When voting Yes was tipped on its head
Along with 80,000 odd others at the ground and countless more watching on TV I was thrilling to the incredible spectacle that is State of Origin when a fellow spectator, a Blues fan, returned serve to an outburst of bananabender patriotism from a Maroons fan.
In an expletive laden stream of vitriolic abuse he screamed the following,
“I know you voted Yes you fucking c***!”
I couldn’t believe my ears. He and has his mate had been dishing it out to the Queenslander all night. None of it subtle. Most of it blending into the usual cacophony that accompanies tribal footy battles of this nature.
But this? What kind of a sledge was this?
I was thrown. It was hardly in the vein of Yabba’s to Jardine to “leave our bloody files alone”. Or, my personal favourite, “chewy on your boot”.
It was, frankly, weird. Most of the Australian population voted Yes. The vast majority of this young bloke’s demographic, in fact. It wasn’t just ancient basket weavers like me.
His mate, the veins on his neck nearly bursting with unbridled hatred, chimed in,
“You’re f***ing dead you dog. I’m going to kill you, you c***.”
It was getting nasty. The Queenslander sat down. My companions and I, including my 15 year old son, exchanged nervous glances. I experienced the chilling sensation that instead of being part of a heaving crowd of boisterous, cheering rugby league fans I had been transported back to a Brown Shirts rally in Germany in the early 1930’s.
I turned to the first young man and politely pointed out that I, too, had voted “Yes”. He didn’t respond. I don’t know if my comment registered with him or not but I do know that when I turned towards him I could see a little girl sitting behind him with her mother. The mother raised her eyebrows. The little girl looked terrified.
Somewhat shamefully, I returned my attention to the game. It was close. A nail biter. But I couldn’t get into it as much as I would have normally. Something had been lost. Of course, I cheered when NSW won but my cheers were hollow.
On the way home I couldn’t stop thinking about the comments and what they said. About the young men and about me. About how out of touch I am. There was something deeply unsettling about hearing the result of the Gay marriage vote employed as a term of abuse after me and my ilk had celebrated it so thankfully.
Didn’t those guys know that many of those involved at the top echelons of the game of rugby league had supported the Yes vote?
The other deeply unsettling aspect of this was the liberal use of the “c” word. I’m of a generation who couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the “c” word in print in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It wasn’t being used pejoratively as it is today either. And certainly not universally.
The fact is the “c” word has become part of the vernacular along the corridors and in the playgrounds of both public and private schools. It can be heard being liberally used on junior sporting fields around the country. Schools of all persuasions are constantly being contacted by members of the public to complain about its use on public transport. Its use is widespread. Not just amongst rocket fuelled yobbos at footy games.
For many women the use of the “c” word denigrates women and is symptomatic of a very disturbing trend of increasing violence towards women. For some it is liberating.
What worries me is that it’s use is like the increasing use of the “n” word. It normalises denigration.
Calling someone a “cane toad” is one thing. Threatening to kill them is quite another.
Homophobic sledges obviously reveal a lot about the people who use them but our acceptance of them reveals a lot about us.
At a time when as a nation we so desperately needed something to elevate us out of the political mire the Yes vote was like manna from heaven. To hear this triumph of national unity tipped on its head like this was extremely unsettling.