Are we really so offended by the mother of all insults?
There was a really excellent point made by a comedian once in one of those deliciously low brow English lad mags which I, errr, borrowed from a friend.
The comedian deconstructed the old insult “I screwed your mother” and asked the perfectly valid question whether the line actually worked as an insult. Put it this way, argued the comedian. If a bloke claims to have had sex with a woman 30 years his senior, surely he’s damning himself worse than anyone’s Mum.
OK, so that’s clearly a light-hearted take on a pretty serious issue. It’s obviously both tacky and disrespectful to insult someone’s Mum in any way. Western Bulldogs player Will Minson admitted as much yesterday after he made an uncouth remark about Port Adelaide player Danyle Pearce’s mum, and has duly been suspended for a week. All the same, there’s an argument that there are double standards at play here.
This is turning into a weird week here on The Punch’s sports desk. On Monday, I wrote a column about the exemplary rugby league player Robbie Farah, who lost his wonderful Mum Sonia to cancer on Sunday. It is also the NRL’s Women in League week, which recognises the contribution of women to Australia’s boofiest sport.
The AFL and its clubs also do their bit to recognise the hard-working Mums and other women who do so much behind the scenes. So it was good to see the Western Bulldogs, without intervention, step in and suspend their player, who has priors when it comes to saying really dumb shit onfield.
The exact nature of the Minson slur is said to be pretty ugly, and not far removed from the phrase mentioned in the second paragraph. Quite possibly it is even more distasteful, in which case all bets are off. But as things stand now, does anyone else think the outrage here is a little over the top?
Footballers say stuff to each other on the field all the time. It’s part of the game. Sporting bodies have made it perfectly clear that racist insults will not be tolerated, and that’s fair enough because such insults are never made in jest.
The thing about mother jokes is that they are often made in the spirit of light-hearted banter in which sportsmen frequently engage. Again, I am not saying they are clever or even remotely pleasant. I am merely saying, and here I tread on eggshells, that there are worse things you can say to a person than to insult their mother.
You can actually go further down this line of logic. You can argue that it is inherently sexist we get so uppity about a maternal insult. After all, no one would bat an eyelid if a bloke insulted another bloke’s dad.
The “yo momma” jokes in America are a good example of mother jokes being used within accepted humorous confines. To start a line with “yo momma is so fat…” and end it with something like “... her belt is the equator!” is not the sort of line anyone can say to anyone, but there are times and places where an outbreak of yo momma jokes is acceptable banter.
There are also times when insulting someone’s mother is plainly and disgustingly offensive. One such occasion was when a rugby league fan held up a banner to Broncos player Gorden Tallis saying “Your Mum’s a rig”. Understandably, Tallis didn’t react well.
So now we have it from on high that the AFL field is apparently not an acceptable place for mother jokes. OK, now we know. Players are still going to bait each other, so perhaps they’ll have to revert to insulting each other’s brothers or sisters or suburb of residence, or their rivals’ namby pamby colour scheme.
That last suggestion would cause yet more insults directed at the beleaguered Port Adelaide Club, whose official club colours are silver, black and teal. Silver and teal? SILVER AND BLOODY TEAL???? Those stupid bastards deserve everything they get, I reckon.
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