April 07, 2004 | admin

Masculinity, equality and sexual politics

(on behalf of Darlene)
Rugby league has long revelled in the ultra-masculinity celebrated by the communities that most support it. Like another example of working-class commitment, the trade union movement, the game has also valued mateship and group solidarity.
While comradeship and team spirit are valuable tools when in competition or conflict, they can become pathological and retardative, as evidenced by rape allegations against the Canterbury Bulldogs and revelations about the misuse of women as a perverse quasi-bonding exercise (can’t these blokes sit by a campfire singing folk songs or form book clubs or something).
After years of this behaviour being glorified or tolerated by a misogynistic culture, footballers are finally being brought to book for their actions, but questions remain about the level of dedication clubs have to challenging the beliefs that lead to sexual violence.
That clubs “still don’t get it” (i.e. the link between sexist beliefs and sexual violence) partly drove protestors, both female and male, to picket City Rowers, where the second heat of the Miss Jim Beam Bronco 2004 competition was held recently.
According to Gillian Brannigan, University of Queensland Women’s Rights Organiser, “(the Broncos) had the chance to pick up the ball and run with it”. Unfortunately, in promoting an event that objectifies women and, as Brannigan points out, mixes football culture with young men and alcohol, they fumbled rather than scored.
The defensive attitude of CEO, Bruno Cullen, to the protest and the assertion by Jim Beam’s Marketing Manager that “there is no association between (the competition) and the current issues surrounding the football codes” shows these companies will continue to use archaic activities to sell their products and think, perhaps genuinely, that sexual violence happens in isolation from the attitudes of all teams and the general community.
They might like to consider that if contestants had sought to connect with players in another context they might have been dismissed as “scrags”, as one woman who has accused members of the Bulldogs of attacking her has been.
Unsurprisingly, The Sunday Mail chose to ignore the broader issues raised by the protest, preferring to reduce it to an expression of female “jealousy”. The inference was that feminism is merely about women fulminating, “if only I was pretty and popular with the chaps, I wouldn’t be concerned about issues such as wage disparities or the dearth of women in management”. Such a suggestion is offensive to every woman, and is only the latest in a long line of attempts to deride a coherent set of ideas by attacking its adherents.
There has been a lot of talk lately about a “crisis of masculinity” and young boys needing male role models so they will learn how to be men. The inherent conservatism and essentialism of much of this discussion makes it difficult to engage with. Nevertheless, as some boys look up to rugby league players, it behooves teams like the Broncos to make a greater effort towards encouraging real equality than chucking a few prizes at one woman. This sort of equality acknowledges women’s full humanity and does not divide them into “scrags”, potential models and the rest.

Posted by admin at 5:21 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. The “Lebanese Muslim” gang rapers of 2000 must surely wish they were professional footballers. Then their outdated sexist culture and beliefs might have worked in their favour during their defense.

    Comment by Mark — April 8, 2004 @ 9:21 am

  2. Really nice piece, Darlene. There is a lot bigger problem here than any of the footy clubs want to admit to. The common element – sexual assault, violence, drugs, etc – is a lack of personal responsibility. Now whether or not the clubs actually want their ‘boys’ to behave like men is in fact a moot point.

    Comment by peter mcmahon — April 8, 2004 @ 8:36 pm

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