Can A Feminist, Football Supporter support the Brownlow?

feminism football afl feminist brownlow

It is nearly here again. The “night of nights” in football as it is described by the channel covering it. You could easily be mistaken for thinking from the commercials that this was a fashion event. In fact, even a beauty pageant. But indeed it isn’t. It is the night the AFL’s Best and Fairest player is recognised and his prestigious medal awarded – The Brownlow Medal.

The one night in the year that makes me feel stuck between two worlds.

AFL still has many areas that need improvement but generally speaking, I love football. I was a supporter since I was young. I love that it can bring people from different backgrounds together. It makes my adrenalin pump during a game and my endorphins release after a win. My partner plays it.

I am also a feminist.

And you see, The Brownlow Medal night does not allow a feminist, football supporter to be content.

Although avid football supporters tune in to celebrate the best and fairest player in the league, the bulk audience of the night tune in to see the red carpet.

In my opinion, it is lovely to see the players and their partners together. As in any equal relationship, both people should support one another in home life, career and each other’s happiness so there is absolutely no doubt that these women (and possibly their male partners – of who we are yet to see on the red carpet) contribute to part of the success of these men being there. The sexist commentators that argue otherwise are absolutely kidding themselves.

However, the night has become about the judgement of the appearance of these women. To see how “good he did for himself” and the “arm candy” he has “scored” from being an athlete. 

With very few women in attendance given the opportunity to speak unless answering the question “who are you wearing” (one that always makes me laugh as I picture the skinned designer as a leather dress.) And as we saw in the 2011 rotisserie style “WAG wheel,” the women are at times offered as much dignity by the media as a pig on a spit.

You can argue they enter into this willingly. And yes, they are adults. However, adults are not immune from peer pressure and the fear of “being out of place.” Maybe some stepped on the wheel proudly, I don’t know? Maybe some thought it was a good idea at the time as it did show off the dress with a 360 degree. But I can tell you, even being the self proclaimed feminist I am – My young, twenty-something year old self would have felt pressured into doing it.

I also acknowledge that many of the women in attendance have their careers aligned with this night. Women who are in the fashion industry and use the Brownlow as their platform for their image and to promote the designers that dress them. I’m not against this but this is the minority. Of the 18 teams in the AFL, 5 players from each team are invited (not including past Brownlow winners.) That is 18 multiplied by 5 which equals 90 players, most of who take a partner or a date. My guestimate would be about 15 women that will be there whose careers are in fashion and are seeking to benefit from the exposure of the Brownlow.

Having been to the Brownlow once myself, I am going to be a huge party-pooper in saying “I don’t really have much positive to say about the night I attended.”

The positives were, I was incredibly proud of my partner and the sheer fact he was invited. I know many people dismiss football players as guys that “just kick around a ball” and that is fair enough as football, like many occupations, can be objective how people feel about it. Totally fine. I personally don’t like certain types of music or literature however I recognise how hard all musicians and writers work to be the best they can be and the achievement of awards in their profession despite my personal taste for what they do. My partner had worked hard too. It was a great achievement. I was so proud. (Even though he laughed that he never got a vote, haha!)

Additionally, I got to be with some of my friends, I got to be pampered a little and well, I got free wine, haha. Unfortunately though, the night for me was overshadowed by those like the “Fashion Police.”

1558525_10153749196675377_976263590_n My beautiful but “not me” and ill-fitted, safe white dress

The whole experience of finding an outfit was overwhelming and went against so much that I believed in. I’m not sure if most of the public realise that many of the people attending do not receive their invite until 2-3weeks before the night (unless your partner is a past Brownlow winner.) When you aren’t at all in the fashion industry and have never had experience going the previous years, it is frightening to know where to begin.

I told my partner I wanted to arrive in a black suit and tie, exactly like him, so I would not be judged as I would be like all the boys who were able to go without judgement. Then I thought about not going at all but I felt that the awful people in the media and public had won as I wouldn’t be able to support him as he had done with my achievements and attending my events (although of course not quite on the same scale.)

So eventually I just picked a plain white “safe” dress with the idea that a suit would be critiqued with, “look at her being attention seeking and taking it away from her partner.” I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t really. I regret my decision. The dress was simply not my personality at all and I feel I became something I wasn’t in order to not receive a 1/10 in the papers and draw negative attention to my partner. Which is shit. And which he thinks is shit. My outfit was my choice (or at least the stylist that chose for me) but I think my partner and I were both sad to see how much I changed to fit in. Furthermore, the dress I had been given to wear arrived on the day of the Brownlow. I did not get the opportunity to try it on and after 18months of breastfeeding, my deflated, sacks of skin hanging from my chest struggled to keep the dress on.

Not to mention I was still judged anyway.

And despite the “safeness” of my choice in outfit, I was still surprised how intimidating the experience really was. I swear I nearly vomited stepping out of the car onto the red carpet.

There were 3 “judges” that sat on a stage above us all as we ate, drank, socialised etc and talked about our dress choices, our weight, our age etc. I was in shock. I am a mum, not a fashionista.

Every now and then I catch myself daydreaming about what I would do if I had my time again and wouldn’t it have been nice to pose ever so gracefully with my partner on one arm and my middle finger up at the cameras. Although, can you even imagine how much attention I would be drawing then? It is a game you can not win.

So, I suppose all I beg of you is not to enter into the judgement of the women attending the Brownlow. If you see anything to do with the “best/worst dressed” please, do not comment or take part. If the paper publishes anything with such judgement, please also #boycottthetuesdaypaper

These women have the right to be there and support their partner. They have the right to wear what they want. They have the right to have photos taken of them as a couple. You can argue that you have the right to judge them and then remember then that others have the right to judge you as sexist and shallow. Not to mention, you are then the one that is really contributing to “taking it away from the players.”

Just be kind people.

And finally, congratulations to the men who will be attending. A great achievement! And HUGE congratulations to the Helen Lambert Medal winner (the VWFL Best and Fairest player,) Daisy Peace.


12049274_1043638822343267_8698872085258071595_nDaisy Pearce