I emerged from a long meeting yesterday to learn Victorian police had charged St Kilda forward Stephen Milne with rape. My reaction? Rather pathetic.
After the initial ‘wow’ moment, I almost immediately engaged in a passionate discussion with two male colleagues about… football.
Has Milne been arrested? Bailed? I wondered aloud, but only as a prelude to my follow-ups: Surely St Kilda will have to drop him? Was there precedent for this? Andrew Lovett’s name was thrown about as we discussed how the AFL and St Kilda might respond.
We even mentioned Mick Malhouse, the veteran AFL coach who was fined $7,500 in 2010 for calling Milne a “f***ing rapist”. How would he be feeling today?
It’s been a big week in the AFL, we reflected, first Melbourne coach Mark Neeld is sacked and now this!
The closest we came to truly discussing the woman – the alleged victim – was musing about her age, dissecting claims the pair met at a St Kilda family day and asking if this woman was actually the ‘St Kilda Schoolgirl’. (She’s not.)
Only later, after a female colleague pointed out the gross deficiencies of this initial exchange, did I truly reflect on the weightier issues:
- How is this woman coping?
- What an awful nine years it must have been for her!
- If she made an accusation of rape in 2004 and police now believe there is enough evidence to lay charges, why did it take them so long to form this position?
- Does the AFL have a culture of sexism and misogyny?
- Etc etc…
Our original topics of discussion were valid.
This case has and will continue to span the realms of celebrity, sport and the media as well as those of power, crime, culture and sexism.
All these elements — their roles, characteristics, origins, relationships and shortcomings — should be scrutinized. We should discuss and debate them at length.
But we should also recognize that some of those issues are more important than others. Some have a greater claim for our attention. And which issues we (read: I) select to consider first is extremely telling.
“The standard that you walk past, is the standard you accept,” Australia’s Army Chief Lieutenant General David Morrison told us last week.
And he’s right.
We must call out blatant and ‘unintentional’ sexist behaviour. Beginning with our own.