Fifty pages into Anna Krien’s expose into the world of sex, power and sport; ‘Night Games’, is enough to make anyone quiz the perception and representation of women in our game.
This is the great extreme of sexism, and ultimately a culture of degradation towards women.
Whilst many will argue that these acts are the absolute be all and end all, there is a more subtle agenda that is ingrained within footy culture. Whilst these are not the horrific acts retold in courtrooms, they are the subtle tells of a macho football culture and public that is comfortable with blatant discrimination.
There have been articles on this site discussing the manner in which Caroline Wilson has been discussed and critiqued, and she is not the only football personality and professional spoken about in such disturbingly sexist and in plain misogynistic context.
From Samantha Lane, Kelly Underwood, Emma Quayle, to the recent addition to Before the Game team Neroli Meadows, are all spoken about in terms of physical appearance. Whilst male commentators and journalists are discussed in terms of journalistic integrity and aesthetic, a majority of forums and comment sections use personal jibes at the physical attributes of women.
Furthermore, a breakdown of the coverage itself should underpin the very light women are held in. Their presence on football talk shows and panels are nothing but tokenism.
The way Sam Lane is continuously spoken over by her male colleagues in the panel discussion on Channel 7’s post-game Saturday night coverage. She is a singular presence, the same in which Before the Game, another high-rating AFL program only has Neroli Meadows as a singular presence.
Whilst this will seem as anecdotal evidence, but many journalism students will testify the number of young women looking to enter sports journalism, particularly the world of AFL, has increased dramatically.
Yet there is still an incredible lack of presence of on-air and broadcast talent roles held by women.
We had Kelly Underwood commentate on the Ten Network, in which when people were not targeting her physical appearance; they considered her voice ‘annoying’ and therefore deemed her not good enough for broadcast.
You could make that critique of nearly any male football commentator. Kelly Underwood may even have had an advantage over some of them, as she accurately remembered names better than some in commentary jobs at the moment.
It also should be noted the number of senior positions that women hold inside football clubs. From board members to coaches, the number is incredibly minimal.
Whilst the media and football clubs are one aspect, they are merely a reflection of their audience and our culture. If our current national political debate is anything to go by, it is a view that permeates throughout Australian society.
That being said, sport can be the great healer.
The opportunity for the AFL to finally move into establishing a national women’s competition will happen, but it’s not until 2020. The W-League, Cricket Australia and the WNBL currently outstrip Australian rules in creating a nationalised competition for women.
The struggle many women’s competitions face is marketability and exposure. With a game as marketable as the AFL, especially in places such as Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, the women’s format has a better chance of greater success than the other codes competitions have had so far.
Ultimately, a nationalised women’s competition just may be one of the ways forward. This alongside the multitudes of young women in broadcast roles on sports coverage, and increased female presence in club hierarchies, can be the antidote to the continued discrimination.
There will be those that will never change their misguided and misogynistic views, but they needed to be served this reminder.
There will be more women in football from now on, and they need to deal with it.