AFL-related radio content continued to innovate across new horizons last week when in what I certainly hope was a world-first, Eddie McGuire, James Brayshaw and Danny Frawley had a good old chuckle while thinking about a way to murder The Age journalist Caroline Wilson.
Yes, you may have heard that Eddie and his pals made a ‘jibe’ or that they’re in ‘hot water’ over ‘comments’ or made a ‘gaffe’ – but let’s not beat around the bush here. What they did in fact do was lay out a disturbingly detailed plan for staging a public execution, laughing along the way.
This took place during a Triple M radio show The Rub last Monday ahead of the ‘Big Freeze at the G’ event raising funds for research to combat Motor Neuron Disease. The Rub crossed live to McGuire, a participant in the event, who initiated the conversation.
You can listen to the full audio here, though I’ll warn you it’s not a pleasant experience.
“I reckon we should start the campaign for a one-person slide next year. Caroline Wilson. And I’ll put in ten grand straight away – make it twenty. And if she stays under, fifty,” said McGuire.
James Brayshaw and Danny Frawley were quick to get around the plan. Wayne Carey, also on the program, said “Yes, I’m here mate,” when asked if he was “there” – that’s a bit open to interpretation, but he didn’t otherwise join in the conversation (nor did he attempt to put a stop to it).
But it wasn’t enough to have a chuckle at the idea and move on, instead Frawley was happy to volunteer his services: “I’ll actually jump in and make sure she doesn’t — I’ll hold her under, Ed.”
Eddie’s response: “I reckon we could charge ten thousand for everyone to stand around the outside and bomb her.”
A small credit should go to Damian Barrett who jumped in to say he was ‘on Caro’s side.’ But McGuire could have none of that – hatred and violence it seems, like misery, love company.
“She’ll burn you like everyone else, mate. She’s like the black widow. She just sucks you in and gets you and you start talking to her and then bang! She gets you.”
Brayshaw then expanded McGuire’s vision even further: “If you ran that auction from down there, I reckon you’d start grabbing some bids out of the seats too. There’d be money piling in everywhere.” What a great mental image.
“It’s be magnificent,” said Eddie. Nice choice of word. “I think we should do that next year. It’s all good for footy.”
The segment closed with two words from Brayshaw that sum up the situation pretty well on a number of levels: “Bloody oath!”
Now let’s put this into a bit of context. The AFL has drawn a lot of criticism in the past for its attitude towards women, but this past week saw a number of what felt like big steps taken towards the goal of making our game a more inclusive place.
On Wednesday the AFL officially announced the establishment of the National Womens League (NWL) in 2017, with eight AFL clubs (including Collingwood) gaining licenses to compete.
On Friday, the AFL committed to the Our Watch campaign, which focuses on educating young people about and preventing violence against women. You’ve probably seen one of their ads.
And on Saturday night, Geelong and the Western Bulldogs played for the ‘White Ribbon Cup’, helping to raise awareness for and support White Ribbon Australia, who campaign to prevent violence against women.
A pretty promising week, on the surface of it. It’s a shame that it began with three prominent AFL personalities ‘joking’ about their plan to murder a female AFL journalist.
These guys aren’t just radio shock jocks who pull this kind of stunt to make headlines either. No, these are three men who are deeply entwined into the AFL landscape.
McGuire and Brayshaw are the presidents of AFL clubs. Frawley is a former AFL senior coach and currently an All-Australian selector. All three have multiple regular AFL media commitments.
They’ve got no excuse. Absolutely no excuse whatsoever. They can’t plead ignorance. The AFL has gone to extensive efforts to educate everyone involved the game about what is acceptable and what isn’t. As prominent members – leaders, scarily – in the AFL community, these men can’t for a second pretend they weren’t aware that these kind of comments aren’t okay.
But what’s so bad about it, I’m sure some will be thinking. It’s just a joke, isn’t it? And it’s not like it’s just because she’s a woman, eh (although the term ‘black widow’ is, by definition, an unavoidably feminine slur)?
Myself and the vast majority of men in this country have grown up without ever needing to fear for our lives, and without ever needing to fear the threat of violence from the other half of society. We’re pretty lucky in that.
Not so for women. They don’t have to do much newsreading in the morning to hear about yet another woman abused, another woman killed, another woman murdered.
In Australia alone a woman is killed by her current or former partner once a week. One in five Australian women have, since the age of 15, experienced sexual violence. Those numbers only scratch the surface.
It’s not just about the raw numbers though – it’s the mindset. Women are told by so many of the people in their life and society as a whole that they should fear the violence of men. That they shouldn’t go out on their own at night (men might hurt them), that they shouldn’t wear ‘provocative’ clothing (men might hurt them), that they shouldn’t meet men in a private place (you can guess why).
They hear this from their mothers, their fathers, their school teachers, police officers, the media – and the list goes on. They are systematically told from all angles throughout their lives that they should fear the threat of violence from men. And it’s a very real threat.
Growing up as a man, I’ve never had this kind of encouragement to not hurt women. My parents raised me to be respectful, that’s about it. No one in my entire life has ever sat me down and educated me about not being violent to women. To my knowledge, none of my male friends ever have. But most women have probably had that conversation on how to avoid violence from men dozens, even hundreds of times.
Can you believe that? We raise women to avoid the violence of men, rather than just raising men not to be violent to women.
It’s impossible for us as men to understand the psychological impact this has on women. The closest I can come is this:
For a brief period earlier this year, I lived next to a neighbour who had threatened to physically attack me. I passed their door to leave my apartment, I slept – or tried to – knowing they were next door. In the short time before the situation was resolved, I became intensely paranoid, and regularly suffered from insomnia.
Being a woman, being raised from day one to fear violence from men – the only comparison I can imagine is feeling the way I did then, for that brief period, all the time. A week of it nearly did me in. I can’t even begin to imagine a whole lifetime.
This is a situation we are desperately trying to change in society.
Campaigns and organisations like Our Watch and White Ribbon Australia are fighting hard to try and create that change. The AFL industry and the people who make it up claim on the surface to be entirely behind it.
But then you tune into the radio and hear three big AFL names talking about how they’d like to murder a woman in public. And all that good work the AFL industry wants us to believe it is doing just kind of fades away. Because these three blokes – and so many others – still just don’t get it.
So: Eddie, James, Danny, I’ve put together a little something for you (and anyone else struggling with this) that will hopefully help you next time you think violence against women would be a good topic for a joke. It’s just a quick little FAQ that should give you all the guidance you need so that you know what to do in that situation.
A man’s guide to joking about violence against women
Q: When is it okay to joke about violence against women?
It’s pretty succinct, really. Maybe you could print it out and carry it around in your pocket. Or clip it to your tie. Sticky tape it to your forehead. Tattoo it on the palm of your hand. Our better yet, just get it through your heads.
A few notes on this piece
1. The incident occurred on Monday June 13 and was well ignored by the majority of the media until the efforts of independent content creators The Outer Sanctum Podcast and Erin Riley saw it gain widespread attention. Bravo to them on their good work.
2. If you don’t think that holding someone under water while other people ‘stand around the outside and bomb her’ is murder, you’re wrong. It is. If that isn’t what those statements were intended to imply, it’s the fault of those who made them for their lack of clarity.
3. Caroline Wilson is a journalist. An award-winning journalist, in fact. Sometimes she’s a bit dislikable. It comes with the job. It can’t ever be considered an excuse for behaviour of this nature.