The Roar
The Roar


A letter to Mark Robinson from a male AFLW fan

Fremantle celebrate their win during the Round 2 AFLW match. (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)
Roar Rookie
17th August, 2018

Dear Mark,

Your recent article about AFLW in the Herald Sun was particularly offensive to me.

I’m a 34-year-old man. I was raised almost exclusively by women. I’d like to think I’ve always treated the women in my life with the respect and equality they deserve. But it wasn’t until mid-2016 when I started to date a wonderful, intelligent and voraciously feminist woman that I realised how unbelievably blind I had been to the fact that, as James Brown once put it, it’s a man’s world.

Inherent misogyny has always and still does permeate our society.

I initially reacted poorly when challenged with this notion. I argued that it couldn’t be so because I’d never experienced any of this so-called favour even though I’m a white male.

That position was stunningly naive and I thank my girlfriend for showing me that in a gentle and respectful manner – a luxury that hasn’t been afforded many women throughout the years of human history.

I only came to read your article about the 2019 AFLW season today. Suffice to say I was disappointed. So many of the hallmarks of the male domination of society are present, starting with an opening sentence demanding that you not be called a misogynist for claiming that women are less worthy than men.

Blackburn Kearney

(Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

You’re clearly personally threatened by women’s AFL, because to my mind you don’t start a narrative about it like that for any other reason.


Then you say that the AFLW is only “only average. Played in slow motion on full-sized grounds with 16 players a side”. That you have completely and utterly missed the point of this competition could not have been demonstrated any better than with those words.

Mark, you’ve made the same mistake that every man makes when assuming the female version of whatever they’re doing is less worthy – you’re comparing it with the men’s game. The tagline for the AFLW before it started was, “See what we create”, not, “See how much like the men we can be”.

You point out that it’s played on full-sized grounds like there’s some half-sized alternative available.

Then you credit the AFL for the fact that 500,000 females are now playing footy nationwide. Sorry, Mark, but that’s got nothing to do with the AFL. All that credit goes to the players – those women who’ve busted their guts for breadcrumbs for decades to see a competition like this even be possible.

I don’t have any kids, but one day I might, and I well might have a daughter. Many of my already friends do. So I’m sorry, but you don’t get to trample on their dreams because the ‘product isn’t attractive enough’.

From day dot the AFLW has done something the AFL has failed miserably to do for many years: it’s kept the fans at its core, the women and girls who’ve been inspired by seeing someone of their own gender play professional Aussie Rules football.

Just the other day my girlfriend recounted to me a conversation she’d had with workmates about how amazing it is, thanks to the AFLW, to be able to cheer on professional players that she could see herself being. And I tried to make it about me by making some intelligent comment about how it was great to see that as a man too. She rightly shut me down there, reminding me that no matter what I say, I can’t understand what it’s like to be a woman seeing professional athletes of my own gender play the game for the first time.

The point is, Mark, that this is the reason 500,000 women now play AFL; it isn’t some clever scheme by the administrators of the men’s league.

Ruth Wallace

(AAP Image/David Mariuz)

The sooner we start seeing the AFLW for what it is – something wholly unique and distinct from the men’s game – the better.

You see, Mark, it’s not about you it’s not about me and it’s certainly not about dollars. It’s about women.

Your points regarding the validity of the competition based on its commercial value are logical enough, but they’re still wrong. Sometimes things need to happen just because it’s right and fair for them to. This is one of those scenarios.

Right now it shouldn’t matter what the commercial value of the AFLW is. The players should be paid better and the AFL should be pursuing expansion, not retraction. If the men’s league had been around for only three years, I dare say the standard wouldn’t be anything like what those women provide for us now.

With no alternative women have enjoyed men’s footy for decades. Likewise men can enjoy women’s footy, just as I do. I cheer Erin Phillips, Chelsea Randall and Ebony Marinoff with the same fervour as I do Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts and Rory Sloane. But it will never mean to me what it does to the women who’ve finally been given what they’ve deserved all along: footy made by and played by women.

That’s why the AFL is obliged to grow and support the AFLW – because it should never have been this one-sided.

[latest_videos_strip category=”afl” name=”AFL”]


An anecdote to finish. I’ve attended every Adelaide AFLW home match with my girlfriend and various members of my family. Earlier this year, after a stirring win at Norwood Oval, Crows superstar Jenna McCormick ran the boundary signing autographs, and my brother-in-law, another of our friends and myself stood at the fence hoping to get Jenna’s signature.

Despite there being copious numbers of young girls vying for her time and a club official telling her it was time to leave the field, Jenna still stopped and signed our guernseys.

That is why people go to watch AFLW – because, despite the unfairness of gender bias in footy, the women who created AFLW haven’t carried it into their league. It’s a league made by women and played by women, but it’s for everyone. Just like AFL always should have been.

To propose a shorter season undermines all of the hard work those women have put it to get the AFLW to where it is. It’s insulting and it shows that the AFL is out of touch with its fans.

The AFLW, its fans and its players all know why this league is happening. The AFL and people such as yourselves clearly don’t – which is fine, but it’s better that you don’t pontificate about something you clearly don’t understand at all.