There’s been recent hysteria in the Australian sporting media. An uncomfortable incident that uncovered an uncomfortable truth.
Casual sexism in the workplace.
Sports journalist Mel McLaughlin was interviewing West Indian cricket star Chris Gayle when ‘awkward’ was taken to an all new level.
Instead of answering one of Mclaughlin’s questions, Gayle diverted, complimenting McLaughlin on her beautiful eyes and suggesting they head out for dinner.
McLaughlin’s response implied that she found Gayle’s behaviour uncouth.
She seemed to be caught off guard, a little lost for words and incapable of looking in Gayle’s direction. Based on Gayle’s apparently notorious reputation, I was surprised at the initial reaction.
Awkward moments can seem to last a lifetime and during that brief lifetime, an array of images, depending on your thought process, spring to mind.
The audience had barely managed to catch their breath when, unbelievably, Gayle plunged onwards, hammering the last nail into his own coffin with a clueless ‘don’t blush baby’.
Initially I thought that the most criminal thing in this situation was Gayle’s pick up routine. For smooth talking Caribbean men the world over, this was an attack on ‘the brand’ of irreparable proportions.
At this point, I felt that an appropriate collective response would have been something along the lines of ‘what a dick move. Glad that’s over.’
Perhaps followed by the timely disclaimer that McLaughlin was a professional and Gayle’s mediocre off field ‘game’ was not endorsed by the station (or smooth talking Caribbean males).
Yet it wasn’t over. The week that followed saw the story reach peak proportions, protesters of casual sexism clashing with the protesters of overt political correctness.
Yes, casual sexism is a real issue. Yes it should be looked at in a wider conversation.
But the blowback from this situation did little to bring positive awareness and education around the topic.
I think that discussing the matter objectively, requires a few considerations.
As the debate arose, these two videos were brought to the fore:
The point being, the noticeable lack of mass news headlines due to the person on the receiving end of the casual sexism being, undeniably, male.
One retort being championed around was especially surprising.
Talk about one sided. I mean it’s not like beautiful women have any advantages, is it?
I really have to wonder about the effectiveness of a rant centred around preaching to the choir. A rant that effortlessly alienates the target market. Did you know that rants have a bit of a negative vibe about them in the social and \ blogging world? That is, unless you agree with them. That’s when they are thrown into the conversation and called deductive.
How are we going to get a broader perspective on this argument that includes the broader social injustices against women if we do not also consider the broader social injustices that apply to men? The issues of male suicide rates, depression, the inequality in the way men are dealt with in a marriage break and the inequality of child custody that can create these issues?
If you want to have a conversation, let’s have one. But be prepared that you might have to address examples that challenge the official narrative, if not fairly, at least consistently.
Secondly, lets talk about accountability.
Accountability for both sexes has many benefits.
To deny that the issues of casual sexism applies also to men, is to demonstrate a distinct lack of accountability. It suggests that males are to blame for all forms of casual sexism and females are just the victims which is simply not true, more a matter of popular perception.
Reinforcing the ‘males have been assholes forever argument’ illustrates an unwillingness to bridge the gap and to find common ground. It also dismisses the progress that society has made in the world in which we live today.
To do the opposite of that however, is to suggest that you are willing to have a rational discussion, with the people you are trying to get through to. By creating an atmosphere which allows those who don’t necessarily agree, to keep an open mind.
This leads me to my final point. Priorities.
If women were less concerned about men ‘slut shaming’ and more concerned with promoting higher values inside their own gender, perhaps there would be a shift that encouraged young men to gravitate towards confident, empowered, successful women, instead being coerced by more primal urges. This is a strategy that does not rely on male participation to bear fruit.
Perhaps, instead of getting all wild about Chris Gayle, we could get angry about mainstream music which uses money, sexual innuendo, and half naked women to sell records to young men and women as standard. Ironically, promoted by the same TV stations that don’t endorse casual sexism.
The Real Housewives is not 1, but an entire franchise of series’ portraying women as shallow, bitchy, vain, irrational and just plain nasty, dragging the female image through the mud with each horrific fictional episode peddled off as real life. Perhaps someone could explain exactly why female viewers are the ones giving this gutter trash ratings? This seems a bigger issue to me than a clueless Chris Gayle.
Perhaps this is not just a male issue but a systemic one which requires a responsible dialog from both sexes? A problem that needs to avoid pointing fingers across the room?
What was the priority of this mass media hysteria?
Was it to drive the public apart?
Was it to shame an arrogant cricketer into an apology, a $10,000 fine and a possible early retirement?
Was it to leave an unnecessary distraction in a promising journalistic career?
Or was it merely, as usual, for ratings?
Where Chris Gale should be remembered for his flamboyant personality and approach to the game. Instead, he will have to deal with being painted as a misogynist who has no respect for women. Thrown under the bus by the same game and station that happily sucks up the viewers when he ‘behaves’.
Where McLaughlin should be remembered as an accomplished sports journalist. Instead she may be remembered as the girl that got chatted up, albeit horribly, on national TV by misogynist Chris Gayle.
In the most uncanny twist of all
Only a week or so later, McLaughlin got Mark Waugh’s name wrong on a live panel and then suggested she could buy him a drink to make it up to him.
A nothing comment that should have been treated as nothing whatsoever.
But because of the hysterical air time that this story achieved, the stupidity drags onwards.
The cheap ratings shoot skywards.
Mel McLaughlin is being held back, from aiming for the stars.
And the public is certainly no closer to a centralised viewpoint on Casual