It’s a great shame that football commentator Andy Gray being sacked for making a sexually suggestive comment to a woman whose career highlights include making sexually suggestive poses for “the lads” got more people talking about sexism and equality than say, Coalition plans to reform New Labour’s outrageously sexist parental leave laws – then the broader societal impact of political parties gendered approach to legislation is never going to be that sexy, so, if you can’t beat them, let’s join them, says The Men’s Network Chair, Glen Poole.
It’s been a debate of two-halves with both sides largely saying the same thing: “Phworr, what a pair of tits!”
But let’s just focus on the biggest pair, Andy Gray and Richard Keys. The Sky Sports Commentators were caught off air making sexist comments about female assistant referee, Sian Massey, during a Premiership game between Liverpool and Wolves:
Gray, a former Scottish international footballer, said: ‘Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.’
Keys replied: ‘The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming [vice-chairwoman of West Ham] Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love.”
Anyone who questions whether this exchange is sexist, should take a moment to consider the same exchange for a gay referee:
Gray: ‘Can you believe that? A gay linesman. Gays don’t know the offside rule.’
Keys: ‘The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming [gay rugby inernational] Gareth Thomas this morning complaining about homophobia? Do me a favour, sweetie.”
Or a black referee:
Gray: ‘Can you believe that? A black linesman. Blacks don’t know the offside rule.’
Keys: ‘The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming [former England football international] Ian Wright this morning complaining about racism? Do me a favour, bro.”
It’s a matter of opinion about which is worse – this exchange or the video footage of Gray making a sexual suggestions to Charlotte Gray (picture above) which led to his sacking and which that font of legal expertise The Daily “Phworr, look at the lawyers briefs on that” Star claims could land Andy Gray £3m if he challenges it in court.
What’s more interesting right now is to observe the hypocrisy on both sides of the argument.
“Women still feel free to speak about men in such an insulting way that if the roles were reversed hate laws would be invoked”
And former Minister Edwina Currie hinted at this freedom when challenging the unpleasantness of the men’s behaviour by calling Andy Gray a “fat slob” on BBC Question Time.
Telegraph columnist, Jenny McCartney, gets to the heart of the hypocrisy:
“Among men at large, however, there is a growing impatience with routine anti-male sexism: numerous advertisements and presenters, including the all-female cast of the television show Loose Women, frequently make eye-popping generalisations about men.”
This analysis captures the type of response we have heard at The Men’s Network with one Facebook follower posting:
“All that happened the other day was some commentators made some flippant ‘off air’ comments about a female linesman. Its crazy when programmes like Loose Women, are actually ‘broadcasting’ daily anti-male content, about generally how inept men are. This is apparently acceptable? But could you imagine what would happen if they commissioned a male equivalent, Loose Men- I think we’d all be lynched.”
This response brings us nicely to the broader societal impact of political parties gendered approach to legislation – believe it or not.
As our recent letter to Dominic Rabb MP highlighting the 13 Key Inequalities Experienced By Men shows, social policy has excluded men and boys as a unique a distinct group with their own specific concerns over and over again.
As the Brighton & Hove NHS Manager for Equality and Diversity, Phil Seddon, recently said:
“Ironically a largely male led society has created structures that don’t meet men’s needs because it hasn’t found itself able to acknowledge what those needs might be”.
We have highlighted how we aim to develop a culture of public service that is both pro-male and pro-female and remembers to include Men and Boys in the design and delivery of its services in our Remember Men campaign here.
At The Men’s Network, we understand that men experience the hypocrisy of a society where it has become normal to attack and exclude men. We know that men experience sexism, discrimination and inequality on a daily basis and don’t quite know how to articulate it.
So when an incident like the Gray/Keys charade hits the headlines they sense the unfairness but don’t know how to put it into words. Even smart MPs like Mr Raab who are brave enough to raise the issue find themselves being rounded on by – in his case – senior Labour women MPs who demonstrate their concern for men and men’s issues by telling Raab to: “get real and stop being so self-pitying”.
Imagine a Cabinet Minister telling a black campaigner or gay campaigner who highlighted the discrimination that his/her community experience to “get real and stop being so self-pitying” – there would be outrage.
With the Raab incident, the outrage focussed on his raising of the issue, not on the sexist response of senior, Labour, female MPs who are more privileged and equal that the vast majority of men and boys they are supposed to represent.
This is hypocrisy at play at the highest level where our political leaders response (in this case shadow Business Minister, Nia Griffiths) to men’s concerns about the sexism, discrimination and inequality they face is to be told “get real and stop being so self-pitying”.
It’s no wonder that ordinary men respond in the same “stop being self-pitying way” when men get held to account for their sexist behaviour.
And it’s hypocritical too.
If we want our concerns about the sexism, discrimination and inequality that men face to be heard then it will help our cause if we are equally rigorous and objective in our response to incidents like this.
Were Gray’s and Keys’ comments sexist? Yes!
Is the sexism men experience ignored? Yes!
Are we going to give that sexism against men and smash it? Phworr, you betcha!!!!!!!!!
Glen Poole, Chair, The Men’s Network