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Power and Privilege: Intersectionality in Australian Rules Football

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Always Ballin

Social Activist. Freedom Fighter. Feminist.
Jan 11, 2015
4,711
7,371
Main Forum Poster
AFL Club
West Coast
Power, Privilege, and Intersectionality in Australian Rules Football

Australian Rules Football (AFL) is a popular sport that has a long and complex history in Australia. It is often seen as a symbol of Australian identity and culture, but it also reflects the social inequalities and power relations that shape Australian society. In this post, I will explore how intersectionality can help us understand the experiences and challenges of different groups of people who are involved in or affected by AFL.

Intersectionality is a term that was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe how people’s lives are shaped by their identities, relationships, and social factors. These combine to create intersecting forms of privilege and oppression depending on a person’s context and existing power structures such as patriarchy, ableism, colonialism, imperialism, homophobia, and racism. Intersectionality is not just about adding up advantages and disadvantages, but about understanding how inequalities are dynamic, contextual, and shaped by power relations.

One example of intersectionality in AFL is the experience of Indigenous players, who have made significant contributions to the sport but have also faced racism and discrimination. Indigenous players have been subjected to racial abuse, stereotyping, exclusion, and violence from fans, opponents, media, and even their own teammates. Some Indigenous players have used their platform to challenge racism and advocate for social justice, such as Adam Goodes, who was booed by crowds for performing a traditional war dance after scoring a goal in 2015. Goodes later retired from the sport after enduring years of harassment and vilification.

Another example of intersectionality in AFL is the experience of women players, who have faced sexism and misogyny in a male-dominated sport. Women’s AFL was established in 2017 as a professional league, but women players still face barriers such as lower pay, fewer resources, less media coverage, and more scrutiny than male players. Women players have also been subjected to sexual harassment, objectification, and violence from fans, opponents, media, and even their own coaches. Some women players have used their platform to challenge sexism and promote gender equality, such as Tayla Harris, who was trolled online for a photo of her kicking a goal in 2019. Harris later became an icon for women’s empowerment and a role model for young girls.

A third example of intersectionality in AFL is the experience of LGBTIQ+ players, who have faced homophobia and transphobia in a heteronormative sport. LGBTIQ+ players have been silenced, closeted, excluded, and bullied by fans, opponents, media, and even their own peers. Some LGBTIQ+ players have used their platform to challenge homophobia and transphobia and celebrate diversity, such as Jason Ball, who came out as gay in 2012 and became an ambassador for the Pride Cup initiative that promotes inclusion and acceptance in AFL.

The AFL was created to expand the game beyond Victoria and to address the financial and competitive challenges posed by other football codes, such as rugby league and soccer. However, many critics have argued that the AFL still favours Victorian clubs over non-Victorian clubs, and that there is a persistent Victorian bias in the league’s administration, media coverage, scheduling, umpiring and awards. Some examples of this alleged bias include:
  • The majority of AFL matches are played in Victoria, especially at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which is also the venue for the grand final every year. This gives Victorian clubs more home games, more familiarity with the ground, and more revenue from gate receipts and memberships than non-Victorian clubs.
  • The majority of AFL executives, commissioners, umpires and media commentators are based in Victoria or have Victorian backgrounds. This may influence their decisions and opinions on matters affecting the league, such as rule changes, tribunal outcomes, draft concessions and All-Australian selections.
  • The majority of AFL fans and members are located in Victoria or support Victorian clubs. This may create a sense of parochialism and hostility towards non-Victorian clubs, especially when they challenge or defeat Victorian clubs in important matches.
These examples show how Victorians are privileged in the AFL, or at least perceived to be so by many non-Victorians. As Leigh Matthews, a Victorian who coached Brisbane to three consecutive premierships from 2001 to 2003, said: "Of course there is [a Victorian bias], the VFL became the AFL. It’s a Vic-centric competition. It’s like saying the sun is hot".

However, some Victorians may argue that their privilege is justified by their historical contribution to the game, their passion for the sport, and their success on the field. They may also point out that non-Victorian clubs have won more than half of the AFL premierships since 1990, and that some non-Victorian clubs have received special assistance from the league to survive and thrive.

The debate over Victorian privilege in the AFL is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, as it reflects the different perspectives and interests of different stakeholders in the game. However, it is important to recognise that privilege exists in any social system, and that it can have positive and negative effects on individuals and groups.

These examples show how intersectionality can help us understand the power, privilege and justice issues that affect different groups of people in AFL. By applying an intersectional lens, we can recognise how experiences of multiple discrimination are not discrete, but mutually constituted and intersecting. We can also appreciate how some players use their agency and resilience to resist oppression and advocate for change. Intersectionality can help us imagine feminist solidarities in a globalised world that leave no one behind.
 

The 747

Hall of Famer
Jan 19, 2008
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This post started well, then it went all....

7h2xxh.jpg
 

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TheEscapeClub

Club Legend
May 13, 2014
1,453
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Power, Privilege, and Intersectionality in Australian Rules Football

Australian Rules Football (AFL) is a popular sport that has a long and complex history in Australia. It is often seen as a symbol of Australian identity and culture, but it also reflects the social inequalities and power relations that shape Australian society. In this post, I will explore how intersectionality can help us understand the experiences and challenges of different groups of people who are involved in or affected by AFL.

Intersectionality is a term that was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe how people’s lives are shaped by their identities, relationships, and social factors. These combine to create intersecting forms of privilege and oppression depending on a person’s context and existing power structures such as patriarchy, ableism, colonialism, imperialism, homophobia, and racism. Intersectionality is not just about adding up advantages and disadvantages, but about understanding how inequalities are dynamic, contextual, and shaped by power relations.

One example of intersectionality in AFL is the experience of Indigenous players, who have made significant contributions to the sport but have also faced racism and discrimination. Indigenous players have been subjected to racial abuse, stereotyping, exclusion, and violence from fans, opponents, media, and even their own teammates. Some Indigenous players have used their platform to challenge racism and advocate for social justice, such as Adam Goodes, who was booed by crowds for performing a traditional war dance after scoring a goal in 2015. Goodes later retired from the sport after enduring years of harassment and vilification.

Another example of intersectionality in AFL is the experience of women players, who have faced sexism and misogyny in a male-dominated sport. Women’s AFL was established in 2017 as a professional league, but women players still face barriers such as lower pay, fewer resources, less media coverage, and more scrutiny than male players. Women players have also been subjected to sexual harassment, objectification, and violence from fans, opponents, media, and even their own coaches. Some women players have used their platform to challenge sexism and promote gender equality, such as Tayla Harris, who was trolled online for a photo of her kicking a goal in 2019. Harris later became an icon for women’s empowerment and a role model for young girls.

A third example of intersectionality in AFL is the experience of LGBTIQ+ players, who have faced homophobia and transphobia in a heteronormative sport. LGBTIQ+ players have been silenced, closeted, excluded, and bullied by fans, opponents, media, and even their own peers. Some LGBTIQ+ players have used their platform to challenge homophobia and transphobia and celebrate diversity, such as Jason Ball, who came out as gay in 2012 and became an ambassador for the Pride Cup initiative that promotes inclusion and acceptance in AFL.

The AFL was created to expand the game beyond Victoria and to address the financial and competitive challenges posed by other football codes, such as rugby league and soccer. However, many critics have argued that the AFL still favours Victorian clubs over non-Victorian clubs, and that there is a persistent Victorian bias in the league’s administration, media coverage, scheduling, umpiring and awards. Some examples of this alleged bias include:
  • The majority of AFL matches are played in Victoria, especially at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which is also the venue for the grand final every year. This gives Victorian clubs more home games, more familiarity with the ground, and more revenue from gate receipts and memberships than non-Victorian clubs.
  • The majority of AFL executives, commissioners, umpires and media commentators are based in Victoria or have Victorian backgrounds. This may influence their decisions and opinions on matters affecting the league, such as rule changes, tribunal outcomes, draft concessions and All-Australian selections.
  • The majority of AFL fans and members are located in Victoria or support Victorian clubs. This may create a sense of parochialism and hostility towards non-Victorian clubs, especially when they challenge or defeat Victorian clubs in important matches.
These examples show how Victorians are privileged in the AFL, or at least perceived to be so by many non-Victorians. As Leigh Matthews, a Victorian who coached Brisbane to three consecutive premierships from 2001 to 2003, said: "Of course there is [a Victorian bias], the VFL became the AFL. It’s a Vic-centric competition. It’s like saying the sun is hot".

However, some Victorians may argue that their privilege is justified by their historical contribution to the game, their passion for the sport, and their success on the field. They may also point out that non-Victorian clubs have won more than half of the AFL premierships since 1990, and that some non-Victorian clubs have received special assistance from the league to survive and thrive.

The debate over Victorian privilege in the AFL is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, as it reflects the different perspectives and interests of different stakeholders in the game. However, it is important to recognise that privilege exists in any social system, and that it can have positive and negative effects on individuals and groups.

These examples show how intersectionality can help us understand the power, privilege and justice issues that affect different groups of people in AFL. By applying an intersectional lens, we can recognise how experiences of multiple discrimination are not discrete, but mutually constituted and intersecting. We can also appreciate how some players use their agency and resilience to resist oppression and advocate for change. Intersectionality can help us imagine feminist solidarities in a globalised world that leave no one behind.

Is this your own work? There's some rubbish in it, particularly the criticisms around what women have to endure when compared with the men.

It might need some clarification on which Jason Ball it is too, it's not the AFL version but the suburban league variety. I had to google to check. Once I saw I remembered him.

Goodes wasn't booed because he performed a war dance, he was being booed a long time before that, his war dance was in response to the booing.
 

Teen Wolf

Norm Smith Medallist
Jul 5, 2011
7,910
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Melbourne
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Maybe don't use big words when you clearly don't know what they mean.
 

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brysie

All Australian
Jun 8, 2015
742
1,127
AFL Club
Collingwood
I'm curious as to why you state "The AFL was created to expand the game beyond Victoria".

This either lacks a fundamental understanding of the history and development of the game, and is a superficial and lazy generalisation, or as another poster has suggested, the above may not be your own work.

There is, and likely always will be, some form of parochialism within footy. The expansion of the game is likely to have contributed to a dilution of that parochialism however, as primary state leagues are no longer competing with one another for resources and players, the AFL as an organisation is required to take the interests of all of its members and clubs into account (whether it does is a separate issue) and concepts such as State of Origin have fallen away.
 

Iamspock

Club Legend
Jun 17, 2007
1,303
2,078
AFL Club
Western Bulldogs
I would think parochialism and hostility is a two-way street, not a 'Victorian' thing. I would even suggest that it is stonger towards Victorians than the other way round.
 

Micksy

Premiership Player
Feb 16, 2006
4,695
4,151
Ballarat
AFL Club
Geelong
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Cowwarr, Fish Creek
So it reflects the society it operates within?

I hear that fantasy works, video games, movies should be modernised to reflect the current state of the world, yet here AFL is basically a perfect mirror and we get upset.
 

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