We’re a football blog, operating at the fringes of the New Zealand sporting media. But ITBOTN feels it has to talk about something important and make its position clear. Because some things are too important to be silent about.
We believe that sport, and football in particular, is a beautiful thing that gives people escapism from their working life, ignites passions and creates stories that screenwriters could only dream of. When you read this blog, you’re reading the work of a group of writers who really love what they write about. Sport brings people together, sport is for everyone and should exclude none. But it’s not all brilliant positivity. There are problems we need to talk about.
I don’t need or want to talk about Tony Veitch. Not when you can read the police file he attempted to have blocked from publication, or watch the victim impact statement from Kristin Dunne-Powell here. It’s not an easy watch. And it’s not an easy thing to talk about, domestic violence or aggressive masculinity, particularly in sport. And I say sport, because it’s cross code and extends beyond players, into the crowds and even the commentary box.
Veitch’s acknowledgement of his violence against his partner in the Herald today came with a weighty content of excusatory and self-justifying language. By pointing out how difficult it is for him to live with what he did while working in the media, he inadvertently revealed how he doesn’t view his role as a public figure as an important way he can make a difference. Instead he talks about his personal shame, his families shame and the struggle he had to deal with his anger, stress and temper. While still presenting a show called ‘The Vent’.
The acknowledgement of his past also comes as part of NZME’s features on domestic violence, an endemic problem in New Zealand. As one of NZME’s star names, he’s employed to present shows, offer video commentary and write articles for them. Like this one. It has not come as a result of some desire to set the record straight. Far from it. In fact just over six months ago, following the posting of some violence related memes on his Veitchy On Sport facebook page, this is what he said about his past and the media.
How sorry does that sound? A ‘hideous relationship’. Yes, it was hideous. Because Veitch kicked Dunne-Powell repeatedly while she was on the floor. Then first refused and then eventually took her to hospital. Then he went off to work. She was temporarily put in a wheelchair by the attack and has spent time since working with domestic violence groups. And she’s the victim.
What Veitch doesn’t seem to understand is that he could literally do more. He doesn’t though, because the ‘I’d have a beer with him’ bloke persona doesn’t chime well with addressing the fact that your mate hits his partner and you should pull him up on it.
He has a huge audience of listeners and supporters. If he decided to own what he did, truly, and regularly address and condemn domestic violence through his radio show and online – then perhaps there’d be some cause to believe that he recognises that feeling bad about what you did and trying to move on is not the same as attempting to atone for it.
This is a problem of men. Because while domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone in a relationship, it overwhelmingly happens to women as a result of men’s actions. And as a society, it’s too often dismissed as a series of isolated incidents, one off events that would never happen again. Except they happen all the time.
We live in a society where some men don’t see domestic violence as a problem, where men and women blame victims, (‘You must have done something’ or ‘Why don’t you leave) and where people don’t speak up or reach out, either as victims or as help because of this. That’s not an issue that gets solved by preventing a punch or a kick, or cutting down on the booze. That’s something that’s going to take a lot more effort, from everybody.
Try this on for size, men don’t see the world the same way as women.
“’Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine.“’They are afraid women will laugh at them’, he said, ‘undercut their world view.’“Then I asked some women students, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ”’They are afraid of being killed,’ they said.” – Margaret Atwood
When NRL’s Mitchell Pearce was video’d humping a dog earlier this year, the aftermath was all about his obvious drink problem – the people he associated with – and the help he could get. It wasn’t about the women, having invited some men into their house, being aggressively pursued for a kiss by them.
The lie, ‘I’m a lesbian, she is too’ was quick thinking, but consider their situation. They are outnumbered by drunk, raucous and incredibly fit and strong men, one of whom does not appear to want to take no for an answer. That’s bloody scary, that is. And no, it’s not their fault for inviting them back.
On the bus back from the Wellington Phoenix game at North Harbour Stadium last November, the victorious supporters were singing and chanting, banging on windows and seats. An argument broke out and suddenly the atmosphere had shifted into that treacly ugly tension where not very much at all could turn it into a very narrow, brutal, fight.
My wife was on that bus and had been scared since we got on. She was surrounded by loud, aggressive, drunken men and she felt unsafe. She had felt the same at the ground when some in the crowd engaged in sustained sexist and homophobic abuse of players and supporters. Not all, but some is enough. She felt unsafe.
If you don’t see why, then think about how a woman feels surrounded by men who feel it appropriate to slur other men by calling them women. To slur presumably straight men by calling them gay. Threats do not have to be simply violent ones, or incipient violence, as on the bus. If you’re surrounded by people who use your identity as a terrible insult, then why would you feel safe?
These attitudes within crowds are not universal, a clear indicator that these problems can be addressed. And that’s the job of other people in the crowd, particularly other men. Because while it’s definitely Veitch’s job to actually get off his self-pitying arse and use the incredible fortune he has to address the endemic issues of violence in New Zealand, it’s also every man’s job to be brave, be strong and call someone out when they’re behaving in a way which perpetrates a culture of aggressive, toxic masculinity.
I did a few weeks back. Someone nearby me at a Blues game said the Rebels socks looked gay. I waited a few minutes and then leant across and pointed out that while the socks were bloody ugly, there was no need to call them gay. They agreed, apologised and things carried on. Easy, simple. I hope they don’t do that again.
It’s not always going to be that easy. In a crowd, with your friends, it’ll be easier than by yourself. But it’s not going to be easy. Finding the right words, judging whether or not you’re going to be listened to or not, isn’t simple. Lots of stadiums have systems to report abuse these days.
It doesn’t have to be a stand-up row either, nor a condemnation of them as a person. Let them know that what they said isn’t acceptable, that it’s not right, there’s no need for it.
Weighing up whether or not what you do will result in you being harmed violently will be difficult. But women have to deal with that sort of thing all the time, whether it be from strangers on the street or their own partners. And that needs fixing.
I’m not going to lie. There’s no quick fix. Not everyone who gets called on their behaviour will have a sudden change of heart. Some will though, and by vocally opposing the sort of cultural ignorance which makes women and others feel unsafe and unwanted, you are doing two things.
First, you’re making it clear that not everyone shares their toxic opinion.
Secondly, you’re showing to those who feel unsafe that they’re not alone.
That matters. Let’s get on with it. Because sport is for everyone, and so is society.
P.S – I have talked to the Yellow Fever about what happened and they do a great job attempting to deter the minority in the zone who act like morons.
For More Information Or Help If You Need It
Womens Refuge: https://womensrefuge.org.nz/support-our-work/
Survivor Advocacy: http://rpe.co.nz/advocacy/survivor-advocate/
Family Violence Is Not OK: http://areyouok.org.nz/
How else to help
Donate to Kapa Whaea here, https://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/kapawhaea
Categories: Off Topic
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.