The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Archive for January, 2011

Loss of basic female skills or loss of basic journalistic skills?

Posted by Mel Campbell on January 31, 2011

(This post is cross-posted at Crikey.)

There’s an article by Helen Dow currently on News.com.au (originally in Queensland’s Sunday Mail) reporting on some findings from social research consultancy McCrindle Research in Sydney: namely, that Generation Y are losing basic skills of self-care and self-sufficiency. Here are some of the stats from the story:

  • Only 51 per cent of survey respondents aged under 30 can cook a roast, compared with 82 per cent of baby boomers.
  • Only 20 per cent of young respondents can bake lamingtons; 45 per cent of respondents aged over 30 can.
  • Only 23 per cent of young respondents can grow a plant from a cutting; 78 per cent of older respondents can.
  • And only 40 per cent of respondents under 30 can drive manual cars, compared to 71 per cent of older respondents.

Notice that I have deliberately elided the issue of whether the respondents were male or female, and I have not generalised out from the survey sample to the wider Australian population.

Looking at the stats alone, this could actually be an interesting story about our culture of affluence, disposability and general alienation from the means of production. Unfortunately, this report spuriously claims that these are “female skills”. (No, Sunday Mail, putting scare quotes around ‘female’ doesn’t absolve you of knee-jerk sexism, especially when you choose to illustrate your story with goofy pictures of women wielding cooking and cleaning equipment.)

This is a cheap, distasteful reporting strategy aimed at enraging readers who will circulate the story and comment on it, generating advertising revenue. At the time of writing, the story had 88 comments. However, rather than merely getting angry at the perpetuation of these cynically sexist ideas, it’s important to understand how stories like this are developed – and to demand better responses from journalists.

This story angle has most likely been generated by a McCrindle press release. The stereotypes about which skills are ‘male’ and ‘female’ were decided on by the research company and the angle was ‘packaged’ in the release.

Although there are no press releases on the McCrindle site pertaining to this research, another similar release came out from McCrindle on 29 November 2010, entitled “Men of 2010″. Obediently, both the Herald Sun (“Modern man is a bit of a drip”) and Daily Telegraph (“Men losing their traditional skill set”) reported on the decline of traditional “man skills”. The Hez story was a straight rip of the presser, while the Tele found a representative man to interview – probably via a site such as SourceBottle.

However, it’s the job of really good journalists to question the way PR-led stories are presented. The principles of journalism prize not taking things at face value: always getting two sides to any story and looking for the deeper causes of a situation. Rather than replicating the angle provided in the release, a much more critically engaged response from the journalist would have been to get on the phone and on the internet, and find out from independent sources whether the information is reliable.

For a start, I’d like to see some corollary statistics about the prevalence of automatic cars on Australian roads, the number of young people living in urban areas without gardens, the number of young people living at home where they’re not primarily responsible for cooking, and the consumer culture of disposability that means we think it’s easier just to buy things and throw them away rather than to make, maintain, fix and nurture.

If it’s difficult to find these statistics via the limited amount of research time that newsroom journalists have at their disposal, then they need to find an expert who does have access to them. A journalist could seek comment from someone not associated with McCrindle – perhaps an academic working in sociology or gender studies, or another social researcher who’s done similar work.

A journalist on his or her toes (and, sadly, they often seem to give this genre of story to female reporters) could even just call Mark McCrindle and ask him, straight up, to back up his claims with quantitative evidence: how did his company assign particular skill sets to ‘men’ and ‘women’? Did the survey respondents themselves associate certain skills with certain genders – or did the researchers design that association into their survey?

This story is the end of a chain of assumptions that nobody has seen fit to question. But the profession of journalism should make assumption-busting its first order of business.

Posted in Media Watch | Tagged: , , , | 13 Comments »

AFL player not convicted or charged, no one faints from surprise

Posted by caitlinate on January 29, 2011

Reading the (online) paper this morning, I saw that two Collingwood AFL players have been cleared of sexual assault charges by police. I don’t know very much about that case and don’t really want to say anything specific about it. More, it made me think about whether I could recall a single case where a football player had ever actually been convicted.

I can think of lots of cases where yet another football player has raped or sexually assaulted a woman. This seems to happen quite a lot. But I can’t think of a single time I’ve heard of a player being convicted of the charges laid against them. It seems I am more likely to read about police dropping charges, police not pursuing charges and the DPP not pursuing a hearing. What the hell is going on? Are players being convicted on the quiet or is there really a pattern of no convictions recorded against any footballers on rape or sexual assault charges? If I can think of five different instances of a footballer player raping or sexual assaulting someone last year I can only imagine how many other instances of this occurred. So why aren’t any of the perpetrators ever having to take responsibility for their actions? A few weeks suspended from the club and then a loud welcome back into the bro-hood does not = taking responsibility. How many women don’t come forward with what happened to them because they know nothing will be done? How many do come forward and are ignored, or are paid for their silence? Is it really true that we don’t hold AFL footballers accountable for their actions and their violence towards women?

I recognise that statistics for prosecution against non-AFL perpetrators aren’t exactly high. But for there to have not been a single successful prosecution of an AFL player for sexual assault ever – or at least in recent history – makes it seem like there is something more than your standard victim-blaming hetero-patriarchy happening here. I know that there are groups and organisations and individuals working with football players to try and teach them that, you know, sexually assaulting people is wrong. I know that the AFL and clubs are – publicly at least – trying to change the culture within football to eradicate this kind of behaviour. I would really like to believe that there is something changing. That these players are getting it into their thick skulls that rape and sexual assault are not okay, that treating women like your property is not okay, that consent is a really great thing. But I also wonder how well that message can sink in when at the same time all these (generally speaking) able bodied, heterosexual, white men are worshipped as heroes and given status, prestige and a lot of money. When they are repeatedly told that what they do for a few months a year is really important and should be taken really seriously at the exclusion of all else. When, every week, hundreds of thousands of people all over the country agree. The sense of entitlement these guys would be walking around with, the exaggerated sense of entitlement they display, is astounding but in the end, not really so surprising.

I’m not advocating for these dudes to all go to prison. I don’t think sending people to prison is going to solve rape or is going to actually stop any person – footballer or not – from raping another. I also don’t think that the people with the power to imprison others even have the fucking right to do so in these cases, considering their culpability in protecting rape culture. Cops, judges and AFL officials have repeatedly shown scant respect for the law or for the people who have been assaulted – far too impressed by the glory of the football player, far too invested in protecting these symbols of white patriarchal heterosexuality. The amount of effort that goes into protecting these players from being adults and taking responsibility for their actions is staggering:

Former detective Sen-Det Scott Gladman claims that a 2004 rape charge against Saints star Stephen Milne collapsed amid a campaign of threats and intimidation from inside Victoria Police and by powerful club backers.

-Source

The woman, known only as Kate, claims that in 1999 police waited two days before visiting the crime scene, failed to get the suspect’s DNA, and records of his interview with police disappeared. Kate has told ABC1’s 7:30 Report program while she has now reached a confidential settlement, she was originally offered $20,000 to keep quiet. Victoria Police declined to be interviewed because it says it cannot comment on any payments because of strict confidentiality clauses. The allegations come two months after former Carlton president John Elliott said the club had paid hush money to women who claimed they had been assaulted or raped by its players.

-Source

In 2007 Brodie Holland was fined $2,500 for his role in a fight with a young woman over a taxi cab. After Hollands fiancee was involved in a scuffle with the woman, Holland approached calling the woman a “stupid slut” before trying to tackle her, placing her in a headlock after which she bit him on the stomach, before striking her in the head with his fist. His court appearance was pushed back on two occasions so not to clash with his football commitments; once he faced court no conviction was recorded and no punishment handed out from his club, Collingwood.

-Source

The uncensored contract, obtained by AAP on Tuesday, states that Victoria Police could not comment on its own investigations into any AFL player, coach, board member or even staff without consulting the league. The football body was also given permission to “investigate matters of illegal betting” and other serious crimes from drug trafficking and domestic violence to sexual assaults. The police-AFL “relationship” was struck so both could investigate “any criminal activity that would be prejudicial to the interests of the AFL”, the contract says.

-Source

I think these men as individuals need to be taking responsibility for their actions, yes. This needs to not just be going to court and trying to avoid a sentence. It needs to not just be letting some gender studies lecturers from your local university come down and ignoring them while they explain to you why what you’re doing isn’t okay. It needs to be footballers finding ways within themselves and within the macho, football-centric social groups they are a part of to break down these ideas and attitudes that cause so much harm. Not waiting for other people to solve it for them but actually recognising what’s going on and doing something to change it. It needs to be AFL footaballers taking responsibility as a whole.

But it’s not just them. The clubs and the league and the coaches and everyone directly involved with AFL needs to be taking and continuing to take responsibility for what they encourage. I think that the legal system either needs to stop pretending to believe in the equal rule of law or actually apply it. And I think everyone who loves a team or loves the sport and spends several months a year telling a bunch of men with a ball that they are fucking awesome, that they are fucking heroes, that they are winners and champions and great, that what they are doing is important, that what they do is taken very seriously; I think those people need to think about what kind of culture it is they are actually supporting and what they can do to challenge it.

Posted in sexual assault, Sport, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Sexism in sport never seems to go away

Posted by Nic Heath on January 26, 2011

Sexism in sport never seems to go away.

Three members of the Sky Sports football commentary team in the UK have been taken off air for a variety of actions deemed unacceptable by management – perhaps a saving grace in the story.

Andy Gray, “the face of Sky Sports’ football coverage for the past two decades”, has been fired for offensive behaviour directed at colleague Charlotte Jackson (a harsher penalty than that given to our very own Sam Newman in a similar incident).

Gray’s colleague Richard Keys “had been reprimanded and removed from duty on Monday for making derogatory comments about lineswoman Sian Massey, former referee Wendy Toms and West Ham executive Karren Brady”, while another member of the Sky Sports football team, Andy Burton, was taken off air on Tuesday for his comments about a female official.

Closer to home, this week Network Ten ended the ‘two-year experiment’ that saw Kelli Underwood commentate top-level AFL for television. Underwood was the first woman to call football on Australian television.

Underwood has not been completely cut away. She will commentate netball and the AFL boundary-line for Ten and football for ABC. To Underwood’s credit, she has put on a brave face, telling “I was the first to do it but hope I am not the last. I would say to every girl out there you should go for it.”

That said she has faced an uphill battle trying to be accepted as a football commentator, polling as ‘most annoying commentator’ in the Herald Sun Footy Fans survey last year.

It is dispiriting that schoolyard notions of women in sport – like whether we can understand the offside rule, or call a match – still have currency in certain circles.

Lately women have been making short work of the glass ceiling, particularly in politics. Only last week Lara Giddings became Tasmania’s first female premier. A look at Crikey’s Friday editorial – a series of sexist headlines pertaining to stories about female politicians – shows all is not quite as it should be, yet*. But with most of the top positions of power in eastern seaboard filled by women at present, a sense of hope seems warranted.

In Australia and overseas, sport offers a less positive outlook.

*For more on the topic read Amber Jamieson’s interviews with Cheryl Kernot, Natasha Stott-Despoja and Fran Bailey at Crikey.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

 
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