her breast squeezed by this 'famous' footy player, whilst he admonished: 'Why don't you go and get a bigger set of tits?'

At about the same time, another sportsman was reported urinating on two women on the dancefloor. Their crime? They preferred dancing with one another to dancing with him.

Six years on, the breast-squeezing ex-captain's got his comeuppance for sleeping with a team mate's wife. Even then, the AFL may take pity on him, now portrayed as a man who made a mistake, a 'lonely figure' in Wagga Wagga. 'It was just a slip …' 'An accident waiting to happen …'

And why not restore him to former glories? Even now, rehabilitation's in the wings.

A mere peccadillo, a mishap.

This has nothing to do with women's rights. It's all to do with mateship and who owns what.

Squeezing the breast of a protesting stranger is not an issue. Engaging in a consenting sexual relationship with the vice-captain's wife is.

These episodes confirm the sporting world's traditionalism. Despite individual exceptions, the dominant message is twofold, and it's endemic. First, do to women what you want, treat them as you wish, so long as you're not found out. And, if you are, ensure it's not a team-mate's wife. Secondly, if you must call fellow players names, racism's out, but sexism doesn't count. Autonomous women don't matter.

Yet, can we wonder that vilification of women is not taken seriously, on or off the field, when this very week we've been regaled by press tales of 'the greatest Australian Prime Minister next to Menzies', a real boy-oh, worthy of praise. One of the measures? 'He once told Parliament that he was sick of television series trying to make some incomprehensible arty-crafty point; what he wanted was action, and especially lots of private eyes monstering blondes.'

That this riposte receives overwhelming publicity in today's media, in the first years of the twenty-first century, shows how far women haven't come, and how much further many men have to go.

No wonder women despair at ever being taken seriously. So long as women are seen as the legitimate targets of drunken sportsmen, an excuse for poor prime ministerial 'wit', or a method of denying opponents' manhood in the sporting arena, we are all the losers.

Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Act does cover the vilification of women, the only law in Australia to do so. The Act condemns inciting hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of women as promiscuous, whores and dykes.


When other states take similar action, women may yet be on the way to achieving equality. Perhaps more tellingly, when the AFL and other sporting bodies withdraw support from players who use fame and glory to express contempt for women, the respect women deserve and these men deny them may make sportsmanship mean something.

JAS
March 2002


Jocelynne A. Scutt is a barrister and former Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commissioner





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