Why chauvinistic comments deserve the red card

26 Jan

Red card for chauvinism

So, a high-profile man has been sacked for making sexist comments about the abilities and looks of a woman who is qualified to do a professional job. What goes on in offices every day, and is often overlooked or accepted as being part of the territory, has been punished in media circles, as it’s reported that Sky presenter and former footballer Andy Gray has been sacked for making inappropriate remarks about a female football official.

I initially wasn’t sure whether to laugh along with, or scoff at, the story that emerged about Andy Gray’s and Richard Keys’ off-air comments about whether female assistant referee Sian Massey knew the offside rule. Laughing because I thought it had to be a joke. And scoffing because I couldn’t possible believe that such highly paid presenters could be caught saying such antiquated things – even when they thought they were off-mic. Gordon Brown’s ‘bigoted woman’and Ron Atkinson’s racist comments immediately sprang to mind (comments which led to damaging consequences for both men). Which led me to wonder whether this was another media furore, or a genuine ‘ism’ that needs to be stamped out.

At the back of my mind was the reporting on the same day as the Gray/Keys scandal of the views of an MP about the “obnoxiousness” of feminists – specifically, that men were getting the raw deal and should start burning their briefs!

However, what I hadn’t anticipated was the force of male commentators’ support of the Gray sacking, or the hilarious humour from both male and female quarters.

A Guardian blogger has said it would be hard to imagine a ‘Save Richard Keys’ protest at Sky Sports‘; a comment by Robert Crampton in The Times is headlined ‘Out of order, out of touch, out of their minds’; and Kenny Dalglish came out in support of female officials. And even a football-supporting male friend of mine – who is possibly a little impatient with anyone (male or female) who doesn’t understand the offside rule – said to me: “He [Gray] should be asked to change all the light bulbs at the Women’s Institute, while playing the violin with his left foot. Let him multitask. That’ll show him.”

The humour came from several pundits, especially on Twitter. My favourites are from @hofflimits, who said: “I heard the female Assistant Referee is going to explain the Equality Act to Andy Gray and Richard Keys using the condiments on the kitchen table.” And from @Kelly Cates (daughter of Kenny Dalglish), who said: “Phew, am exhausted. Just read about something called “the offside rule”. Too much for my tiny brain. Must be damaged from nail polish fumes.”

As the daughter of a former referee, I feel inclined to issue all kinds of ‘ist’ comments – not just sexism – the red card. Even in the light of media conspiracy theories about why Gray is really leaving Sky, there really is no place for chauvinism in the 21st century workplace, whether that’s on or off the pitch.

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