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. Maxine's short fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in numerous publications including Overland, the Age, Meanjin, the Saturday Paper and the Big Issue. Her critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the ABIA for Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2015 and the 2015 Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Matt Richell Award for New Writing at the 2015 ABIAs and the 2015 Stella Prize. She was also named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Novelists for 2015.
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 Pippos is a journalist, television presenter, radio personality, author and MC.
Angela left her native South Australia in 1997 to pursue a sports journalism career with the ABC in Melbourne. She’s best known for anchoring the sports segment on the ABC TV News for almost a decade.
Searching for a new challenge in 2007, Angela ventured where no woman has dared go – the testosterone-charged world of breakfast sports radio.
In 2017 Angela released her second book, Breaking The Mould – Taking A Hammer To Sexism In Sport, and she produced two documentaries about the rise of women in Australian Rules football, League of Her Own (Seven Network) and Heroes (ABC).
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.