Last night I had the misfortune to catch an episode of The Verdict on Channel 9 and I was appalled, not only by Karl Stefanovic’s poor hosting skills which see panelists all speaking over the top of each other while Mark Latham shouts his barroom opinions incessantly, but by the absolute rubbish they confidently espouse.
Michelle Payne’s comments about chauvinism after winning the Melbourne Cup led to a discussion about the gender disparity in sport which sees women paid far less than men, not having access to commonly held workplace entitlements, and women’s sport receiving very little coverage in the media.
Some boofy footballer said there’s nothing chauvinistic about it, he just doesn’t like watching netball or basketball. Because that’s all women play, right?
Mark Latham said the fact of the matter is that, if the men’s cricket team played the women’s team they would flog them. Men are stronger, get over it.
A journalist said sport’s a business and because more people want to watch the men, that’s what will be telecast. Which completely ignores the lack of marketing for female sports and the value of their achievements. Sport has just become something for TV execs to fight over.
Amanda Vanstone suggested it was just genetics. She feels sport is a display of strength and men aren’t interested in watching strong women. They choose their partners by who they want to have sex with and who they want to mother their children. Women, on the other hand, want a strong man to protect them. Simple.
I should have turned off then and there but an interview with Albo was coming up so I thought I would hang in – a bad choice.
The discussion turned to Victorian schools who will soon have access to a new feminism curriculum called “Fightback”, created by Fitzroy High School’s Feminist Collective, a group started by teacher Briony O’Keeffe and some of her students in 2013.
The Feminist Collective started as lunchtime sessions on feminism, and turned into an elective offered twice a week. The classes became a safe place for young feminists to vent.
The students were angry that good friends were falling victim to eating disorders; that white middle class men dominated their reading lists; that objectifying images of girls they knew were circulating on Facebook; and that they were being branded “feminazis” on social media.
The response to this was facile and predictable – there is no place in our schools for that sort of stuff; they should all be doing more maths and science; it’s up to the families.
Had they done any research, they would have found that a recent National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey showed younger men, particularly those aged between 16-25, are more likely to hold attitudes that support violence.
The course, which has been aligned with the Victorian curriculum, and is aimed at male and female secondary students, includes about 30 lessons on systemic sexism, the objectification of women, and the link between gender inequality and violence against women.
Students taking the course are asked to reflect on their experience of objectification, compare images of famous men and women in the media, deconstruct sexist cartoons, and debunk “hairy armpit” myths about feminists.
They explore the term “patriarchy”, and examine statistics on the gender wage gap, violence against women, and female representation in sport.
If I was teaching it, I would include a discussion on how men are treated in child custody cases as well because that is one area where males are often subject to gender-based discrimination.
The woman who devised the course said the boys in the class initially found the experience confronting.
“It’s like when you understand that you’re privileged because you’re a white person – you didn’t choose it, there’s nothing you can do about it, but you have [privilege] nonetheless – and it’s a confronting thing to know how [you] are supposed to feel about it.”
I found this a very pertinent analogy which could lead to discussions about Indigenous disadvantage, the pros and cons of positive discrimination, same sex marriage, and how feminism is not just about women but about equality.
With our growing focus on the importance of literacy and STEMM subjects, it is worth remembering that young people spend far more of their waking hours at school than they do with their parents. There are also discussions that young people may be hesitant to have with their families. Teachers have a great responsibility to not only teach their subject matter, but to help young people become productive, well-rounded, emotionally secure adults who can contribute to a cohesive society. Life isn’t all about maths.
Note: Regular panel member psychologist Sandy Rea and guest Indira Naidoo both tried to inject some sanity into the discussion. Sadly they were shouted down and interrupted every time they tried to speak.