Menu lock

SPORT

Dec 24, 2012

Misguided feminism finds offence everywhere -- even a horse

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.

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola

28 comments

Leave a comment

28 thoughts on “Misguided feminism finds offence everywhere — even a horse

  1. Ravenred

    Heh… a Marxist analyst might say you’ve got to look at the Base rather than just faffing around with the superstructure.

    But it’s also an argument for letting crap go by the boards because it’s not “important” enough. The one sexist jibe about a prominent female leader isn’t important because there are bigger things to worry about. The waitress getting felt up isn’t important because there are bigger things to worry about. That one woman being raped isn’t important because there are bigger things to worry about.

    Strawman? Yes, of course, but you’ve got to make sure that a sober call for perspective doesn’t become a dismissal of people’s lived experience of sexism.

  2. Daly

    Jokes underline journalists attitudes. That is why the Canberra press gallery missed the point of Gillard’s speech. This selection of a horse as Sportswoman of the year shows similar attitudes: women are not really in the game. If women protest they have no sense of humour; a gotya!

    I don’t buy any newspapers because journalists have these attitudes and the Australians I know are well past this sort of silly thinking about over half the population.

    If Crikey journalists, men or women, are no better I won’t renew.

  3. Jennie Fickling

    Silly article, and I’m disappointed with Crikey for publishing such a narrow-minded (and wrong) view of women’s issues in 2012. The issues that have been tackled have NOT been content free, and real progress has been made in many areas. What (if anything) has Helen done in 2012 that has tackled these issues in any meaningful way?

  4. Sarah

    This is a really bad article. It may be a fair critique that horses feature higher than humans (always women, but only sometimes men, as you proved) in our concept of Australian identity, but wouldn’t it be better to completely analyse this notion rather than jump on the feminist wowzers?

    I was left most stunned by the third last paragraph. The idea that somehow feminism should only focus on the ‘big’ issues, rather than the day to day experiences of women is something I would expect in the Tele, not here.

  5. klewso

    Of course Black Caviar can be “Sportswoman of the Year” – as judged by the “The Tele’s Tubbies”. Look at the women Murdoch has working for him in politics – the one end of a horse they are, with as much vision!

  6. Colleen Murrell

    I agree – it is a silly article. I don’t think anybody who thinks feminism is still “core business’ would consider that equal pay and workforce participation were no longer important. #Destroythejoint has done a great job at outing the blatant sexism in this country in everyday life.

  7. Colleen Murrell

    I realise of course that you can’t really ‘out’ something that is blatant so instead I offer that #destroythejoint has done a great job at broadcasting blatant, everyday sexism to a wider audience.

  8. drmick

    Daly has hit the nail on the head.
    Some men just keep missing the point. Not because they are stupid, but because they fail the basic test of humanity; to put yourself in the other persons shoes and walk around for a bit.
    Nurses do it all the time; it is why we were considered a vocation rather than a profession. Doctors however perfectly fit the picture and practice of journalists.
    Only a doctor would prescribe serepax and valium to a woman who is going through menopause and only a press gallery “journalist” could miss Julias speech for what is was and name a horse woman of the year.

  9. phyllis stein

    As Daly said, this underlines the attitude. When in any doubt, reverse it. I doubt the Tele would be as dismissive of a male athlete, and in fact they weren’t. What next? Give the award to a sailboat? They’re “female”.

    And it’s not funny, it’s lazy. Written quickly? That might be a defense but it’s not an excuse.

    “In a piece nobody at News Limited expected any woman to read” … what, we looked at a part of the paper not for us womenfolk? Or was that a joke too? ‘Cos, if it’s a joke, then I’ve got no right to be offended, and if I’m not to be seen as a humorless feminazi then I should smile and move on.

    Can’t wait for the follow up stories…. “Tele’s Sportswoman of the Year Covered by Handsome Stud” …pictures.

    If, as you say, identifying s-xism is a marathon project then you’re not helping with this thoughtless effort. And I am baffled by the following sentence “One that provides more pleasure than it does practical end.” Crikey Crikey…. this is a poor effort.

  10. James Butler

    We are heading to an age where Men will be oppressed by Women. Do Men deserve it? Probably , given the past atrocious oppression of women, guess its history repeating itself the other way round. Is it right? No it isn’t, we should have a balance and dissolve the whole “Gender wars” thing.

Telling you what the others don't. FREE for 21 days.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.