Recently during an ABC interview Australian of the Year and former Army chief David Morrison suggested Australians should stop using the word ‘guys’ in the workplace. He was concerned ‘guys’ was not inclusive of women. “Exclusive language, gender-based language or inappropriate language, has as much a deleterious or disadvantaged effect as something where you’re saying something blatantly inappropriate to another human being,” General Morrison told ABC News Breakfast.
So what of the emotionally charged response to what is now labeled the Caroline Wilson-Eddie McGuire Saga? The Collingwood AFL president trash-talked sports journalist Caroline Wilson on his Triple M radio show. Furor followed. While discussing a charity event, which raised $4 million dollars for motor neurone disease Eddie suggested a one person slide for Wilson. He then offered $50,000 for her head to be held underwater.
Among the concerned were Holden the multi-million dollars a year sponsor of the Collingwood magpies. They were reported to be ‘hugely unhappy.’ After all, a major reason behind their sponsorship is to sell cars to women and the McGuire gaffe was far from helpful.
Social networks went crazy. For and against raged, a stark reminder we now live in a new age of accountability. I recall my years on radio and TV as ‘living in a goldfish bowl.’ When I was first introduced to a radio microphone a valued mentor told me to visualize my audience as a family, mum, dad and the children, small children. I was told not to say anything that would be offensive to any one of them.
Sadly when broadcasters are together in a group, it is easy to bring the locker room to the studio. Comments that made everyone laugh and backslap in the dressing room becomes much more destructive when publically aired.
Journalist Kate Tozer (ABC Drum) tweeted “McGuire’s comments reek of the AFL boys club of old.” In her column she wrote: “The comments were degrading and brushed off as a joke. He missed the point.” That is the truth. What makes someone laugh may just as easily wound or grieve another.
The whole situation gathered gathered more momentum when AFL Footy Show commentator Sam Newman and co-host Rebecca Maddern added more fuel to the fire. At least in Melbourne, just about everyone has an opinion and it is not all positive.
Humour is a ‘double-edged sword’ according to university psychologist Rod Martin. It can help forge better relationships, it can also be corrosive, eating away at self esteem and antagonizing others. “We use bonding humor to enhance our social connections, but we also may wield it as a way of excluding or rejecting an outsider,” Martin said. (What’s You Humor Style, Louise Dobson, psychologytoday.com) The article by Dobson investigates ‘put-down humour’ and suggests when it is challenged the basic defence is ‘just kidding.’
It is hard for Australian men to dump on Eddie. I understand that. Most of us have made the same kind of jokes in what is called ‘boys-will-be-boys moments.
What I am about to share has no connection with Eddie McGuire or anyone in this scenario. I have never met the Eddie. But for me as a general observation these words by Gary J. Oliver, PhD. may resonate: “Our society puts a lot of pressure on men to be ‘masculine’ but men aren’t always clear what that means. That was true when we were kids and its even more true today. Psychiatrist and family therapist Frank Pittman writes: As a guy develops and practices his masculinity he is accompanied and critiqued by an invisible male chorus of all the other guys who hiss or cheer as he attempts to approximate the masculine ideal, who push him to sacrifice more and more of his humanity for the sake of his masculinity, and who ridicule him when he holds back. The chorus is made up of all the guy’s comrades and rivals, all his buddies and bosses, his male ancestors and his male cultural heroes, his models of masculinity.” (Real Men Have Feelings Too, Gary J. Oliver PhD)
In my own life I know much of my humour and my interests came from my dad. I did all I could to impress him and in this way, with these many influences, we respond.
The Bible says ‘let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.’ (John chapter 8, verse 7) Jesus said this to a group of men who sought to charge a woman with the crime of adultery. In the face of His challenge, they walked away. (More likely, they slinked?)
Power of the Tongue
I believe women have the right to demand better, from all of us blokes. It is part of our makeup to lose good manners and common sense when with the mates. In the public place we need to show much more respect, particularly if you seek to attract sponsors and support.
Israelmore Ayivor is an inspirational Christian writer. He said, “Your skull encloses your brains. But never forget that anytime you open your mouth to talk, you have opened your mind for the entire world to see what is hidden in there!”
In the Bible the Book of Proverbs warns ‘death and life are in the power of the tongue.’ (Proverbs 18, verse 21) What was said on Triple M has been broadcast. It has been ‘aired.’ We can be thankful those involved have made things right personally. Sadly public opinion never forgets.