opinion

"Eddie McGuire is having a mental health day and I don't blame him."

Tonight, Eddie McGuire should be settling into the commentary box to call another game of footy.

But he won’t be.  Because the last four days have left him “emotionally and physically flattened” and he needs a break.

And I can’t say I blame him. Because if anyone needs a mental health day right now, it’s him.

I was only just thinking about him this morning in the shower (the place where all good thinking is done). And it was one thought that just wouldn’t wash away:

I wonder how his mental health is right now.

In just four short days since the story broke of The Joke That Went Bad, he’s been condemned by politicians, AFL figures, domestic violence campaigners, sports figures, countless letters to the editor and talk-back callers. His face has been stamped on all the papers, his words plucked out of thin air to be analysed and criticised, he’s had his career and leadership questioned and been publicly lynched in a climate of outrage.

Listen to Mia Freedman, Kate De Brito and I talking about it on Mamamia Out Loud this week:

It would have anyone diving under the doona, but the particular ferocity of the public reaction has been intense.

And I know showing concern makes me sound like an Eddie-sympathiser. I’m sure my feminist flag will be flown at half-mast by some. But I think we need to ease up a bit.

Because sometimes, people say the wrong things. Sometimes, they don’t get it. And what does a public flaying achieve?

Where does outrage get us? Where does blame get us? Where does calling someone stupid and arrogant, calling for them to be sacked and isolating them get us? Where does smacking a kid get you when they’ve done something bad?

Nowhere. It just makes Eddie a victim, too.

Unpopular opinion, I know. That Big Eddie, man about town, swindler of deals, giver of game show money, could be a victim here. But if every time people said the wrong thing we crowed for them to lose their job or lose their livelihood, if we isolated them and drove them to feel humiliated, what would that achieve?

This isn’t about getting ugly and outraged over one man’s comments.

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This is about the entire cultural shift that this response signifies. And for that, we should feel encouraged.

The Australian Government earlier this year launched this anti-domestic violence ad; Let’s Stop It At The Start. 

We should feel encouraged because two years ago, a gaffe like this would have passed by completely unnoticed. And now we’ve reached a point where we can say; ‘Hang on. That’s not okay’. Encouraged because we’re in a changing time. One where Rosie Batty‘s advocacy as Australian Of The Year shone a light on Australia’s understanding of family violence. Where Sarah Ferguson‘s extraordinary documentary Hitting Home laid bare the realisation that violence against women is insidious. Where statistics, like how one-in-four Australian women experience violence at the hands of partner, are no longer statistics known only to the police and ambulance and frontline domestic violence workers. Suddenly it’s on on the radar of politicians, policy makers and journalists.

Making mistakes is how we learn. And having one of the most powerful men in football take this blow is unfortunate, but how many men, how many leaders, how many blokes in positions of influence will think twice about a “joke” now? How many women will now feel empowered to call it out, when normally they would have let it slide?  It may not be many. But inch by inch, we are learning.

Learning that casual sexism and casual references to violence are not okay.

2015 Australian of The Year Rosie Batty 

But now, like the very wise Kate De Brito said in this week's Mamamia Out Loud podcast, can we save our outrage for when people commit truly appalling acts instead?

The Collingwood president will be off his top-rating brekkie radio show for three weeks as of Monday. It was a pre-planned break.  And when he returns, can we just find it within us to let him be the prodigal son? To come back reformed, to set an example, to learn?  Because society has changed, but not everyone has changed along with it.  And we need to allow the grace for that to happen.

Listen to the whole episode of Mamamia Out Loud, where as well as Eddie, we talk about 'That Tinder Girl', the vilification of Roxy Jacenko, and how much it costs to go to the movies these days (spoiler: A lot).

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