Like most Australian men I am horrified by reports which attest to the ubiquity of violence against our womenfolk. But while it would be wrong to ignore claims about such a serious issue, I sometimes find it hard to reconcile their terrifying statistics with the findings of my own, admittedly small-sample ongoing research.
To put it another way, if violence against women really is endemic in Australia, as we are constantly told, and if it really isn’t confined to any particular ethnic or socio-economic group, why in the thirty years I’ve lived here have neither I nor anybody of my acquaintance – or anybody of their acquaintance – ever experienced or witnessed it?
I’m conscious of a similar disconnect between popular narrative and personal experience in the area of workplace inequality. But as the only industry I’ve ever worked in, advertising, is one whose glass ceiling was already cracking when I joined it, I’ve never felt qualified to offer an objective opinion. A friend who left the business years ago and is now a successful lecturer, best-selling author and not-for-profit executive feels no such constraint. On one day last week, he told me, he had meetings with a publisher, an agent and the CEO of a prospective corporate sponsor. The fact that all of them were women was so unremarkable it wouldn’t even have registered, he told me, if his twin daughters had not also turned 18 that week, and he hadn’t been wondering what to say in the speech he had to make at their party. If only half of what the media said about diversity in modern day Australia was true, he said, the best advice he could have given them as a caring parent was to never leave home or join a convent.
A compelling example of the career pendulum swinging in women’s favour was SBS’s decision to give their main World Cup presenter guernsey to a woman whose most obvious qualification seemed to be that she had a multicultural surname. In keeping with her employer’s charter, she certainly seemed more concerned about pronouncing players’ names and birthplaces correctly than offering any insightful criticism of their performance.
Since both of Thailand’s most popular sports, Muay Thai and Takraw, involve kicking, it’s surprising that it has never progressed beyond the World Cup’s regional qualifying stages. But the failure of the oddly-named War Elephants to make the cut again this year was more than offset by the achievement of one of the country’s now much better-known youth sides. If Thailand (and Australia) want to improve their chances in 2022, their coaches would do well to follow the example set by the almost as oddly-named Wild Boars, who have already mastered an essential aspect of the elite level game by learning how to dive.
Despite having a population of around 0.5 per cent of Thailand’s, and a climate which hardly encourages the wearing of shorts, Iceland did make it to Russia, and even held much-favoured Argentina to a draw there. This came as no surprise to those who recall them knocking England out of Euro 2016. But the tiny nation’s giant-killer reputation acquired a literal dimension last week when photographs of Icelandic dockworkers chopping up the carcass of a blue whale – the marine equivalent of a white rhino – went viral. The sentimental attitude of modern Australians to these gigantic animals would baffle our great-grandparents, most of whom ate whale meat on a regular basis, lit and heated their homes with whale oil, washed themselves with soap made from whale blubber and used whalebone in the manufacturing of their household utensils and clothing. Less than a century ago, whale products were one of Australia’s biggest exports, and if anyone back then had suggested that far from being an invaluable commodity these massive creatures should be considered sentient intelligent beings deserving of our protection, they would have been laughed out of the pub. When the eco-warriors win and we are all persuaded, in the interests of stopping global warming, to stop eating beef, we will presumably start feeling the same way about cows. Perhaps we will allow them to wander the streets of our towns and cities unmolested, as they do in India. You saw it here first.