Why Chris Gayle’s comments matter

Within minutes of Chris Gayle propositioning reporter Mel McLaughlin on national TV, one bloke tweets: “Waiting for the attack of the feminazis after that interview.”

You wonder if he sees the irony in what he’s written, his own sexism towards anyone who takes issue with Gayle’s sexism.

Sitting at home watching it all unfold, you feel revulsion. But most of all you feel weary. Two words come to mind. Not again.

***

You weigh up the options. You can enter the fray, where you might be accused of being a humourless, politically correct feminazi or, to quote Immigration Minister Peter Dutton of another situation, a mad f***ing witch.

Or you can remain silent.

Already the language of minimisation is kicking in. People are playing it down. Relax, they’re saying, it’s just a bit of fun. Don’t make such a big deal of it. Can’t a fella ask a girl out? Lighten up. Harden up. Move on.

You tell yourself you won’t change the views of these people any more than they’ll change yours.

***

Fight against sexismThen you recall the time, more than 20 years ago now, when you were standing at a desk in a parliamentary office, leaning over to write on a piece of paper. “I nearly did you from behind,” a politician said.

And the time a member of parliament, staring at your cleavage, leered: “I’m not a boobs man but frankly they interest me.”

You think of the sexism you witnessed and experienced during a 10-year journalism career. You wonder if there’s a woman alive who hasn’t experienced sexism of some description.

You consider your 10-year-old daughter and the world you want her to grow up in.

No, there’ll be no staying silent today.

***

Sexism can be both blatant and subtle in its delivery and impact.

On Twitter, women — and men — are explaining the nuances of the argument, the code beneath the comments.

Gayle’s proposition exudes entitlement. It assumes his interest is welcome, suggests women are there for the taking, somehow lesser. It’s not harmless flirting, it’s workplace harassment.

Female sports reporters out Gayle as a serial offender. They speak of their long-term experiences with everyday sexism.

A comment from Fox Sports reporter Neroli Meadows cuts through.

“It is just this thing: perhaps, for one second, just trust us. Rather than saying what a bunch of whingeing women, just trust us that maybe we’re telling the truth and maybe it is upsetting and it does happen all the time and it’s not OK. Maybe just back us in on that, just once. Just back us in.”

***

Ten-SportThose involved in the game scramble to keep up with audience expectations.

Guffaws in the Channel 10 commentary box are quickly replaced by more subdued remarks.

A tweet hashtagged #smooth is deleted, one noting McLaughlin’s professionalism posted in its place.

The network says it won’t interview Gayle for the rest of the Big Bash League season. His team fines him $10,000. Cricket Australia weighs in.

None of this would happen if people didn’t speak out.

***

The morning after, the man himself is wheeled out. He says sorry. He’s so not sorry.

For the first time ever, US media takes an interest in cricket. “Sh*tty cricket man harasses female sideline reporter,” says sports website Deadspin.

But for me, the real breakthrough comes when a popular Australian cricket blogger changes his mind.

“Yesterday I didn’t quite get the issue. Heard Mel and Neroli today. Now I get it,” he says.

***

We’re not feminazis, lying in wait for the next poor dope to put his foot in his mouth. We’d love not to have to talk about this stuff at all.

We’ve just had enough.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Messy Jez says:

    This is really beautifully put, and unfortunately, it will need to keep being said for a long time. I was in England at the time, and a lot of people there didn’t get it either, at least not to start with. On balance, it’s probably a good thing that it happened, because it’s not about Gayle, it’s about a pervasive and ugly culture that permeates a large proportion of the male population. Piers Morgan reflects, and indeed promotes, that “blokey” reaction perfectly. The total lack of consciousness surrounding power and privilege, and the abuse of these, needs to be challenged constantly. It has been refreshing this Summer to see the likes of Izzy Westbury, Alison Mitchell, Melinda Farrell and others being in a position to not only provide positive role models, but also to educate their fellow commentators to set a decent example. Until these men “get it”, we will continue to suffer the sort of reaction we saw in the Channel 10 Comms box, and that abysmal excuse for “entertainment”, the Footy Show. I know there are some fantastic male cricket writers and commentators out there who really do get it – Geoff Lemon springs to mind, but TV comms teams, sadly, seem to be dominated by ex-cricketers, most of whom have a way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kazblah says:

      You’re absolutely right, Jez, and thanks for leaving such a well-considered response. We need more blokes pointing out the inappropriateness of this behaviour.

      Liked by 1 person

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