Uneasy truth about Hall ‘joke’
NOT even Barry Hall realised what Barry Hall was saying.
Sharing a story among mates inside the studio at Triple M, the former St Kilda and Sydney star blurted out an off-colour "joke" that shocked listeners and sealed his own fate.
Hall was talking about a technique used by medical professionals, known as a 'membrane sweep', which former teammate Leigh Montagna's wife Erinn underwent to induce labour. Hall insinuated the doctor acted in a sexually-inappropriate way.
He was sacked on the spot and targeted by Australians convinced he had finally lived up to his playing nickname - "Big Bad Barry Hall".
But lost in the outrage is the real conversation we need to have, one articulated best by Melbourne comedian Meshel Laurie.
Appearing on Triple M Breakfast to discuss the open letter she penned on Saturday night, Laurie told Paul Roos, Seb Costello and Anthony Lehmann that Hall had unintentionally touched on something no man should talk about - let alone laugh about with mates.
"The first thing I need to say … and this is tough, but to my ears this was a joke about sexual assault," Laurie said.
Ok, final words. Sorry I'm such a bore today. Open letter to Barry. All the best everyone. Stay safe and warm. pic.twitter.com/eqtwmBVcVw— Meshel Laurie (@Meshel_Laurie) 30 June 2018
"I don't think that Barry knew that or that the guys knew that. I think they thought it was a gross joke. But to me that was a joke about a doctor taking advantage of a woman.
"When we women go in for exams we have to really psych ourselves up so the thought of something like that happening to us is really scary and horrible. And so it made me think that people who have had anything like that happen to them - that would be a really horrifying thing for them to hear and to hear men laughing at and think is funny."
She said the moment was "shared between a couple of guys who I think are fantastic guys" and "not bad people".
"They're normal guys having a normal joke that would've been had at any barbecue around the country if they didn't realise women were listening in."
Laurie said instead of rolling our eyes and thinking "men are big dumb idiots", Hall's comment presents an opportunity for women to articulate why they were so rightfully offended.
"It's our opportunity to say 'this is why we don't like that joke', 'this is what makes us uncomfortable'," Laurie said.
Thank you @TripleMMelb for devoting half an hour of breakfast show to serious and real discussion about Barry's joke with me and @OurWatchAus Most satisfying radio segment of my career. Sincere thank you.— Meshel Laurie (@Meshel_Laurie) 1 July 2018
"We women have to make sure we're always respectful of men. No eye-rolling. No thinking 'men are big dumb idiots'. We just have to get back to patience and conversation.
"This is our opportunity to say, 'this is what we mean'. If we can change this at grassroots, that will follow through. If we change the culture … the jokes little boys are telling … that will filter through and that will change the safety of Australian women."
On Twitter, Laurie wrote "Thank you @TripleMMelb for devoting half an hour of breakfast show to serious and real discussion about Barry Hall's joke with me. Most satisfying radio segment of my career."
Other praised the comedian for bringing perspective to the conversation.
"Thank you for your balanced and sensible outlook. Taught me something about the incident," one woman wrote.
"The most genuine conversation about this to date," another wrote. "Good on @TripleMMelb for facing into it and thank you for discussing it in such an inclusive way."
In the booth with Hall at the time the comments were made were host Mark Howard, reporter Damien Barrett and AFL great Nathan Brown. Audio from the segment reveals Howard brought up the topic of Montagna's wife's "sweep" procedure before things got out of hand.
Netball legend and Channel 9 star Liz Ellis said Triple M's culture must be assessed.
"All of those blokes are great blokes. Mark Howard was one of the hosts of the segment, he was laughing in the background," Ellis said.
"I worked with him for many years. Like them. The problem is, these blokes are great individually but you get them in the group and something happens.
"They have done the right thing and sacked Barry. But what are they going to do about everyone else who took part in the conversation and laughed in the background?
"Is it a cultural issue where when you are by yourself, 'I respect women, the partner, someone who has a name, who is the mother of my child'. But what about the general female population?
"What are you doing about that? To me, it is not about getting more women involved in the coverage, but getting more women involved in football."
News.com.au has approached Triple M for comment.