For parents around the world, Australian-based psychologist Steve Biddulph is a legend.
His seminal book, “Raising Boys”, has sold more than 1.5 million copies globally, in 21 languages, since its release nearly 20 years ago. His other books, including “Raising Girls” and “The Complete Secret of Happy Children”, have been similarly phenomenal best sellers in the millions.
Biddulph has worked hard to change masculine culture and tackle the cycle of violence that too often accompanies it, and today, he felt compelled to weigh into the Eddie McGuire saga.
The Collingwood president was been widely criticised for comments over the Queen’s birthday long weekend that he’d pay $50,000 to see award-winning football writer Caroline Wilson held under water. McGuire said she was “like the black widow”. Two others James Brayshaw and Danny Frawley, subsequently apologised for the comments in the discussion.
McGuire initially defended his comments as a joke and banter for a charity fundraiser, before offering a qualified apology later in the morning. And he escaped sanction from the AFL after CEO Gillon McLachlan said he accepted that apology.
But pressure continued to mount against McGuire, especially Holden issued a statement saying it “categorically disapproves of Eddie McGuire’s inappropriate comments, along with those of his co-hosts”.
The car maker puts its $3 million annual sponsorship on the table saying “Holden is engaging with Collingwood to directly express our disappointment and discuss the future of our sponsorship”. The Club’s board also censured its president saying “there is no place in our community for the support of violent behaviour or language, even in humour”.
A more contrite McGuire offered a more heartfelt apology on the Pies website on Monday night, saying, in part:
In the last 24 hours, and particularly since this morning, I’ve seen the impact of the comments on her.
No person should ever feel uneasy or threatened in football’s family.
For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologise unreservedly to Caroline for putting her in that position.
McGuire is facing the Collingwood board tonight, and his message yesterday left no doubt that help hopes to stay on as club president. That also includes the new women’s national team, Collingwood netball and the Melbourne Stars women’s cricket clubs.
But Biddulph believes he should step down. Here’s what he said about McGuire and the reasons why he should go.
In case you are in any doubt, I think he should resign too.
The pattern is important to understand if we are to end violence against women.
Caroline Wilson is a serious journalist, she made valid and important – but always reasoned – criticisms of Eddie McGuire’s performance as a manager of Collingwood. That’s her job.
A grown up would have two options – to address her arguments and make a case why she was wrong. Or to concede that she was right.
But instead of engaging as an equal and an adult, Mr McGuire seethed, and in a setting where he felt safe, among mates, and in the hearing of several million people, they joked about – essentially – killing her.
When shamed men can’t deal with the anxiety they feel, they choose to resolve it by imagined, or real, violence, and rally support from other men to make that okay.
This also happened with Alan Jones and our first woman PM Julia Gillard, and the infamous “chaff bag” threats. And as we see in the daily news – from Yorkshire to Orlando, there’s always some nutter willing to carry it out.
Token apology that is forced by circumstance isn’t the same as real change. You have to say – this is a character flaw.
Even if the victim wasn’t a woman, it’s still wrong.
Adults deal with conflict or disagreement with words, respectfully, and safely. Only mature adults should be in positions with this much power.
After a number of comments tackled Biddulph saying it was a joke, he addressed that particular argument:
A few commenters, mostly men, are saying “it was just a joke”. Because they are presumably fathers, I want to explain this, as it makes a difference to your parenting. If you go back to my piece at the top, I am saying I don’t believe this was “just” a joke.
There was a context. He was genuinely threatened and angry at her criticism in her articles. It was on his mind.
It came out quite inappropriately at a charity dunking. It was a slip up, sure, but it showed his underlying anger, and his inability to deal with it in an adult way.
And it showed him appealing for emotional support to his mates. It was anger and threat leaking out through humour.
And as the Age pointed out today, she wasn’t there, so it can’t be banter. Banter is when people are sharing in put downs for fun, by mutual agreement. Humour is used to mask violence every single day. Rapists and abusers often say “get over it”.
It was window into the man’s heart. And that is a huge thing.
You’ll find Steve Biddulph’s discussion here.
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