ga('send', 'pageview');
John Passant

Site menu:

May 2015
« Apr   Jun »



RSS Oz House



Subscribe to us

Get new blog posts delivered to your inbox.


Site search


Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)



Women in League, cheer squads and domestic violence

Today I went with my father to watch St George Illawarra (‘the Dragons) play the Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

It was the Women in League round. Its aim is to celebrate the contribution of women to rugby league.  This got me thinking about the rise of rugby league in both Australia and England in the early 20th century. Essentially it was a working man’s game.

Indeed organised team sport looks to be a working class response to the organisation of the class and its long work hours slowly being wound back and providing a day and then a day and a half a week off.  This congregation in teams sport perhaps reflected the fact that that section of the working class that produced surplus value was male and worked very closely together in large numbers.

There was no room then for women in rugby league other than as mothers of footballing sons.  This too reflected the societal role of women as the unpaid bearers and carers of the next generation of workers.

The women’s liberation movement both forced a societal change and was itself an expression of changed economic relations and the changing needs of capital. Yet despite this, the role of women as the unpaid carers of the next generation of workers has changed little.

Indeed the combination of child rearing and paid employment, without for example free 24 hour child care being available, puts increased pressure on all carers. Half arsed paid parental leave schemes won’t fundamentally change that, especially when the new scheme is being paid for by removing the current dual arrangements for thousands of women workers.

Government cuts to child care benefits and family tax benefit B for many women and their families will only worsen the situation.

It is not only these cuts that impact adversely on women. Frontline domestic violence services are, in the words of Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, inadequate. An alternative vision might encompass a living wage for women fleeing domestic violence and a settled place to live.

Given the level of domestic violence funding insecurity and inadequacy, Batty has highlighted the difference between the government spending $1.2 bn on the war against terrorism and the $16 m on a domestic violence awareness campaign. She did this by rightly describing domestic violence as terrorism.


So far this year 37 women, much more than one a week, have been killed by their partners or ex-partners. The government has begun to respond to Batty and others, but only after the Budget, by talking about more funding and how unacceptable domestic violence is. As they say in the classics talk is cheap.

Other proposals involve for example tagging domestic violence repeat offenders. It is not clear to me how increasing the power of the State actually challenges the conditions giving rise to domestic violence. Rather it reinforces them.

Which leads me back to the Rugby League. As we walked in we were giving placards which read TRY on one side and acknowledged the role of women in the game. Whenever the Dragons scored (as they did quite a few times) I dutifully held up the placard.

Rugby league has changed since the days of players with fulltime jobs needing insurance cover. Today it is a multibillion dollar game. That’s many billions, not for the players but for the bureaucracy and for reinvestment in the game.

That means among other things attracting and retaining along the next generation of players. Primary carers play a key role in determining which game their children play.

The commodification of rugby league did not occur in isolation. The game has to compete directly with the likes of rugby union, Aussie rules and soccer and more indirectly with cricket and video games and the attractions young men find in adolescence and beyond.

So puff pieces about women in league serve that end of making the game acceptable to women and their children and grandchildren. Waving signs with TRY! on them and a few token words about women in the game don’t address the systemic causes of domestic violence nor the fact few women play leading roles in rugby league.

No women of course play in the elite (male) competition, the competition that television pays many millions to show and to recoup their costs with gambling and grog advertisements.  Women’s sport (including female rugby league) has little media coverage. It doesn’t sell well.

Once Dad and I had settled in, about 30 minutes before the game, we were able to watch a group of young women show the real role women in league play. The Dragons’ cheer squad had about ten attractive women in short skirts and scanty tops dance to footy tunes. Once the game started they stood on the sidelines and celebrated whenever St George Illawarra scored.

An almost sexualised cheer squad display shows the real role of women in league. They are adjuncts to the men, objects to jump up and down when ‘their’ god like men do well.  They are there to worship the male sporting Adonis.

Meanwhile in the next week or so another women will die at the hands of her partner or former partner.  No amount of sign waving or mouthing platitudes is going to change that.

The problem of domestic violence is systemic. It needs systemic solutions, not propaganda about the role of women in rugby league, nor stereotypes like cheer squads which reinforce the subordinate role of women in society and hence reinforce the very system which produces domestic violence.