Bec Goring: playing for inclusive cultures in football and music
Graduating from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music to become captain of the Geelong Women’s Football Team isn’t an obvious career progression, but Bec Goring is kicking goals on several fronts.
By Sarah Hall
Given the gender disparities in jazz and Australian Rules Football, to name just a couple of areas, women and gender-nonconforming people are used to playing with at least one hand tied behind their backs. Naturally, this can be frustrating.
But according to Bec Goring, who graduated from the Melbourne Conservatorium last year, the situation can change – and she should know.
She was one of only two woman guitar players in her year studying Jazz and Improvisation, and has since become skipper of Geelong in the Victorian Women’s Football League.
“We have the opportunity to change the culture for women in footy and music for the better,” she says.
I’m meeting her today at the student cafeteria at the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, after stumbling across an article about her in the Geelong Advertiser. I’m keen to find out more about her journey from graduating from the MCM to becoming captain of the Cats.
When I walk in, I see her sitting on a couch. She springs up to greet me, and then insists on buying my coffee. She says hi to a few people she recognises in the cafe, talking briefly with them about upcoming gigs.
We take a seat away from the speakers, and I ask her what the atmosphere is like in women’s footy since the introduction of the Professional Women’s AFL, earlier this year.
“We have a really short window to sculpt football culture in a really interesting, inclusive and different way, free from all the baggage of the men’s league,” she says, clearly enthused.
By baggage, I assume Goring’s referring to the sexism, racism and macho-ism prevalent in the AFL Men’s culture, but the fact that she doesn’t spell that out suggests she’s more interested in focusing on the opportunities of the women’s league than the problems in the men’s.
“The two cultures [women’s and men’s football] are very different,” she says.
I assume Goring has encountered similar “baggage” in her career as a musician, and she admits to having been made to feel “good at playing guitar … for a girl”.
“The teachers try really hard to encourage more women to apply for the [Jazz and Improvisation] course,” she says, but whether for cultural factors or other reasons, it remains an uphill battle – and not just in the classroom.
“There have definitely been occasions when I have questioned my involvement in certain musical projects,” she says. “Have I just been included so there’s a woman on stage?”
She thinks quotas may be a good way to begin achieving a more even balance of genders enrolling in music courses. “We may need to manufacture that sort of involvement for a while, in my opinion. That way we have role models for younger women, and gradually over time we’ll be able to solidify pathways for women into the music industry.”
For Goring, this is more than lip service. She’s the director of a Geelong-based girls music group called the Sweethearts Junior Academy (sister band to the 30-piece all female soul music group The Sweethearts, with whom she used to play), in which she leads girls aged from nine to 15 in musical rehearsal and performance.
“You know these kids are going to be shredding at gigs by the time they’re 18,” she says. “Usually it takes until you’re in your mid-twenties to get to that stage.”
While life sees Goring juggling her time between the Geelong Cats and, em, jazz cats, there are some handy cross-overs.
“Sometimes I’ll arrive at footy training after writing music at home, and I’ll spend the warm-up running in complete silence trying to think up some more lyrics,” she says.
And then there are those times when she trains in Geelong on the weekend and “fangs it down the highway to play a gig at the Old Bar or the Tote, to get on stage still smelling like grass and sweat.”
“It’s lucky those gigs are with a garage band and not an intimate jazz band – otherwise people might start to notice the smell.”
She joined the University of Melbourne Football team, without being too noisy about it, while she was studying at the MCM. “At the time I was pretty quiet about it because the music teachers pretty much all discourage contact sports, because of the risk of injury to your hands, which affects your playing,” she says.
“I did get a couple of jarred fingers but that was fine, I just pulled sickies after those and no-one noticed.”
With Goring at its helm, the Geelong Women’s VFL has just finished its bid for an AFL team in 2019. The announcement will be made later this month, and Goring is confident about their prospects. She’s excited by the prospect of a professional career in football and doesn’t see it as an impediment to her career as a musician. As with much in her life, it’s all about balance.
“I think part of the reason why I am captain is because I can see the bigger picture of football,” she said, “It’s not all about wins and losses, it’s about the community.”
“Irrespective of your gender, sexuality or ethnicity, we want to send the message out there that you can play footy at any level,” she said, “and there’s no reason why someone who doesn’t fit the black and white of gender binary can’t play the game at the same level.”
We begin packing up our things. “You know, I really didn’t expect we’d spend so much time talking about gender,” she says.
Though the focus of her leadership of the Cats, as for the Sweethearts Junior Academy, may not and should not be gender, there does seem to be a certain inevitability to this being a part of the role, while music and sporting cultures, as with society at large, have not yet reached a point of gender, or genderless, equality.
“I suppose I have started to think more broadly about what it means to be a female footballer,” she says.
The importance of tearing down roadblocks for musicians and sportsplayers alike means that people like Bec Goring, who are talented, zealous and gender-conscious, are invaluable spokespeople.
“I’ve got an awesome family and support network,” she says. “I’ve had a very privileged life so I may as well make the most of it.”
Banner image: Bec Goring at the MCG. Image by Sav Schulman.