The latest confected feminist outrage is over The Daily Telegraph naming a horse as sportswoman of the year. Here’s why that just doesn’t matter — while there’s plenty else that should.
Australians have raised no idols save for an outlaw, Ned Kelly, and Carbine, a horse. This was the view historian Brian Fitzpatrick held of his fellows in 1956. But, that was a long time ago and our mythology’s expanded since then. The national tabernacle now surely includes those who fought and died in the Dardanelles and, of course, Phar Lap.
And thanks to a winning streak unequalled in a century, it seems a mare could join these heroes. According to The Daily Telegraph, Black Caviar is Sportswoman of the Year and galloping her way toward a pantheon dominated by sires and men who died badly for no good reason.
In a piece that nobody at News Limited expected any woman to read, Phil Rothfield and Darren Hadland took a “tongue in cheek” look at the year in sports. It looked like something that was knocked up in five minutes; there can be no other way to excuse the use of old s-x-and-cricket gag “bowl a maiden over” to describe batsman Chris Gayle.
The piece may have taken no time at all to write but it did dominate social media discussion for a good 12 hours yesterday. And today, a number of opinion pieces appalled at the s-xism, and, you guessed it “misogyny” of these writers have appeared.
As Fairfax has it, Olympian Sally Pearson had been “snubbed” by the Tele. The decision to award an animal this honour over a human is, in the view of many, a disgrace. This round-up of outrage did not stop the reporter from extending the analogy by declaring that Pearson had been “pipped at the post”.
Racing analogies come naturally to Australian journalists. As the ratbag Fitzpatrick observed so many years ago, we have long loved the thoroughbred as much as the outlaw. So perhaps this reverence of a racehorse had less to do with the hatred of women than it does with a strange and long-standing national fetish.
But in a year in which discussion of (purportedly) feminist issues has occupied more space than usual, the peculiar love of tortured animals (and men) described by Fitzpatrick is not at issue here. It is, instead, the gall of those who would dare call women horses.
Those able to chew gum and breathe in the same moment know, of course, that a “sportswoman” refers to a human female and not an equine one and that Pearson or any other human contender for the attention of the Tele never stood a chance. Unless they are diggers, bushrangers or, possibly, Don Bradman, Australian humans can never compete with a horse. Pearson was not pipped because she was never in the same race. Or, species.
In short, this was not an insult borne of the late “misogyny” we have seen so regularly described this year. Rather, it comes from our rather sorry tradition of venerating champion horses even after they’re destroyed.
Identifying “misogyny” — a sort of s-xism with added guarana as I understand it — this year became a full-time job for many opinion writers. I imagine I could have made a little more cash had I chosen to censure Alan Jones, Kyle Sandliands, the “s-xualisation” of children’s clothing and male comedians of which I have never heard.
There are those who deem this an exhilarating time in the history of feminism. Then, there are those of us who would prefer a return to core business.
But this conversation has become muffled in the year of Destroy the Joint.
In a sort of non-stop cultural studies tutorial, identifying s-xism has become a marathon project. One that provides more pleasure than it does practical end.
Matters like equal pay and workforce participation are no longer seen as key goals but things that will just naturally fall into place if no one tells unsavoury jokes or compares women to horses.
Short-lived feminist fury does feel good, though. I have enjoyed it myself in the past. But without a goal nobler than its own expression, it’s content-free. Rather like the Gillard speech that launched these past months of outrage.
At the time, it sounded like a feminist herald of marvellous plans for change. A few months down the track, it seems about as profitable as betting on Black Caviar.