What on earth is going on in Richard Boock’s column in the Sunday Star Times sport section?
First he tells off Sir Brian Lochore for missing the good old days, when men were men, women were a decorative irrelevance important mostly for keeping your home running, and children could be left in the car with a packet of chippies and smacked – but not hit – when SBL deemed it necessary. Richard Boock says:
If anyone was in any doubt about the link between New Zealand’s rugby culture and male-perpetrated violence, they only had to read the comments made by Sir Brian last week during a speech to Parents Inc. Essentially, the implication was that if we were to bring back the biff at home, all would be solved.
Richard Boock got a mauling from many over this column, which was partially rebuffed by a feature article by Donna Chisholm the following week which rehabilitated Sir Brian as a family man. In his column, Mr Boock described the responses he had received:
As for some of the other feedback, being criticised for the strength of my opinion by NZ Herald columnist Garth George and lectured on the need for moderation by Martin Devlin, hasn’t yet persuaded me that I’m on the wrong side of the argument. To those who kept their messages brief: “you are a knob”, a “whiney prick”, a “nancy-boy”, a “girly man”, and “you make logical connections just like a woman”, thank you for participating.
Not content with being described as a girly man, a couple of weeks later Mr Boock had a go at sexism in sport:
Sportswomen are shabbily treated in New Zealand. They’re the patronised, poor cousin of sportsmen, and on the rare occasions they do get a moment of publicity and exposure, they’re often marginalised and trivialised; judged on their looks and appearance as much as their tactics and performance. For them, sexism is an everyday reality. Blokedom rules the roost. Misogyny lurks in the shadows.
He also discussed lack of access to top facilities for sports women (Canterbury women’s rugby team stopped from playing at Rugby Park, but he could have chosen almost any sport and almost any province) and links between super-macho sports cultures, women-hating and violence against women.
But today there’s more still, as Mr Boock asks:
WHY DID the Auckland rugby team bomb this season? Too many Polynesian players in the critical, thinking positions, apparently. That’s what I’ve been told, anyway. Almost on a daily basis, come to think of it. Auckland were eliminated from the quarterfinals because they were an undisciplined, Pasifika rabble; Canterbury qualified because they realised how important it was to play the white boys where they were most needed.
Talking about racism in sport in New Zealand is as brave as talking about sexism – and just as likely to get Richard Boock pilloried by our sports community.
Because make no mistake – comparatively New Zealand has better access to sport for all our ethnicities, more women play sport than almost anywhere else, we have Maori All Blacks that those of us who love sport can cite going back decades.
But we also have some strange resistance to discussing how, even if we do this better than many other places, gender and racial politics are still present.
As Mr Boock points out, beliefs over who are ‘thinking players’ are perpetuated by many in rugby, and lets not forget former New Zealand men’s cricket captain Martin Crowe’s assessment of why cricket remains such a white sport in New Zealand:
“Not many Maori make good cricketers because they don’t have the patience or the temperament to play a through a whole day, leave alone over a test match.”
This wasn’t back in the mists of time, but in 2003.
Then we have the disparities in funding for women’s and men’s sports, regardless of results – how many people know the New Zealand women’s cricket team held the world cup in 2000 despite minimal supports, something the men’s team have never managed? Or what about the Black Ferns, the women’s rugby team who have held the world cup in three out of five attempts?
Let alone recent ‘inventions’ like the introduction of female cheerleaders to Super 14 games.
I have to hand it to Richard Boock. I’ve been critical of him in the past, but recently he has not shirked writing about wider sport issues – which is highly unusual in a country in which many rallied around ‘keeping the politics out of sport’ while we played racially selected Springbok teams prior to the dismantling of apartheid.
But then I’m always a sucker for girly men.