July 22, 2012

Not a great week for Aussie blokes

So, gender inequality is alive and kicking in Asia Pacific.

First, we learned that the Japanese men's football team had flown business class to Europe for the Olympics while the much more successful – in fact, world champion – women's team travelled in economy. I wasn't surprised: Japan isn't exactly up there as far as women's rights are concerned, is it? I was shocked, however, when news broke of the Aussie men's basketball team (the Boomers) travelling in business, while most of the women's team (the Opals) flew premium economy.

Let's just take a moment to dismiss some of the rubbish put about in the wake of this news. First, legroom. Both the women's and the men's basketball players are tall: the average Boomer height is 200cm (6ft 7in) while the average Opal height is 183cm (6ft), but star Opal Liz Cambage is 203cm (6ft 8in), which is 20cm (8in) taller than Boomer Patrick Mills. Second, success. The Opals won silver at the last three Olympics and bronze in 1996; the Boomers have never won an Olympic medal. Third, satisfaction with travel arrangements. Head of team Australia Nick Green told the media in London: 'As I understand it, the women's basketball team were very comfortable with their travel arrangements'. The Age reported, however, that some of the current ladies team are frustrated because they've been lobbying for better treatment for some time.

Turns out the Opals are not alone in being treated as second-class sportspeople. The national women's football and cricket teams also travel in economy while their male counterparts travel business class. As in basketball, the women's football team has a much higher international ranking. Basketball Australia have seen the error of their ways and are to review their travel policy for players.

Much more iniquitous, however, is the utter cluelessness of Aussie lads' mag Zoo Weekly, which is searching for 'Oz's hottest asylum seeker'. It's hard to recall something quite as tasteless as this in a long while:
'Are you a refugee not even the immigration minister could refuse? Then we want to see you! ...if you've swapped persecution for sexiness, we want to shoot you (with a camera – relax!). Send [us] your pics and a short story about your tragic past.'
Obviously Zoo are being even more crass, offensive and sexist than usual. But the outrage here about ogling (or worse) female asylum seekers or refugees is tinged with extra awkwardness as a result of Australia's relentless drive to 'stop the boats' and rather ambivalent attitude to offering their occupants the safety and opportunity one might normally expect in a society such as this. 

I was searching in a newsagent's a couple of days ago for a magazine about birds, which makes me sound well twitchery. Never mind. Inevitably, I spotted the section of Zoo-like publications. When my children were little, I used to turn over magazines and gutter press with covers that might have given them the impression I found it acceptable to have images of naked women on garage forecourts and in convenience stores for all the world to see. In this particular shop the section was headed Men's lifestyle, the second word of which had been covered by 'restricted'. Not visually, unfortunately. 'Lifestyle' here didn't seem to include cars or fishing or DIY. In the light of the new depths to which Zoo Weekly has plummeted this week, Australia's womenfolk might like to suggest a few new subject headings. Gratification? Indulgence? Relish? If you'd like to leave your ideas in the comments box, I'd be happy to pass them on to the shop.

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