For some years Australian rules football has been in the hands of feminist social engineers who wish to establish equity and social justice in the football community. The Australian Football League has submitted to these demands to change the game significantly. This has been implemented through equal opportunity and affirmative action legislation, and has allowed women to enter male dressing rooms, take up positions as members of football club boards, trainers, boundary umpires and goal umpires, pursue careers as football media commentators and journalists, and make major inroads and major decisions with regard to the future of Australian rules football. The players of the game, however, at its highest level, remain entirely and exclusively men. Even after twenty years or so of positive discrimination, not one AFL team has been able to find one woman good enough to play one game.
Although there are many women’s football teams, and the AFL sponsors and supports girls’ football in schools, the true spectacle and essential attraction of the game requires thirty-six exquisitely fit testosterone-pumped men attempting to subdue each other with speed and skill. Football is men’s business—it is quite possibly sacred men’s business—and the attempts to feminise it are ideologically driven, nasty and envious attempts at a weird kind of retribution which could prove absolutely counter-productive.
The AFL encourages girls to play football with boys up until the age of about fourteen, when they are unlikely to be hurt. Football is an excellent physical and mental challenge in a team environment, as they test themselves and their developing co-ordination. After fourteen, however, boys will want to play the game much harder than will most girls, and the danger of injury increases. It is better, then, that girls who wish to continue to play football after the age of fourteen, play in and against all-girls’ teams. This is common sense and should not be considered separatist, sexist, chauvinistic or misogynistic.
There is a great need in these days of “father hunger” and an overwhelmingly feminine primary school education, for boys to find physical, mental and spiritual ways to challenge themselves in a male environment. Boys often have a greater need to penetrate their borders physically than girls do. Girls seem to be able to initiate themselves into young adulthood through internal narratives that do not require the same physical rites that boys expect of each other.
Since women have forced the doors of Australian rules football, we have seen a number of changes to the rules, and a concerted media focus on the social aspects of the game. Much has been made of footballers’ girlfriends, and of the social behaviour of footballers. Major heroes of the game have been shamed on television for drug addiction, and their relationships have been held up to close scrutiny and even public ridicule. Ben Cousins, it could be said, was “shunned”—a particularly feminine form of punishment developed by the Celts. Wayne Carey was really “mocked” in a confessional interview by the priest-like Andrew Denton on the ABC program Enough Rope. The rules of Australian rules football have been changed to make the game less violent.
Feminists have not only demanded that Australian rules footballers “respect women” and be seen to be respecting women, they have also demanded that “respect for women” should be defined by them. Women have demanded seats on the boards of football clubs, and other positions of power throughout the AFL under equal opportunity and affirmative action legislation. They have bullied their way into sacred men’s sites such as the Long Room at the MCG. Much of the newspaper journalism and media commentary has been taken over by women, and it seems that the behaviour of men in and around the game is a constant and persistent point of contention.
Whether Australian rules football was derived from the Aboriginal game of marngrook or from the Celtic game, its origins lie in the liberating idea that placing two unarmed armies against each other as a game is a better alternative than war with weapons. Apart from dreaming and building civilisation, this is what men do with “peace”—it is how they play. The development of the rules of the game over the centuries honed it into a fair contest which rewarded skill and cunning as only those versed in the “art of war” can appreciate.
Unfortunately, much suburban feminist thinking remains caught within a reactive and immature adolescence which seeks to “outbloke the blokes”. Many women who call themselves feminists seem to be attempting to live male lives in the belief that ideology can overcome biology. They will not countenance “men’s business”, though they are open to “women’s business”. They seek to diminish and destroy enclaves of men wherever they exist, as a matter of pique rather than for any higher purpose. The purpose, however, is presented as though “equality of opportunity”, “inclusiveness” and “social justice” were the major tenets of the Book of Genesis.
Yet it is clear that in many ways human beings work better in single-sex endeavours than they do in “gender neutral” ones. Educationalists agree that girls and boys learn better in single-sex environments. Many workplaces have seen the benefits of running single-sex operations. There are virtually no Olympic sports where men and women compete against each other. So there should be no concern that football is a man’s sport which women are welcome and encouraged to watch, but not to participate in at the highest level.
There are some Australians who take football very seriously. That is to say, it is the central ingredient in making their lives meaningful. The chattering intellectual classes are forever caught between their scorn for this and their fear of it. That a game of football should assume more importance in the lives of a great many citizens than religion or politics, than even philosophy or art, leaves the feminist elites agog and embarrassed by their own culture.
I suspect that there is a vocal minority of professional feminist activists who pretend to speak for all Australian women, but that there is a silent majority of women who are Australian rules fans who do not agree. Many ordinary Australian women across all age groups are serious supporters of Australian rules football clubs and they are perfectly happy with the game as men’s business, in fact they may love the game because it is men’s business. They support their teams as if they were tribes to which they belonged, and they suffer the defeats and celebrate the victories as if these were their sons and their family. They see their teams as their champions who will keep the barbarians at bay.
The chattering classes in general, and the feminist elites in particular, view football as a dumb, male, chauvinistic, sexist embarrassment to which all Australians must admit as an aspect of “culture”. So they seek to subdue it. Feminism is only interested in football as a display of its own power over men. In truth, feminism hates the game. It seeks to control the behaviour of men in the football community, by law, as an example to all men. It seeks to dress the game in a social narrative of health, lifestyle, sex, dance and homoerotic behaviour, as if it were a bunch of flowers or an open-air opera displaying sexy young Aussie males. Unfortunately, footballers continue to act violently and have problems with alcohol, they continue to become victims to various addictions, and they continue to treat women badly. It is this lack of “respect for women” which seems to be central to most suburban feminist complaints against football.
The Victorian Human Rights Commissioner, Helen Szoke, has referred to the pantomimed actions of Sam Newman on the Channel Nine Footy Show a few months ago as offensive to women and against the laws of sexual harassment. She has called for Newman to be charged.
Newman is a James Bond-type ex-millionaire playboy ex-football-star expert. During the show he fondled a mannequin that was dressed in lingerie with a photo of a female football journalist pinned to its head. This pantomime caused outrage across the media. Talkback shows were clogged with vitriol for days. Professional feminists who are members of various football club boards wrote a letter to Channel Nine demanding that the hosts of The Footy Show be “counselled” on their “attitudes to women”. Newman’s silly sexual pantomime was designed to humiliate the Age’s chief football writer, Caroline Wilson. It was the sort of thing boys do in locker rooms or on boys’ camps. It was a harmless sacrilegious mime.
Sam Newman is a confronting personality. He compliments the people he likes most by confronting them, knowing they will be able to stand up to him and thus produce interesting theatre. He is interested in entertainment. This is a very male form of compliment, and makes no sense to feminists. If a vocal suburban feminist minority chooses not to see the humour in such actions, then they are simply displaying their error in attempting to enter what is finally “sacred men’s business”. However, for the silent majority of women who are supporters of the AFL and who do not find Newman’s pantomime offensive, there is the entertainment of it all. Finally, however, Newman was quietly disgraced, shamed and forced to take a “holiday” from The Footy Show until he “regained his health”.
There is an absolute need for “men’s-only business” as there probably is for “women’s-only business”. If Fernwood gymnasiums can get an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act to operate a national chain of women’s-only gymnasiums, then why can’t the AFL get a similar exemption at least to keep women out of the dressing rooms, off the football field, and out of the boardrooms of Australian rules football? This is what Andrew Demetriou and the AFL Commission should be seeking, not supporting discrimination against men in order to preen themselves in front of their feminist comrades.
During the last thirty years or so maleness has been discriminated against as a matter of state policy and law. Boys have been starved of physical expression and development in almost all areas of education and behaviour, except football. Men in general have had to accept significant discrimination against them in major areas of their lives such as education, marriage and employment. Last year only about 35 per cent of the enrolment at Melbourne University were Australian boys. There are suburbs full of single mothers looking for male role models for their de-fathered sons. Football is often the only contact many boys can get with men in authority until they enter secondary school. Many boys have no fathers, or only see their fathers every second weekend. Less than 10 per cent of primary school teachers are men, and there is an undeniable phenomenon of “father hunger” across the land.
There is also the possibility that some Australian men may have lost any respect they might have had for this type of “suburban feminism”, yet still respect and love women. It is hardly surprising that, after almost two generations of state-sponsored discrimination against men, any sympathy they may have had for the idea that women are oppressed is wearing very thin. Australian women under the age of fifty have never experienced “oppression” in their lives. They have lived under positive discrimination, affirmative action and sexual harassment policies that have seen them provided with extra opportunities above and beyond the opportunities offered to men and boys. These women have come to expect inequality of opportunity as their right and inheritance. They have come to expect it out of retribution, and have been supported in their discrimination by the so-called “progressive” policies of left-wing ideologues seeking everywhere to dampen excellence in the name of equity.
Women now expect to work less, live longer, and use their gender as currency in love and marriage. Pale-pink feminist elites have been given plum jobs which require them to do nothing but enforce discrimination against men in the false interest of liberating already liberated women.
The AFL, and its CEO, Andrew Demetriou, in particular, have provided this passage into Australian rules football in the belief that women must be given more control of the game in order to get more women coming to the game. This is a vast and questionable assumption. The women who love and live football each week would continue to come to the game regardless of whether or not the professional feminist elites thought they were being paid enough respect. My mother lived the last twenty years of her life watching the Hawthorn Football Club, and if anybody did not pay her enough respect, they soon knew about it. She was a fearsome supporter of football and healthy young men, and loved it when “Dipper” or Leigh Matthews spreadeagled a pack of players with their run-through game. She loved the violence and edge of the game.
It is women like my mother who the small minority of professional taxpayer-funded feminist football agitators do not represent. These women, most of whom hold down their positions as a result of affirmative action workplace practices, have little interest in the game outside their own professional ambitions.
Andrew Demetriou is an ideology-driven leftie who believes he is democratising football. Demetriou has been the driving force behind the feminisation of football, implementing many policies under positive discrimination and affirmative action in order to get women involved with the administration and development of the game. He seems to be modelling the game for women and not for men. The AFL outlines rules of behaviour for footballers on and off the field. It moderates the rules in order to sanitise the speed and violence of the fittest possible young men seeking to impose themselves over each other. It develops drug and alcohol policies and requires clubs to discipline recalcitrant players. It wants to sell Australian rules football not so much as a woman-friendly game, but as a feminist-friendly game—a politically correct game.
Demetriou has been unwilling or unable to stand up to the suburban feminist push to tame football because he is unable to say no to women. Like many of the new ideology-driven liberators, Demetriou believes in the retribution of feminism and supports discrimination against men. He is the type of male role model that feminists and single mothers seek for their de-fathered sons.
Phil Cleary is another ex-football-star male role model who has been trotted out by the suburban feminists as an expert on male violence against women since his sister was brutally murdered. Cleary claims that The Footy Show has a “long history of misogyny”, that Australian rules football has “entrenched misogyny”, and that The Footy Show has “vilified women again and again and again”.
I have to say that I have not noticed this misogyny, in fact quite the opposite. The Footy Show hosts and participants seem to me to be eager to be loved by women and consistently defer to women with respect and love. Sam Newman has a particular genius for interviewing ordinary suburban women in the street and in shopping centres. He is able to bring out the beauty and pure joy of these women with love and gentle cajoling, so that we may all enjoy the banter on public television. I believe many of these women love him and it is clear to me that he loves them.
Men want AFL footballers to be fast, fit, strong and dangerous. They want them to be a force of controlled violence. It is the controlling of the violence of a male human body operating at ultimate force that men want most. From war to sport, it is always the controlling of the violence that men seek, because they know that it is the men who can best control their violence who are the most dangerous. If football was a non-violent game, it would attract about the same crowds as netball. The reason people watch football, both men and women, is because of the reality of the violence, and the constant potential for violence at every minute of every game. It is also because of the sex—somehow, football is also sexy. We still go to the Coliseum seeking sex and blood.
Men want AFL footballers to be as jumpy and edgy as thoroughbred horses. We revel in fallen football heroes who succumb to drugs and alcohol because we see through them that we are human. There is no better example to show young men than a fallen football star battling addiction to drugs or alcohol. This is true male role modelling. Young men can see that superstar footballers become prey for beautiful young women, and are often accused of inappropriate behaviour and sexual indiscretions. Again, this is excellent role modelling for both young men and young women. Even if they see their heroes shamed and shunned by the morally righteous media, this is also excellent male role modelling. For young girls there is ample warning that if they go among AFL football stars, indeed any footballers, they must go with great care. Men want AFL footballers to be wild men in a civilised way—violent men under control. They want them to be dangerous, to fall down and get up, to be bloody and brave. We want to see the courage of the Anzacs reproduced in every team every weekend.
Australian rules football is in fact “sacred men’s business”. It is sacred because it is needed to initiate boys into manhood, and must somehow defeat this deceptive and destructive push by feminism, cloaked in the lie of “equity” (a word symbolising the failure of the concept of equality) to bully and tyrannise the game. There is a need for men and boys to talk about and satirise “women”, just as there is for women to gently mock “men” and “maleness”, in “men’s only” and “women’s only” environments. This is hardly misogyny or misandry. It is the healthy and harmless exploration of “the other”, which every man and every woman absolutely needs in order to deal with the tyranny of false expectations we all have of each other.
The AFL should return to developing the game of football primarily for the benefit of boys and men and secondarily for the benefit of girls and women. It must certainly cease being developed for the benefit of the small vocal minority of suburban feminists.
This article is from a work in progress provisionally titled “Australian Landscapes from the Factory Door”.