The F Word
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‘Can you give us a twirl and tell us about your outfit?’ – it was a lighthearted court-side request made of tennis player Roger Federer by a TV presenter at this year’s Australian Open.
Just kidding; male athletes aren’t obliged to twirl. The request was made of world number seven Eugenie Bouchard, sparking dismay among many viewers of the Open as well as commenters on social media. Billie-Jean King, who fought against no small amount of sexism herself as a 1970s tennis champion, once said that sports are a microcosm of society. If that’s the case, does Bouchard’s experience show that things haven’t progressed as far as we might have hoped since King’s day? Or does the vocal public reaction reveal that such comments are increasingly rare?
In the next conversation in our F Word series, we’re looking at feminism and sport. Our panellists – including world champion surfer Layne Beachley, and Olympic gold medallist swimmer Leisel Jones, whose physique was targeted by media just two days before the start of London 2012 – will discuss how media representation of women’s sport affects participation and attitudes at community level, and whether or not the importance of competitive sport as a feminist battleground can be overstated. Is there a case for ending gender segregation in sport altogether?
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Clarke is the ABIA and Indie award winning author of over nine books for adults and children, including the critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil, the best-selling memoir The Hate Race, the Victorian Premier’s Award winning poetry collection Carrying the World, and the Boston Globe/Horn Prize winning picture book The Patchwork Bike, illustrated by Van T. Rudd.
She is the editor of Best Australian Stories 2017, and Growing Up African in Australia. Her forthcoming poetry collection is How Decent Folk Behave (Hachette).
Born in Katherine, NT, Leisel Jones burst onto the swimming scene at 14, winning silver at the Sydney Olympic Games. Leisel and her mum were left bankrupt after her father left, and as a teenager Leisel was the main breadwinner for the household. Along with Ian Thorpe, she holds the record for the most Olympic medals won by any Australian, as well as winning seven world championships.
Regarded as the world's greatest female breaststroker, Leisel retired from swimming in 2012. She was a commentator for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and recently appeared on the Australian I'm a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here.
Layne Beachley is widely regarded as the most successful female surfer in history. The only surfer, male or female, to claim six consecutive world titles (1998-2003), Layne then went onto win a seventh world title in 2006 before retiring from the ASP World Tour in 2008.
Layne currently serves on the board of Surfing Australia, Sport Australia Hall Of Fame, is an ISA Vice President, director of her own charity, the Layne Beachley Aim For The Stars Foundation and long time ambassador for Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific. She also supports several other charities and organisations such as The National Breast Cancer Foundation, The Laureus Sport For Good Foundation, Planet Ark, SurfAid, Adopt Change and Sunnyfield.
Angela is an award-winning journalist, presenter, documentary-maker, author and MC.
Her most recent documentary, The Record, follows Australia’s dramatic Women’s T20 World Cup campaign and the audacious bid to fill the MCG for the final on International Women’s Day 2020. The two-part documentary premiered globally on Amazon Prime in March 2021, and had a secondary release on ABC TV. Angela co-wrote and co-produced the film. Her next documentary idea is bubbling away.
Angela is a co-host on Broad Radio - a live-streamed radio show by and for women.
She also writes regular columns about sport and culture for a number of publications and is a tireless campaigner for gender equality in sport and society. In fact, her most recent book, Breaking The Mould – Taking a Hammer to Sexism in Sport made the Grattan Institute’s ‘Prime Minister’s Summer Reading list’, The Australia Institute’s ‘Essential Reading List’ and is on its third reprint.
Angela is a proud ambassador of the Adelaide Crows.
The official fight for equal representation for women is over a century old. You might think the battle would be won by now, but in 2015, the ‘f’ word is as personally and politically charged as ever. And despite great leaps forward – equal pay (on paper), paid maternity leave, our first female prime minister – we’ve still got a long way to go, baby.
The F Word asks where feminism is at, in culture and society, with a series of events that question our assumptions (Can romance be empowering? How can you be a religious feminist?), and highlight areas for change and inclusion, like disability and science.
We begin the series with ‘Bad Feminist’ Roxane Gay, who argues that feminist values can co-exist with contradictions: nursing a childhood affection for Sweet Valley High and wearing heels that hurt your feet doesn’t weaken your dedication to ending domestic violence.