Professional footballers are treated like thoroughbred race horses or gladiators of old. As the late Peter Ustinov’s gladiator trainer character said in the classic movie Spartacus: ?A gladiator is like a stallion. It must be pampered. You?ll be oiled, bathed, shaved, massaged, taught to use your heads. Approximately half our graduates live for five, ten…ten years.?
Old race horses are shot for dog meat – a tiny few used for breeding. Old footballers hobble away to obscurity and a sudden end to their celebrity status – a tiny few get jobs in the media or coaching.
But while they are young and fit enough to be useful to the big business interests that now dominate modern professional sport, a whole culture of male bonding and elitism is created around mainly ill educated ‘workers in shorts’. This artificially-created bonding is not about ‘mateship’ or human solidarity, but is an ideology pushed by the footy bosses to achieve better teamwork, victory, and greater profits. Women are used as a tool for this bonding. The latent sexism that already exists in class society is manipulated for this purpose, not challenged.
The wringing of hands by the AFL and NRL bosses is truly hypocritical as many of these men are ex-footballers themselves and almost certainly participated in gang rapes and other sexual assaults, or at least knew they occurred.
The ‘footy gang rape’ scandal is not about sex; it?s about violence and the way women are treated. It is not the job of socialists or the State to dictate to consenting adults how and with whom and with how many adults they choose to have sex with. However rape, especially gang rape, is about (collective) violence and, in the case of football players, a form of vile artificial bonding. As Karen Willis of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre put it: ‘The woman is almost irrelevant to the process. She?s almost a tool.’
What socialists say
Socialists must demand a total overhaul of the rape laws in Australia to make it easier to get a conviction against rapists and, while not denying anyone natural justice, better protect sexual assault victims in the court process.
We need action against the advertisements that demean women so some crappy product can sell. It is hypocritical for commercial TV news to wax lyrical about the rape charges and then cut to a advertisement using women’s breasts to sell shoes or cars.
We need a massive education programme organised by unions, women’s groups etc inside schools, colleges, and workplaces to raise these issues head on.
But the fact that women are used and abused by some footballers reflects women?s position in capitalist society. They still are centered in the lowest paid jobs, with the majority of child rearing and domestic responsibilities, and still face sexism in advertising, jobs, and in every part of life. A revival of militancy in the workers? and student movement will include a revival in the organisation and militancy of women.
Capitalism didn’t create sexism, but it kept it, developed it and will nurture in until it is overthrown.
By Stephen Jolly