The Umpteenth Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (Sports Edition)

The reaction to Chris Gayle’s interview by Mel McLaughlin confirms to me that to some there is still a huge “No Girls Allowed” sign on sport. While I am heartened by the condemnation of Gayle’s behaviour by many, there are too many who are quick to dismiss the impact of the comments and require the person on the receiving end to just grin and bear it.

I often get the feeling that “sports” are seen by some as a colossal man-cave where women are only allowed to enter if they are bringing beer (or maybe chips or a pie) or dance about in something skimpy (pom poms optional) or run around in scanty lingerie or beat other women up.  Women are to be judged on looks or have their sexuality speculated about.  Women’s voices are silenced and marginalised because what would they know?  Women who follow sport (or any sport other than netball or tennis) are assumed only to be there because guys with muscles and/or tight shorts.  They only follow the good looking players, because lady-brains wouldn’t understand the intricacies of Pagan’s Paddock.  Deep down they know we’re all groupies at heart and we’d do anything, anything, to be a WAG.

If sport for you is a refuge from the women in your life, then I can see why you’re being threatened.  You’re the rusted on demographic and sports want to expand their reach.  Using the BBL as an example, Cricket Australia is actively targeting “females” (yes, their words).  They want our patronage, they want access to our kids and most of all they want our money.  It may be a consequence of the transition from sport as an enjoyable pastime to sport as an entertainment business, but that’s the way it goes.

And just as the purists dismiss T20 as hit and giggle, is it any wonder that some of us decide we want more than just the pyrotechnics and the loud music?  We develop an interest beyond the superficial, we learn the rules and learn the language.  Sport is a universal language across generations (far better than popular music), so savvy women learn and some of us enjoy it.  We can talk to strangers at mixed gatherings and also say a few intelligent things about the micro-figure our kids have ripped from the package we just bought.

And when women work for newspapers or radio broadcasters or television networks a mantra of “only blokes cover sports” becomes a bit problematic, particularly if your employee is articulate, can tell a story, extract the best bits from an interview and engage the reader (or listener, or viewer) as well as the next person.  So we do have women’s voices, even if they are token and even if they don’t get the best jobs.

What Gayle did on live television was outrageous.  No reporter needs or wants to be asked out by the person they’re interviewing during a live interview.  It’s a workplace.  The reporter is doing their job the way the athlete is doing his.

Which is why it was disconcerting that the Ten Network decided to first gently condone Gayle’s behaviour in its first tweet, before then praising the professionalism of McLaughlin.  It isn’t smooth to hit on an employee.  It isn’t banter.  This was public and if the behaviour was unwanted and unwelcome, it’s harder for the recipient to deal with.  And just as public is the response on social media.  It isn’t enough to just delete the tweet.

Why can’t women be able to speak or write in public about things they know about?  St Paul told women not to speak in Church.  Knox wrote his polemic when England and Scotland were governed by Marys.  Today trolls take to social media and judge women either on their looks or hold their opinion as invalid, simply because a woman is saying it.  Actually that’s what the nicer trolls do – others decide that abuse and threats are the first and only justified response.

I don’t think women should be immune from criticism in they what say and write.  Bias, reliance on dodgy “facts” and general unprofessionalism should be called to account, regardless of the gender of the author.  That said, and it’s sad that I need to say it, women can have a view on sports.  We’re entitled to it as fans, as participants, as administrators, as commentators.  Whether professional or amateur we should not need to feel that there are some places where we cannot venture just because some people are uncomfortable with women.  I’m lucky that I’ve not been subjected to the threats and hostility that other women writers have, just because they are a woman writing about sports.  It’s because of those idiots that I’m happy to be a part of the Almanackers – a site that is welcoming and encouraging to all writers.

Over the course of the day there are more articles about the behaviour of Chris Gayle and about what Mel McLaughlin (and other female sports journalists) have had to deal with.  The sad thing is that, no matter how many people shake their heads in dismay, there will be others whose response will be that we should either vacate the field for the men or drink a cup of cement and harden up if we can’t take it.  But that’s missing the point.  It’s 2016 and you aren’t required to have a “Y” chromosomes to watch, to join or to enjoy sport, much less be treated with respect.

About Kath Presdee

Just a suburban girl, just a suburban girl. Lawyer by day, wife and Mum by night. I experience the agony and the ecstasy of sport, having followed Cronulla all my life, the Brumbies all their life and as a foundation member of the Giants.

Comments

  1. Just asking why do we still tolerate young girls in dancing uniforms at cricket and basketball games?

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    There was this from Angela Pippos last night

    Angela Pippos @angelapippos
    Unless you’re a woman trying to carve out a career in a male-dominated industry you don’t really know what it feels like. #Gayle #BBL05

  3. Dave Brown says

    Well said, Kath (expressing my appreciation rather than approval, of course). Today I felt exactly like I did with the Adam Goodes stuff last year. Trying to understand why people I respect, value and love are unable to extend the slightest bit of empathy to another human being. Let alone why they spent all day shouting IT’S NO BIG DEAL. Really? Then why are you shouting? What happened last night was undoubtedly sexual harassment in Mel’s workplace and she would have an open and shut case against Channel 10 and Gayle if she decided to take action.

  4. That’s some grand trumpet-blasting, Kath.
    Keep blasting.

    Noelmc – great question.
    Objectification is the start of a slippery slope of power relationships.

  5. Anne Cahill Lambert says

    Fabulous work, Kath. Thanks!

  6. TrevorLeighy says

    Nice article!, I have seen a huge change in attitude in combat sports since Ronda Rousey and other female fighters have cam on the scene. It almost seems like each sport needs its female ambassador to really make a change in attitudes.

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