VICTORIAN Premier Daniel Andrews has discouraged the use of women as decorations at sporting events.
It follows concerns about the role of "ring card girls" in a high-profile boxing event in Bendigo at the weekend.
"We have come a long way in making sport more accessible for women and girls, but events have a powerful message to send when it comes to the representation of women in sport," Mr Andrews said.
"We were pleased to see the progress made by the Grand Prix in ending the use of grid girls and we encourage other events to do the same."
"Ring card girls" were momentarily dropped from Saturday night's Battle of Bendigo, and a male "ring progress manager" featured during early bouts on the undercard.
The "ring card girls" were reinstated in time for the main event, between Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa.
Member for Bendigo, Jacinta Allan said there were many good women boxers, and portraying an equality in participation was far preferable to having "ring card girls".
"Men in the ring slugging it out, whilst women walk around holding cards can send messages to boys and girls that reinforce negative gender stereotypes, messages I do not condone," Ms Allan said.
"There were women participating as athletes in their own right in Bendigo on Saturday night. Event promoters and broadcasters should focus on ensuring it is those female athletes sharing the limelight."
Both the state government and the City of Greater Bendigo supported the event.
A spokesperson said the Victorian Government provided support through the $20 million Regional Events Fund, which helped Victorian cities and towns secure strong calendars of events.
"Individual allocations within the fund are commercial-in-confidence," they said.
The City of Greater Bendigo, one of the Battle of Bendigo's major sponsors, also declined to disclose the sum provided.
"All financial matters relating to staging this event are commercial-in-confidence," a spokesperson said.
"For any events we attract in future, the city will seek to have more detailed discussions with event promoters to ensure careful consideration is given to how events will be staged."
They said the decision to swap ring card girls to make 'fight progress managers' and then revert to ring card girls were all made by the event promoter.
Two Bendigo councillors were among the community members who made their concerns about the use of "ring card girls" known.
Councillor Yvonne Wrigglesworth said it was an "outdated and misogynistic concept" that females were the prize of men beating each other to semi-unconsciousness.
"Tourism can wait. The future of women and girls cannot," she said at the weekend.
It is not yet known when the city and the state government became aware the Battle of Bendigo would feature "ring card girls". Nor is it known whether the city will support further boxing events.
Outrage highlights difficulties in challenging stereotypes: advocate
The intense backlash to those who voiced concerns around the representation of women in boxing highlights the pressure women face when they challenge entrenched attitudes towards gender, an advocate says.
Since Friday several proponents of gender equality have spoken out against the tradition of 'ring girls' and the influence it has on attitudes towards women, with Saturday night's fight between Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa featuring women in these roles.
Robyn Trainor from the Centre for Non-Violence said the issue went to people's values and beliefs, but it needed to be challenged.
She said women who spoke out about objectification or challenged rigid gender stereotypes could often face a lot of anger.
"I think it's really highlighted the tension in having respectful conversations about issues like this, when there's not an equal platform to begin the conversation," Ms Trainor said.
The anger, she said, often created a situation where women felt unsafe challenging such views, adding not many men in the community had spoken out.
Ms Trainor said personal victimisation when people were attempting to have a discussion about these issues was unnecessary.
On the response to backlash against the advocates who had spoken out, Annie North women's refuge chief executive officer Julie Oberin said some things were so embedded they had come to be seen as normal.
"People don't see the harm because they're looking at the individuals, rather than the harm to women and girls across our society," Ms Oberin added.
Ms Oberin said what concerned her most about Saturday's event was the "double-standard" in the language used to describe the women and men who announced each round.
'Ring girls' was infantalising, she said, and to then call the men who stepped into the role 'fight progress managers' was diminishing to the women.
"As soon as you give [the position] to a man, you professionalise it," Ms Oberin said.
She added that she felt for the men, who were booed at Saturday night's event.
She said people did not take responsibility for their actions and blamed feminism, when feminists wanted everyone to be safe, free and healthy.
The 'fight progress managers' at matches should be both women and men, she said, without having women dressed as decoration.
Ms Trainor said women needed to be valued for their strength and abilities, not objectified and used as a way to attract men to a male-focused sport.
The response to people calling out the sexualisation of AFLW player Tayla Harris and instead celebrating her athleticism, she said, had seen women and girls flock to the sport.
Ms Trainor said it was time to move on, adding that the issue was not about raising women above men, but "levelling the playing field".
"It's not a men versus women issue, it's about everyone deserving respect," Ms Trainor said.
Ms Oberin said she would like the boxing industry to look at the steps other sports had taken towards addressing stereotypes and follow examples of good practice.
Prominent sports to have ceased putting women in decorative roles include Formula One, the Tour Down Under and the Clipsal 500.
Ms Trainor said such moves that elevated the role of women and respect towards them made a "significant difference".
Ms Oberin said governments and councils too should consider setting ethical standards for events they supported.
The Australian National Boxing Federation, the peak body for professional boxing, did not respond to the Bendigo Advertiser's request for comment before deadline.