Written by Jen Offord

Health

Chris Gayle: what a tit

When the cricketer propositioned sports journalist Mel McLaughlin live on air, people were predictably offended and others predictably told them to ‘calm down, dear’. Uh-uh, says Jen Offord; there are myriad reasons his behaviour was bang out of order.

Chris Gayle

West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle, whose judgement on the field appears to exceed that away from it.

Last week while perusing the ol’ sports pages, my eye was drawn to a headline about some chap whose name I didn’t recognise, asking out a woman. Apparently Chris Gayle – a Jamaican cricketer who has also played for Australian teams, which is probably why the name wasn’t immediately familiar to me – had, on live television, propositioned journalist Mel McLaughlin who had been interviewing the star. Initially, I didn’t pay much attention, tutting, “what a twit” to myself as I skimmed through the standfirst.

The situation seemed to escalate over the next day or so as numerous journalists and other associated colleagues came forward to sigh about the tediousness of Gayle’s pesty ways; this was not uncommon for him, it seemed. At this stage, I received an email from my pal, Joe, who said, “I think you should probably write something about this, and you should call it ‘Chris Gayle: what a prick.’”

With renewed interest, I sat down to watch the footage of Chris Gayle being a “prick”. There was no getting around it: as he told sports journalist Mel McLaughlin of Australia’s Seven network he was giving the interview in order to see her “eyes for the first time” and hoped they’d be able to go for a drink later, he was indeed a prick. Actually, “prick” was a strong word, I considered, as he cringingly told her, “Don’t blush, baby.”

So he was a bit sleazy, in a kind of embarrassing way that made for the most uncomfortable of viewing. Hardly a crime, right? Had it been blown out of proportion? Was it just POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD as the knobbers on the internet began to scream from the safety of their keyboards and hollow, empty lives outside the opening hours of Games Workshop?

OK, I agree, it’s harmless enough. Harmless enough maybe, until you consider this was McLaughlin’s place of work, and in most places of work, I’m pretty sure you could take someone to Strasbourg for that kind of thing – and not for a holiday.

“A five-minute chat with a female colleague revealed that we had both over the course of our careers encountered chaps who had taken it upon themselves to make some kind of verbal judgement on our appearance or physique, or even to get ‘a bit handsy’.”

I think most people are getting the memo on catcalling, these days, because that’s what this was. I can’t speak on behalf of all women, but certainly among my own peer group, for the most part, the rumours are true: we don’t like it. It’s embarrassing. Like when the weird old man announces to the bus, “This girl – this girl right here,” pointing at you, “I’m taking her home with me tonight,” before prising a bottle of diet Coke out of another woman’s handbag and jumping out of the closing doors at Vauxhall Cross.

Or when the driver of the truck passing you shouts, “NICE TITS!” as you cycle down Southgate Road. It’s embarrassing because you’re just doing very average life things and someone has invited everyone to look at you and have an opinion on your appearance.

I would argue that one shouldn’t have to be made to feel uncomfortable and self-conscious when they’re cycling down Southgate Road (or any other, for that matter), and at least you can make a speedy getaway, even if you are wearing a bright pink cycling jacket. But I already find it hard to be taken seriously in Day-Glo Lycra; please don’t make it any harder for me.

The last place, however, that I want to not be taken seriously is at my place of work. I’m probably already struggling in this arena, working like an absolute bastard to prove just how seriously I deserve to be taken, because, rightly or wrongly, I’m worried that I’m not. In fairness, you probably shouldn’t have told me you call the woman in area 4B “Tits McGee”.

TV journalist Mel McLaughlin: caught out by Gayle's interview advances.

TV journalist Mel McLaughlin: caught out by Gayle’s interview advances.

McLaughlin is a sports journalist, and the rumours are also true that there are fewer women working in the sports industry than there are some others, but it doesn’t have the monopoly on sexism.

A five-minute chat with a female colleague revealed that we had both over the course of our careers encountered chaps who had taken it upon themselves to make some kind of verbal judgement on our appearance or physique, or even to get ‘a bit handsy’, if we want to apply the ‘Jihadi John’ terminology (whereby we irritatingly take a serious subject and make it sound like an activity or character from Playbus).

Yes it is sexism we’re dealing with here, regardless of whether or not Gayle meant any harm. But it is harmful, because it perpetuates the myth that we’re here to be looked at and admired (or not, as the case may be) rather than adding value to a profession.

For the record, I agree that on balance, Gayle almost certainly didn’t mean any harm. His comments were clearly, as he later protested, not malicious. So perhaps we can downgrade the slur against Gayle, which may actually be sexist in itself, since I’m downgrading to a less aggressive, female anatomical reference, but at least we will be looking at and judging an altogether different kind of tit when we revisit that footage.

@inspireajen

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Written by Jen Offord

Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen