Sandra Sully Thanks Eddie McGuire For Getting Us To Talk About The Implications Of Bloke Banter

"Thank you for your misogynist comments because they finally sparked national debate."

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Today, media veteran Sandra Sully has expressed relief that Australia is finally discussing the link between language and violence against women, praising Eddie McGuire for prompting a national conversation about workplace misogyny. In an opinion piece for The Age, Sully says that McGuire’s thoughtless joke about drowning Caroline Wilson has instigated an important dialogue about how Aussie bloke “banter” can casually reinforce inequality.   

“Thank you for your misogynist comments because they finally sparked national debate and resulted in national outrage,” she writes. “People are now connecting the dots between language — the weaponry of words — that trivialise violence against women, and a culture that perpetuates it.”

Sully linked the Triple M segment to the greater issue of how “outrageous degrading commentary” has pervaded both sports and the general Australian media, with “blokes” protecting each other and minimising the great impact that these sort of jokes have. “While compounded by another member of the ‘blokes network, Sam Newman, it opened people’s eyes to the fact that violence against women sadly encompasses more than the women being murdered every week – that it’s much more than countless acts of reported physical or sexual abuse,” she says.

“The uncomfortable undercurrent is a dangerous mass of verbal, emotional and financial abuse, control, manipulation and degrading jokes and comments.”

Sam Newman’s bizarre and archaic defence of Eddie McGuire certainly confirms this point (he claimed that Caroline Wilson can’t really want equal treatment if she doesn’t like men joking about murdering her, or something). Sully argues that unfortunately, this industry culture will not change until there are financial ramifications for this behaviour. Richmond’s boycott of Triple M may have been a contributing factor in McGuire’s eventual apology, but otherwise she says there has been a “staggering silence” from the AFL.

Given this story was broken by young female journalist Erin Riley, Sully also wrote about the importance of encouraging women to report these stories, particularly when so often they are “bombarded with abusive letters, emails and comments” for doing so. This year, Women in Media found that 41 percent of female journalists in Australia have experienced harassment online. “Deeply personal attacks and threats are continually made against journalists who labour to bring this issue to the nation’s attention, ironically often threatened with precisely the kind of violence (death and rape threats) they seek to bring to light,” Sully says.

“We are learning about the power of the words we use. We are learning about the link between sexism and violence against women. We are learning that ‘boys will be boys’ is not a valid excuse for aggression and abuse. We are learning we all have the power to do something about this violence.”