When the comments of Chris Gayle started playing on a loop on the news channels broadcast in our office, I admit I had to ask a colleague what all the fuss was about. When I realised I was supposed to be morally outraged, I carried out a swift survey of female opinion in the office to find out if it was just me that thought this was all being blown a bit out of proportion. But no, every other female in the office that I have vox-popped on the matter so far has agreed that, whilst Gayle comes across as an oaf, his attempts to ‘chat up’ Mel McLaughlin were embarrassing for him, as opposed to offensive to all womankind.
I am sure this point of view will shock many, but I have to say I don’t really understand all the attention this is getting. I feel I should make clear at this point that I would describe myself as a feminist. I believe that women should have equal rights to men, that women should be treated the same as men (especially in the workplace) and that women should be free to go about their lives, and careers, without suffering any form of harassment, sexual or otherwise. But this wasn’t harassment. This was just a foolish man trying, very badly, to flirt with a woman. McLaughlin slapped Gayle down with her ‘I’m not blushing’ comment, and carried on with the interview. I would have thought that would have been the end of the matter… but no.
I do agree that a live TV interview is not the most appropriate time or place for a flirtatious exchange, but above and beyond that, I just can’t get worked up about Gayle’s behaviour. If a female athlete flirted with a male reporter (as many have already pointed out, Sharapova has form here) I would think the same. I also take issue with some of the commentary I have read over the last couple of days which has used this story to claim that the world of sport is one big cesspit of sexism, where women can’t move without being disrespected, objectified or patronised. I have worked in the sports industry for several years now and can honestly say I have never been made to feel that way. I have worked with athletes and other individuals from the world of football, rugby, cricket, combat sports, sailing, athletics and more, and it just has never been an issue.
I am not saying that sport is a world devoid of sexism. Of course, it suffers from the issues that many other industries suffer from, not least that there are not enough women in positions of authority or influence. But to focus on the moronic comments of one man and to create a frenzy of outrage over them, seems to me to be a waste of time and energy. The name ‘Chris Gayle’ has also received far more column inches than he ever deserved, so in the words of Mel McLaughlin herself, ‘let’s move on’ now shall we?