This is the first time I have followed up one blog entry with another on the same subject, but I think it is worthy of a continued comment.
I was stunned by the response in the media to the Andy Gray/Richard Keys debacle last week. Indeed, the number of replies to this blog also went to new levels. Thanks are due to all those who responded, publicly or otherwise, and for taking the time to get involved in the discussion. My surprise was not that there was such a quantity of interest in the subject, but that in nearly all circumstances the media supported Sky Sports in their decision to dismiss Gray from his £1.7 million per year presenter job; I had anticipated a backlash from the red-tops, but there was none.
I was reading in last Sunday’s Observer an article by Catherine Bennett, who took an extreme view on sexism in sport. She suggested in her article entitled “Forget getting rid of sexism in sport. Let’s get rid of sport” that the whole world of sport is to blame as it protects male dominated environments, run by men where women are often excluded, separated or ridiculed, quoting statistics that 94% of football playing fields have no female changing facility to back up her assertions. She offered her alternative view as a different insight into the discussion.
When reading from the Guardian website, I was staggered at the level of vitriol Ms Bennett’s article elicited. Many of the replies are relatively offensive and confirm that some (possibly many) men; most appear to be male comments, still fulfil sexist stereotypes when discussing sport. A good proportion of the comments not only dismiss off-hand the article’s content, but they also attract many recommendations from other readers. It appears the more aggressive the comment, the more it is recommended – and that’s in the Guardian/Observer. Perhaps the media in supporting Sky Sports are out of line with their male readers. I wonder what a similar column in the Sun or Star would bring out of its readers.
The affect has also been felt in the workplace. Since last week, I have been contacted by employers asking for help in the form of mediation between staff groups. The Sky Sports incident has been a catalyst to an amazing response within organisations and their staff teams. Many men seem to have gone into work offering their support to Gray and Keys, agreeing that it was just harmless banter that got out-of-hand and the authorities have overreacted. This view has, needless to say, upset many women who have been disturbed and surprised by their colleague’s responses.
If we are ever to achieve full gender equality in the workplace, men must realise that certain behaviour is not acceptable and not just when women are around. Gray and Keys have brought this to our attention and now it is up to the male members of society to take on board the lesson they have taught us. It’s time to change! Sexism, like racism, must be confined to the behavioural dustbin.