When, in the heat of battle on the football field recently, AFL player Patrick McGinnity threatened to rape the mother of opposition player Ricky Petterd, it caused a furore.
“I was just a bit shocked. You don’t expect to hear stuff like that,” Petterd said.
“I had a bit of a chat to Mum. She’s fine. She understands football.”
While Petterd’s mother might forgive and forget, author and commentator, Jane Caro is not about to. Here she writes exclusively for The Hoopla.
I love physical activity but I hate corporatised sport.
I am not interested in Cadel Evans or whoever that recent super fast swimmer was. I took the kids overseas during the Sydney Olympics (they got an extra week’s holiday from school and it was great). And I never know who-won-what-game-when, or which over-sized, over-hyped footballer plays for what team – or even what code.
I turn off the news when it gets to sport, and discovered Radio National when I fled 702 during a seemingly interminable Commonwealth Games. I have never gone back.
You can call me un-Australian if you like – in fact, please do, I’d be in some rather fine company – but I think there is a very sensible reason why most sport bores the stilettos off me.
I am female. Most of the sport that dominates our media and our conversations, it seems to me, is specifically designed to make women feel both alienated and excluded. I’d just like us to be more honest about it.
Most sport that is broadcast and followed in large numbers by people who don’t actually play it (netball is our largest participatory sport – but it ain’t broadcast much and it certainly isn’t talked about in the media very regularly).
It’s about blokes, for blokes and by blokes. Indeed, interest in sport is often used as a way of proving a man’s red-blooded, unassailable masculine credentials; proof of manhood, if you like.
A man who is not interested in sport is regarded with suspicion, and aspersions are cast about his sexuality.
Given the hyper-masculinity that surrounds sport, particularly football, why are we surprised that misogyny is such a feature of it? Pardon my bluntness, but I have come to the conclusion that, far from being an aberration, misogyny or – at the very least – extreme separation from anything remotely female is precisely the point.
The rugby field, the soccer oval, the AFL ground and the cricket pitch are all male turf.
Women who encroach are only acceptable if they reflect these men back to themselves at twice their already abnormal actual size – as either sexual conquests or adoring fans.
Team sport, in particular, is a form of sublimated warfare and the quasi-gladiatorial men who battle it out in the arena are part of an age-old culture which has always rejected anything remotely female. The hold this ancient warrior culture has over us may also be why, while only 14.5% of men in the general American population are over six foot, 58% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are.
We still equate power with physical strength, height and prowess, it seems.
The only roles women play in warrior culture are as the pathetic victims of male battles, sexual prizes for the conquering hero or as a method of dishonouring and weakening the enemy – particularly through rape.
That’s why I wasn’t remotely surprised by AFL player Patrick McGinnity’s threat to “rape” the mother of opposing player Ricky Petterd during a West Coast v Melbourne match at Etihad stadium. All he has done is reveal the warrior roots of our major sporting codes.
We now know that systematic rape is as much a weapon of war as guns or artillery. So why should it surprise us that sublimated warfare features sublimated rape?
Here are a few other examples of the way men try to psychologically undermine opponents by threatening or insulting the women in their lives (“their” women, I suppose, in warrior culture language). Rodney Marsh to Ian Botham: “So how’s your wife and my kids?”. Glen McGrath asking Eddo Brandes why he was so fat and Brandes replying: “Because every time I f**k your wife she gives me a biscuit.”
Glenn MacGrath also asked Ramanesh Sarwan what Brian Lara’s c**k tasted like and Sarwan replied: “I don’t know, ask your wife.” Michael Voss (playing for the Lions) to Brett Voss (playing for St Kilda): “I screwed your sister last night,” (a remark that raises all sorts of creepy questions).
And spectators love to take a few nasty shots of their own in online forums: “…you’re a pack of menstruating maggots.” Or “Hey, Bucks, has Carey f**ed your wife yet?” Or, “the magistrate didn’t give him a 50 metre penalty for smacking his missus.”
The inherent acceptance of misogyny as part of sport was clearly exposed when all was forgiven when it was revealed that Indian cricketer Harbajhan Singh hadn’t called Andrew Symonds a “monkey” at all, just a “motherf**ker”.
Boys will be boys, after all, even if that includes expressing hatred of women.
And let’s not forget, the media is regularly full of stories about hyper-masculine sportsmen who are accused of committing actual rape and sexual assault. Remarkably, many in our community then automatically take the sportsman’s side and assume the female in question was “asking for it”.
If women are a man’s possession – as warrior culture clearly regards them – then, like any other possession, if they become soiled or worse for wear, they can be discarded.
The only surprising thing about any of this, sadly, is that any of us are still surprised by it.
*Jane Caro is an author, social commentator, columnist, broadcaster and award-winning advertising writer who has inspired on the ABC’s The Gruen Transfer. She has published two books; The Stupid Country: How Australia is Dismantling Public Education, co-authored with Chris Bonnor (New South 2007), and The F Word. How we learned to swear by feminism, co-authored with Catherine Fox (New South, 2008). Her first novel for young adults Just A Girl – in which she inhabits the persona of the Young Queen Elizabeth, was “pick of the week” in the Sydney Morning Herald.