opinion

Lock it in Eddie. Make a $50,000 donation to White Ribbon today.

You don’t always know when you are going to wake up to a shit sandwich of a day. Even when you say something stupid, it can take hours, or even days before the momentum builds and the shit starts to rain down.

After that it can take hours more – sometimes even days – before you realise what you said was stupid enough to warrant an apology.

Welcome to the world of radio host and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire who even yesterday when he was called out in a newspaper column for inciting violence against a female journalist – probably still didn’t realise how fraught his Monday was going to become.

By lunch time today though he was rightly copping it from all sides for his comments on radio a week ago in which he said he’d like to see Fairfax football journalist Caroline Wilson drowned.

He didn’t actually say those words, but that’s what was clearly implied.

The controversial comments were made by McGuire, North Melbourne president James Brayshaw and former St Kilda captain Danny Frawleyon radio last Monday, while discussing the “Big Freeze at the G”, an event in which celebrities slide into icy water to raise money for motor neurone disease.

“In fact I reckon we should start the campaign for a one-person slide next year,” McGuire said.

“Caroline Wilson. And I’ll put in 10 grand straight away — make it 20. And, if she stays under, 50.”

“What do you reckon guys? Who else is up there? I know you’re in JB,” he said to James Brayshaw.

Brayshaw replied: “No, yep, straight in.”

Frawley then said, “I’ll be in amongst it Ed.”

“I’ll actually jump in and make sure she doesn’t — I’ll hold her under, Ed.”

caroline wilson responds to eddie mcguire comments
Image via Channel 9/Getty.
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This morning McGuire fronted morning TV to say he was sorry  for the way his comments had been perceived. He said his comments were just "banter" and that he was just "cracking gags”. Wilson was having none of it.  

She told 3AW McGuire had crossed a line, that the language he used was nothing short of “vicious”.

“I think he gets away with a lot because people are scared of him,” she told the station. “And because I occasionally take him to task and stand up to him, he doesn’t like it.”

Wilson also expressed concern that it took a week for anyone to express their outrage over the comments.

“I’ve got to say, it doesn’t really say much for the Triple M audience that this only came out over the weekend,” she said.

“The people listening at the time thought it was okay.”

“I wonder how many times we have to draw this line in the sand… between what is a joke and what is obviously unacceptable.”

Watch Eddie McGuire apologise for his 'joke' on Today. Post continues after video.

Video via Channel 9

Meshel Laurie, host of the Matt & Meshel show on KIIS 101.1 piled on - calling Eddie "a pig" - in an angry tirade.

“You have no compunction in casual racism and to suggest it be hilarious to drown a woman and call all your mates in on it ... fundamentally he should not be allowed to broadcast.

“This is a man who cannot speak without spreading hate.”

There is no doubt McGuire invokes strong opinion, especially in Melbourne where his position as head of a major football team and his former position as CEO of the Nine network has made him one of the most powerful and influential men in town. And that's what Eddie doesn't get.

His comments may have seemed small on the scale of disrespectful language towards women - at least in his mind. But the problem for Eddie and men who sit in powerful positions and have probably never experienced sexism or inherent disrespect or violent attitudes from men - is that his comments carry weight.

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And while there is no doubt he didn't actually mean for someone to hold Caroline Wilson under water until she drowned, the truth is he is a powerful man in a powerful position and his words carry a disproportionate level of authority.

Was it sexist? If he'd said something similar about a man would it be an issue? Maybe not. But the argument is kind of moot. It's like saying that being racist against a rich white guy is the same as being racist against an indigenous Australian.

They're not the same because one group has not been the victim of generations of entrenched racist attitudes and abuse. Similarly, for the most part men are not the primary victims of domestic violence. Women are.

According to Our Watch, an organisation established to "drive nation-wide change in the culture, behaviours and attitudes that underpin and create violence against women":

- On average, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia.

- One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence, since the age of 15.

- One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence.

- One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.

- One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.

- Women are at least three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner.

- Women are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence, and five times more likely to report fearing for their lives.

- Violence against women is not limited to the home or intimate relationships. Every year in Australia, over 300,000 women experience violence – often sexual violence – from someone other than a partner.

- Eight out of ten women aged 18 to 24 were harassed on the street in the past year.

- Young women (18 – 24 years) experience significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than women in older age groups.

So you can understand women being a little sensitive about the issue of violence by men, especially when we know (and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has reiterated) violent attitudes begin with an attitude of disrespect toward women.

No-one was suggesting Eddie wanted to incite actual violence against Wilson, nor that he is  a perpetrator of violence against women. But - and the big but is - you can't be in these positions and not be aware that misogynist, sexist, or casually intimidating statements about woman will be seen in a negative light - and should be. Because while powerful men can still toss out casual disrespect towards women, you can bet your average Joe on the street will do the same.

So here's our suggestion for how Eddie can help put things right. He can put his money where his mouth is.

He can donate the $50,000 he said he would pay to have Caroline Wilson "stay under" water and donate it to White Ribbon - the male led organisation working to prevent male violence against women.

He can show he is more than willing to take a stand against the issue of violence against women with a $50,000 pledge to one of the most worthwhile causes in the country.

Put your money where your mouth is, Eddie.  Lock it in. Donate the $50,000 today.

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