Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Female Coaches?

Just when I think I'm getting a handle on things the intricacies of modern Australian life throws up yet another challenge to my patience and sense of equilibrium.

The latest thing challenge here is the claim that women should be able to referee and coach first-grade rugby league.

One of the fundamental reasons I love rugby league is that you always know where you stand with it - as a game, and as an institution. (Recent exceptions here are the Storm throwing the entire salary cap system into dissaray and eternal doubt and the Matt Elliot/Steve Georgalis affair, but what the hell, every rule has its exceptions.)

In a time when the sands are constantly shifting under us, we've become strangely accustomed and resigned to having the rug pulled out from under us. The fact that this has become eye-rollingly accepted is a sad indictment on Australian society, but show me something that isn't.

Here we really need look no further than the term 'core promises'. This is one of the more insidious ideas of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Only in an age where politicians are essentially given license to lie as lavishly as they like, with additional extravagance allowed in the months preceeding an election, could this term gain the traction that it has. We are living in this day and age of untruths and shaftings and skullduggery and shock MaterChef eliminations and resurrections right now. Golden years, to be sure.

Amid all this swirling and rapidly shifting effluent, rugby league is a branch we can cling to while we catch our breath.  The fact that rugby league is as reliable as the sunrise is comforting in all manner of ways that I cannot even begin to expand upon. I imagine other fans of the game feel something vaguely similar. If they don't, well, I'm further out on the ledge than even I thought.

Anyway. Some columnist called Claire Harvey, who seems in most respects to be a reasonably insightful and well rounded woman (the polar opposite of Miranda Devine, if you will), wrote an op-ed piece which she opened by posing the question
"How hard can it really be to coach a top-level rugby league team? Too hard for a woman? How about refereeing - is there any way a female whistle-blower could control two teams of aggressive young athletes on the field in an NRL game?"
Then she says that the NRL Telstra Premiership has never had a female referee, nor a female coach, and asks
"So what's the problem?"

Sorry, what?
There's a problem?
Who said there was a problem?
Whose problem is it? - because it's sure as shit not a problem for me - and I know that's not exactly a key criteria, but, still...

Why must it be that people and particularly women are forever propelled further and further forward? Is this indicative of the blind, constant forward movement that now makes up the meat of our daily lives, or something else entirely? There's no doubt that we live in an aspirational era. We are taught that we can all not just reach for the stars but pull them from the sky, possess them, and parlay the whole enterprise into gaining a media profile and a gig on Dancing With the Stars. An aspirational mindset is highly valued, basically, and reality need not intrude.

Remember when Prince Charles was howled down and subjected to hate filled diatribes about being a hopelessly elitist and derisive snob due to that one mild mannered comment about it being a little unrealistic and maybe even unnecessarily cruel to drill into every child that they could reach number ten Downing Street, the Royal Throne, Top of the Pops or Branson and Beckham-esque fame and fortune if only they wished and went for it hard enough? I thought it was the most sensible and insightful thing I have ever heard Charles say - second only to the tampon remark, and maybe his "whatever that means" response to a just married Diana telling an interviewer that yes, they were in love. Although I would probably file that less under 'Sensible and Insightful' and more under 'Way Harsh Way to Take the Wind Out of Somebody's Sails', come to think of it.

Anyway, look a little closer and you'll see that this highly desirable relentless, churning, striving aspirationalism is the wayward older cousin of the less desirable relentless, churning, striving anxiety. Yeh, yeh, more first world problems, well spotted you.

The proposal that women coach and referee NRL games is truly stupid. I feel like it's an idea that, were he not such a hayseed misogynist, would be likely to come from Bob Katter during a parliamentary debate on, oh, the live export trade or something, that's how perplexing I find it. It doesn't even look good on paper, can you even imagine if an idea as stupid as this came to fruition?

I'm not suggesting women simply marinate in the rancid bain-marie of domesticity and aspire for nothing. But all too often now the discourse surrounding 21st century feminism focuses on barn-storming and ceiling-smashing above all else - by which I mean all this women swinging from vine to vine through the jungle 'you can do anything' bullshit we're force-fed. Consider the implications.

It's not, as NRL executive director has suggested, just about women having the same skill set as men - being eligible for it, in other words. What kind of reasoning is this? Just because someone can do something, this alone does not demand that they do it.

It's about culture. Rugby league is a game played by men. Men play it, and men run it, in the upper echelons anyway. They make a pretty good go of it, too. Let's leave well enough alone for once and let them get on with it. I mean, honestly.

It's the idea of female coaches that really yanks my chain. Can there not just be a space for men (or boys - because the players are always, always referred to as boys, in the same way that everone gets an affectionate 'y' tacked onto the end of their name so that Josh becomes Joshy and Chris becomes Chrissy and so on and so forth) to be balls-out men? Apparently not, because more and more it seems that the idea of a predominantly masculine space, whether it be in the NRL sheds or, I don't know, on a construction site or a wharf or what have you, is completely abhorrent and must be investigated and overhauled and seen to be evolving. Sigh.

The sporting culture is one of the only institutions where a man can become truly emotional, and even though the exhibition of emotions is not entirely free, it's a traditional masculine gender-role stereotype accepted by the general population, and a worthy one.

I'm not saying women in league should be consigned solely to the roles of jersey-washers and orange-cutters but women as coaches? The idea is outlandish and mildly offensive. How about we just leave something for the boys, ever think of that?

And, honestly, I can't imagine anyone not being okay with this. Are there really women out there actively seeking to penetrate the upper echelons of coaching, and if so who the hell are they? Maybe there is, I don't know. I don't exactly move in the sort of circles where such things are talked about, if in fact they are outside of op-ed pieces in newspapers.

Then I read a seperate article in which Katie Page said she believes that all players should be banned from alcohol during the season. Let me repeat that for those of you in the cheap seats: KATIE PAGE BELIEVES ALL PLAYERS SHOULD BE BANNED FROM ALCOHOL DURING THE SEASON.  I mean, I don't doubt that she's a hugely successful business woman, but she is clearly off her rocker. The worst part of it is that I can actually envisage a future where this will probably be the case. Who would I make fun of? How would newspapers fill all that suddenly vacant space? Can you even imagine the tedium of it? Actually, it's just too stupid and depressing to even bear thinking about so let's not. Next.

So. I guess I can break it down to this: Just because we can, doesn't mean that we should. This is ultimately an arguement or an ethos that can be applied to many, many facets of life, and probably should be. The world would be an altogether more inviting and agreeable place, I feel.

P.S.  Speaking of sad indictments, both times I wrote 'Katie Page' I went to type 'Katie Price' and had to catch myself. As in, Katie Price aka Jordan. Oh my god. My head? Hanging.

Because I don't want end on that, here's a sweet photo of Campo. Adjusting his junk. With Joey. Which is all you want in a photo, really.

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