When Shannon Noll cut loose with his expletive-laden rant at the Duck Creek Picnic Races, the crowd’s response scared me.
Initially, the cheers from the audience were a pretty straightforward reaction to a performer hitting back against a heckler – in this case, a punter who had apparently thrown a can of beer directly at Shannon while he was on stage.
But as Shannon’s tirade grew more and more aggressive, with more threats of violence and finally, the claim that he was going to “punch your f***ing teeth down your throat… then I’ll f*** your missus and your mum,” it became clear that this was a stinging example of Australian rape culture in action.
Think I’m being dramatic? I’m not. Let’s unpack everything Shannon said on that stage, shall we?
“Hey, who’s that? F****** get up here, man,” he first screamed at the heckler. “Have the balls to come up here and I’ll meet you over there.”
I mean, this is sexist. You don’t have to “have balls” to be brave or to face the consequences of your actions, but this phrase is part of the vernacular and frankly there’s too much else in Shannon’s rant to look at, for us to get too bogged down at this stage of the game.
Let’s press on.
Shannon slung a few class-warfare lines out, which drew an appreciative roar from the crowd. Calling his heckler a “f***ing maggot”, the “f***head in the tie” and a “f***ing private school stupid f***head motherf***er”, it was typical working-class Nollsy rhetoric. Sure, it’s not exactly the language you want to take home to Nanna, but really, nothing new there.
But that was when, bolstered to keep going by the clapping and cheering of the crowd, Shannon’s vitriol took a horrible, dark turn.
“Have some balls and get up here and I’ll punch your f***ing teeth down your throat… then I’ll f*** your missus and your mum,” he could be heard saying.
This is exactly the kind of phrasing that frames sex and violence as two sides of the same coin. “F***ing” someone’s wife, girlfriend or mother is presented as a revenge act alongside punching them in the face.
There’s no reflection on whether the “missus” or mum is interested in having sex, of course. They’re just there as a passive recipient, like a body part.
This kind of language should be absolutely repellent to any right-thinking person.
Except, instead of drawing a collective gasp of stunned horror, or telling him he’d gone too far, or calling him out in any way, the crowd continued to back Shannon with raucous applause.
They were probably drunk. They probably got carried away. They’re probably all really nice guys who just lost their heads in the heat of the moment.
This winter, Australia has been caught in the grip of its own toxic masculinity. We had the shooting deaths of an entire family at the hands of its patriarch, Peter Miles. The rape and murder of Euridice Dixon. The arrest of a man for defacing her memorial site with a giant, spray-painted phallus.
The list goes on, and on, and on.
The murder of two teenagers by their estranged, terrifying father.
The violent killing of a 16-year-old girl, allegedly by a man more than twice her age.
Former footy player Barry Hall joking about his colleague’s pregnant wife being sexually assaulted – on air.
Bert Newton making gags about sexual harassment at the Logies.
If ever there were a time for Aussie men to stop, take stock and have a good, hard look at themselves and their values, now is it. This is a time of reckoning.
In a country where women are literally losing their lives every week at the hands of violent men both known and unknown to them, it’s just not cool to make cracks about using them as your revenge props.
I can’t believe I even have to write this, but it’s not ok to treat women like objects.
Of course, Shannon apologised after footage of his sweary shouting went viral and there was a backlash.
“I would like to apologise for my behaviour and language at Saturday night’s Duck Creek Picnic Races,” he wrote.
“I completely understand that that is still no excuse for the way I spoke and I am deeply sorry for the terrible things I said that were purely out of frustration.”
He doesn’t seem to have gotten the message about why exactly his words were problematic.
It’s not that he swore too much. It’s that he’s perpetuating rape culture.
That fact that Shannon said those things, to a crowd, because he was fired up by a heckler, is a terrible sign that his values are badly out of kilter.
That the crowd cheered him along is even worse.
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