The football media has gone nuts with the latest off field incident, this time it’s North’s turn with a YouTube video of a rubber chicken rooting a real chicken carcass.
My immediate reaction is one of shock and disappointment. This happens to Collingwood, West Coast, Port Adelaide … the list goes on. But not to North.
But then I actually think about the incident. Is a rubber chicken dry humping an actual chicken degrading to women? How did this story break? How should the media, the AFL, North Melbourne and footy fans respond? Who is Boris the rubber chicken anyway?
These are my thoughts:
Women and footballers is the hot topic right now. Brett Stewart of the NRL and Nathan Bock of the Adelaide Crows can attest to that. But they alleged assaulted actual women. A rubber chicken assaulting a chicken carcass seems a bit different to me.
Arocca has apparently conceded that it could be construed as insulting to women. Phil Cleary, an outspoken advocate against domestic violence, described it as ‘bogan’, ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’.
What do I think? I think it’s ridiculous. I am no fan of misogynistic behaviour, and from what has been described of the video, I think the biggest crime is that someone thought it was funny. I don’t like some of the imagery – running over the chicken carcass at the end is pretty horrific if you think about it as a woman – but it’s not a woman. And clearly, whoever directed the video (‘one of the younger members of our group’, Eugene Arocca) really wasn’t thinking about the implications.
But is it a reflection of a deeper ignorance, possibly even a disdain by footballers towards women? Definitely. My question is, why is anyone surprised? Put any bunch of boys together for a while, in relative isolation from the rest of society (let alone women), and this sort of stuff will happen. What is just an innocent in-joke to them is offensive to someone else. And the moral brigade will be wheeled out by the media and publicly damn it as an outrage.
So what’s the solution? How can the AFL, clubs and officials tackle this culture?
In many ways it’s straight-forward – put the players back into the community. Integrate them, educate them, allow them to mix freely with all types and learn from their mistakes. Don’t hide them, attempt to protect and control them. Just like the rest of us, they’re grow up eventually, and treat women with the respect they deserve (well, at least the respect society thinks they deserve).
But it’s not going to happen – not without a revolution anyway. With the media reaction the way it is, clubs and the AFL are forced to take action. And what will their action be? On the surface, it will be about education and community work. But in practice they’ll just look to make sure it doesn’t get out again.
This story broke coz a player put up the video on their Facebook page. As if NMFC won’t ban players from Facebook now? Or at least have a strict online code of conduct policy enacted. In effect, they’ll just look to lock down players more, give them less liberty, make them more removed from society. They have no real choice – the media love this stuff too much. And so the cycle continues, gaining momentum with each turn.
And so who do we blame? The media? The clubs? The AFL?
As I’ve said before, none of them are actually to blame. We are. If we, fans and non-fans alike, continue to disconnect with any real community, we’ll continue to lap up these bull-shit stories. We’ll continue to dismiss or condemn, depending on our perspective, and choose not to humanise any of the real people involved. Coz when they’re celebrities, it’s okay to condemn them. Coz they’re not really human then, are they?
If people want to do something about this issue, it’s time to address the continual breakdown of community – across all facets of society, not just football. North are trying – they are arguably the last of the community clubs in the AFL, and are publicly looking to go back to their community roots. And they are one of the few clubs that has at least one woman working in the football department.
And there are a few people around the traps, even in the media, who seem to get it. Just have a look at a real story from John T. Harms in today’s Age. But tragically, not many people will get past the back page headlines and see it.