Women’s footy: Thank you
This is a thank you.
Thanks to all of the people who have elevated another sport played by women to the top of the public interest tree. In this latest case, the sport is Australian football (Note: “AFL” is not a sport). Cricket has made efforts latterly here, too.
The road has been long to reach this point. And much has already been written, viewed, played. But I say thank you here, anyway.
Why? I say thank you because you have helped offer another opportunity to young girls. You have shaped their world such that equality of opportunity is more normal than it was last year.
You have encouraged conditions under which a female is judged not by how she appears, but by what she does.
(Adult to young boy: “You must be a fast runner.”
Same adult to young girl: “That’s a beautiful skirt.”
Check it out. It’s pervasive.)
The Collingwood v Carlton game is looming. So I ask my daughters (9 and 11 years-old).
“The women are playing footy on Friday night. Who wants to come and watch?”
“Nah. Footy is boring. Dad, watching footy is boring.”
“Nah, I’m going to play at a friend’s house.”
And so my first invitation to my daughters to see AFLW is brushed aside. And fair enough. They have absorbed for years the world around them. They know that men’s sport is what’s promoted on TV. Except for rare exceptions, such as the Olympic Games and some tennis. As I suggested last year, the Olympic Games is perhaps the only example of sport in which girls can imagine a future version of themselves to be on a par with that of boys.
And this thinking is understandable.
So thank you.
Thanks for taking a bit more ground back, in the search for equality.
Thank you for standing strong in the face of opposition. An opposition that must come from a place of fear.
I make one more run at a sale.
“This is a pretty big deal.” I appeal to the sense of occasion, sense of history around the Collingwood v Carlton fixture. This is no Berlin Wall moment, to be sure, but it is significant. “You’ve asked where are the women on TV and in the newspapers. Women are being given a chance this week. At last. Would you like to go?”
A couple of years ago, these girls stopped my breakfast with questions about the inequality of men’s and women’s sports coverage. At ages 8 and 6. Yes, young girls ask “where are all the girls, Dad?” when navigating their worlds (they really do).
“Hmm. Where is this game happening?”
“It’s at Princes Park. Near that playground that had the amazing six swings all swinging into the centre of the circle.”
“Oh yeah. But that’s in Carlton. We can’t go to gloomy Carlton.”
It’s one of those long-running family jokes that the proper noun “Carlton” must be preceded by the adjective “gloomy.” It originated years ago on a shady and overcast day under the thick canopies of Lygon Street foliage. Completely unrelated to the (gloomy) Carlton Football Club. But quite appropriate.
“It’s the women playing for Collingwood.”
“That’s good. I hope they have fun.”
And so, with a geographical rejection, my daughters also remind me that winning is not the thing, and neither is passively supporting the thing. But that playing is the thing. And they blithely morph this women-now-play-footy-for-Collingwood into their world view, in the way that children do seemingly without effort.
(This, I think, is acceptance. (As opposed to control, or argument that adults may try when faced by a new or challenging or puzzling proposition)).
So thank you. Thank you, for now “women playing footy on TV” is normalised for girls everywhere. In the same way that “Jake working part time” is normalised.
Or “Linda working full time” is normalised.
And all the other parts of a life that we build.
For sadly, the role of women in many AFL productions is still as trophy-on-the-arm. (“Whoah, and haven’t those boys done well for themselves? Shows what you can get by playing AFL” Luke Darcy chairing a prime time TV panel as an interview with three WAGs of West Coast players finally concludes, September 2015).
“Women as objects to be owned/ commented upon” is certainly alive as a social construct, but AFLW has been another strike in the right direction.
Thank you too, to the female journalists, reporters; doing, doing.
And a thank you for the positive, footy-related stories being told.
None of that “XYZ is a tool” kind of commentary.
Instead the supporting of those having a go.
It is possible.
I see the odd message that says: “As a parent of daughters, I applaud the AFLW.” But this misses the mark, I think. It’s better presented as: “As a human, I applaud the AFLW.”
Nobody needs a sister/ mother/ daughter in order to understand the fundamental point of equality of opportunity.
So well played those people. The pushers for change.
The progressive, the thoughtful, the imaginative, the tough and the determined.
“It’s good to see footy women on the back page, Dad.”
Indeed, it is.