Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you probably know that, during the recent ARIA awards presentation, comedian Matt Okine used his acceptance speech to highlight the lack of female representation at the ARIAs. It was one of the most talked about moments of the show and, despite it not being televised, was quickly picked up by independent and mainstream media who lauded Okine for taking a stand and speaking out.

Up until his ARIAs appearance, I didn’t know much about Okine. I knew he replaced Tom Ballard as Alex Dyson’s co-presenter on Triple J’s breakfast show and that was about it. I haven’t been a regular Triple J listener for a few years – not since Marieke Hardy and Robbie Buck left – so, apart from the occasional Like a Version videos I’ve watched online, I’ve not really paid any attention to him. And I probably would have continued to do so were it not for the barrage of press or a lot of my friends both on social media and in real life saying “Did you see Matt Okine’s speech? How awesome was that?”

Pretty awesome, right?

It’s easy to see that there are plenty of things wrong with the ARIA Awards – let’s not forget that an Indigenous Australian won the award for Best World Music Album earlier this year – so when it comes to gender equality, it’s unfortunately not surprising that the ARIAs have done so poorly. It’s also worth remembering that there are no women on the ARIA board, something which was brought to our attention again recently in Music Victoria’s Women in Music paper. Excluding the publicly voted categories, there were only 18 female artists or female fronted bands and only 6 more groups who had a woman as a member or a featured artist out of a total of 80 nominees. That’s only 30% of all nominations and that includes the nominees for Best Female Artist. Worse still, of the 24 female inclusive artists nominated, there were only 3 female winners and actually, they were all Courtney Barnett.

So there’s no denying that Matt Okine pointing out the imbalance that he saw was justified. Okine identifies as a feminist and stated in an interview with Aphra magazine that he ‘crush[es] really badly on funny women.’ So obviously it was devastating to him (and to us) see that in his own category, Best Comedy Release, there were no women whatsoever nominated. His only competition was five other men and a puppet. Yep, a fucking puppet.

And then on Triple J Breakfast on Friday morning he said “It was literally the least I could do,” and I agree with him entirely.

The irony about his speech was that he mentioned Clementine Ford’s brilliant article, Good Guys Don’t Play Nice, as part of the reason he felt it necessary to speak out. In Ford’s article, she points out the equality illusion, an idea that equality “involves men saying they support women while continuing to enjoy the benefits they receive simply by being men in a patriarchy.” Ford goes on to, quite explicitly, explain that to simply say you support equality isn’t enough, that in fact there have to be sacrifices made.

But what did Okine really sacrifice? According to his speech he risked “not getting invited back” or “getting in trouble from the ABC” but would that really happen? Clearly, everyone has spent the last week or so lauding for Okine for speaking out and making a point. Seriously, even though the speech wasn’t part of Network Ten’s broadcast it is still, over a week later, the most talked about part of the evening with mainstream and independent media universally praising Okine, his employer Triple J generously plugging it on social media all of Friday and the wave of positivity continuing through the week.

As Maeve Martin wrote on Junkee, if it had been a woman who had pointed out the same thing the reaction would have been very different. “In my experience, when a woman speaks about gender inequity, she’s doesn’t receive the same accolades. She’s far more likely to be called an angry feminist, a complainer, a fat dyke or a bitch.” The real irony here is that after reading Clementine Ford’s article, Okine stood up and did exactly what Ford said not to do: to state your support for equality, but still benefit from the current situation. 

So, apart from pointing out something that was incredibly obvious, Okine didn’t really do anything and while it is important that he called it out, he still didn’t make any sacrifices. But what more could he have done? Several things I’m sure, but music reviewer David James Young made one suggestion on Twitter.

It got me thinking. Matt, why did you accept the award? Nobody, least of all me, is going to claim at all that you don’t deserve it.

But if you really wanted to make a statement, if you really felt uncomfortable about it, and you were really willing to make sacrifices, then you should have left the damn thing on the podium.