The Kurtley Beale text message affair is about respect.
Or lack thereof.
There are conflicting stories concerning how much coach Ewen McKenzie knew about the offensive text messages Beale inadvertently sent to former Wallabies business manager Di Patston.
McKenzie has been forced to deny rumours of a personal relationship with Patston and she has been subjected to a barrage of scrutiny about her life and work history.
Patston could be the daughter of the devil but she doesn’t deserve to be humiliated.
What we do know is Patston was upset by the images and has since resigned due to stress.
Beale has been stood down and will face an Australian Rugby Union conduct committee next week.
It’s a sad state of affairs for both parties.
In a series of text messages between the two in the hours after the incident, Beale begged for forgiveness. Patston agreed to give him a second chance and not show the texts to McKenzie or the ARU.
She had every right to expose the cruel nature of the messages but she chose not to initially.
Why? Because it’s a cross women bear when they break into the boys’ club. To fit in women sometimes have to bury their values deep.
Women make decisions every day about whether or not to respond to inappropriate behaviour at work. Women have to weigh up the consequences of speaking out. What damage will it do to my career? Will I be seen as a victim, precious, too politically correct or troublemaker?
These questions are weightier when you’re the lone woman in a testosterone-charged environment carrying the hopes of other women who want to follow in your footsteps.
This part of the exchange between Beale and Patston resonated with me:
“Do you realise the situation you’ve put me in? I have earned this job and I am proud of being a female at this level. If I complain then I make it hard for women in rugby,” Patston said.
Her response encapsulates how many women feel when they reach a position of power and influence in a male-dominated field.
The last thing you want to do is fail.
The passing around of demeaning text messages is all part of what Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick calls “gender asbestos”.
It’s hidden in the walls, cultures and mindsets of organisations. It’s toxic.
To shift attitudes Broderick approached the most powerful men in the country to join the fight for gender equality in the workplace with her “Male Champions of Change” initiative.
“What we need to do is recognise where power sits in this country, and that is clearly in the hands of men. So if we want to move to a model where power is shared, we need to work with those who hold it,” Broderick said.
Sport needs men to become champions of change – it’s crying out for it.
“I don’t condone what’s gone on but I think at the end of the day he’s a friend of mine and his welfare is important to me,” Wallabies vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper said about Beale.
Ashley-Cooper should be praised for not turning a blind eye to the heart of the matter while still supporting his teammate.
Season after season there are examples of appalling behaviour towards women in our football codes. Too often players fail to understand the ramifications of their actions. Any small steps towards accepting responsibility can only help build a more respectful culture.
I hope Beale continues to play for Australia. He has the potential to offer so much to the game and the community. People deserve to learn from their mistakes.
But strong men, real men, take a stand.
They tackle the real problem.