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11 Sep, 2019 14:13

'No one’s holding a gun to our heads!' Banned ring girls hit out at 'ridiculous' feminist groups

'No one’s holding a gun to our heads!' Banned ring girls hit out at 'ridiculous' feminist groups

Ring girls replaced by men at a boxing show in Australia after feminists condemned the role as “objectifying women” have hit out at "ridiculous" female advocate groups who denied them their “basic right to work”.

Just moments before entering the arena for the ‘Battle of Bendigo’ match between Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa on August 31 in Victoria, ring girl trio Demey Maconachie, Kalista Thomas and Tammy Bills were told they would be banned from entering the ring altogether.

The reason? Female advocate groups and local politicians had joined forced to condemn the role as “objectifying” women, without consulting first the girls in question. The solution? The three women were to be replaced by male ‘fight progress managers’, putting them out of work in favor of under-qualified men.

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Of those lobbying to block the ring girls that night was councillor Yvonne Wrigglesworth, who claimed the girls were nothing but “token trophy women,” telling the local Bendigo Advertiser, “it's not OK that we have young females portrayed in this way.”

Promoters of the show reluctantly caved to the pressure and scrapped the idea, rushing in male replacements at the last second. The girls, booked weeks in advance, were rendered useless and left devastated.

Two of the three girls have since broken their silence to hit out at the decision, telling RT Sport that they felt they were being “deprived of their basic right to work.”

“I think it’s ridiculous that these female advocates are telling us what to do," said Maconachie in a voice message. "We have a freedom of choice and they are depriving us of our basic rights, which is to work. So taking away a job from us is not ok. I’m a personal trainer and no one’s stopping me doing that day to day, so why’s that any different?”

A 23-year-old qualified personal trainer, nutritionist and dance teacher from Melbourne who runs her own fitness coaching business, Maconachie also challenged the notion that the girls were being "objectified" and questioned the ethics of the decision to instead use men.

“When we initially found out, we thought that it was a joke. We had no idea about it until before five minutes before,” she said. “We were confused because if girls can’t do the job now, why is a male allowed to do the job and we can’t? The three of us also really enjoy doing the job that we do, so we were really upset.

“The main reason we weren’t allowed to get in the ring was because we were objectifying women. None of us feel objectified, why would we do a job if we didn’t love it? And exploiting women’s rights was another one. 

“We have every right to work at a job that we love. So hearing these things that apparently we’re objectified - no one’s holding a gun to our head trying to force us to get into the ring kicking and screaming! We applied for this job, we got this job, we look forward to it and we do it because we love it. We were all angry about that.”

A number of positions within major sporting events traditionally reserved for women have come under threat in recent years, including F1 ‘grid girls’, which were abolished and replaced with ‘grid kids’, and Tour de France's ‘podium girls'.

The move in Australia also led to protests in Victoria's capital Melbourne, where critics created the ‘anti-octagon girls’ movement ahead of the UFC 243 event in the city. The action has also been backed by a politician in the shape of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp.

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That feminists lobbied to substitute working women with men, justified by claiming to fight objectification, may seem contradictory, especially given that it bypassed the contrary viewpoints of the female workers involved. Maconachie says this is hypocritical.

“Let us make our minds up for ourselves, we’re not trying to rid you of your jobs or tell you you’re not able to do your jobs,” she said. “Someone said as soon as you put a male in the role, then it becomes professional. I completely disagree with that as well. And if that was said for any of these women’s jobs then they would be creating a storm.”

Kalista Thomas was another of the girls banned from entering the ring that night. She expressed anger and frustration at ‘political correctness’ having gone too far and rubbished claims that featuring ring girls at boxing events promoted violence against women.

“[I was] definitely shocked at first, and the surprised, mad angry, but mostly disappointed that political correctness has gone this far,” Thomas said.

“I think objectifying women and violence against women don’t come under the same category. I feel that using sport and women in sport is an excuse about violence against women. People I have talked to have found when we’ve used this term 'violence against women' with this topic have actually been offended.

Those views were echoed by Maconachie. “To say that it is a move to help reduce violence against women I think that that is ridiculous. We have been called trophy women, ornaments and accessories, and we are not any of those," she said.

“Some may call it offensive. I would call it an ill-educated judgment. The term trophy means ‘a prize’ and we’re not given to anyone as a prize. They take their own belts. Not us ladies.”

The presence of ring girls may seem outdated to some, but in arbitrarily lobbying to scrap the role under the guise of progressiveness, feminist groups have committed an act of momentous hypocrisy by denying a voice to fellow women in the quest for ultimate social justice and creating an extremely unfair fight in the ring aside from that between the two boxers.

By Danny Armstrong

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