Friday, 28 January 2011

Foul play

Andy Gray has been sacked and Richard Keys has resigned from SKY for making derogatory and sexist comments about Sian Massey, a female linesman (so that's why they changed the name to referee's assistant). They weren't able to mention her without commenting on her looks (because, of course, that's how all women should be judged), suggested the game had 'gone mad' for allowing female officials, and then cast aspersions on the ability of women to understand the off-side rule. This is disgraceful, but not surprising.

Having played and watched football for many years, I know the off-side rule as well as anybody, despite the 'modern interpretation' being ridiculous - as Bill Nicholson said as manager of Spurs, "If he's not interfering with play, what's he doing on the pitch?" (That quote is often attributed to the great Bill Shankly, but apparently he said, "If a player is not interfering with play or seeking to gain an advantage, then he should be", which is a different matter entirely, although equally valid.)

Boorish behaviour dictates that only men can talk about sport - I think we are meant to stick to diets and babies (two of the world's dullest subjects to my mind). I have been in pubs in South Island New Zealand where blokes ignore my opinions on sport because I am female. Recently I told a man who won the National Sevens (Auckland) and he didn't believe me - he had to confirm it by asking another man, who wasn't even there. Incidentally this Queenstown-hosted event was advertised on SKY with fast athletes (men running with balls), tough competitors (bruising tackles) and fantastic scenery (a close-up of a woman's cleavage), which tells you all you need to know about the sport appreciation in this country.

The International Sevens are also usually advertised with pictures of scantily-clad trollops preening for the camera and not watching the games. Admittedly, football is my favourite sport which isn't as popular in pub-talk here, but my friend, Psycho Phil, knows more than most men about rugby and can (and does) talk ad nauseum about the All Blacks - she receives similar treatment.

Sian Massey 'ran the line' in the Wolves v Liverpool game and made some excellent decisions and brave calls - my team won that match 0-3 which may fractionally influence my endorsement. To suggest that women don't know the off-side rule is sexist, ignorant and predictably lazy. It's the same casual sexism that says we can't read maps or drive. As my sister The Weevil was the World Orienteering Champion, and statistics prove that men have more road accidents than women, I refute these uninformed pronouncements.

In some respects New Zealand has led the way in promoting women’s equality, being the first country in the world to give women the vote and first in the world to simultaneously have a woman governor general, woman mayor and elected female prime minister. However, casual sexism and misogynistic remarks are rife in the laddish culture that sports commentary can breed. Programmes like these are often less about sports and more about pretending to have a personality - throw in a cheap sexist joke and apparently you're a 'character' and if you don't find it funny; you have no sense of humour.

No, I don't find it amusing when women are considered merely as sexual objects. New Zealand loves its netball - the players are rated in the paper, not in terms of ability, but in terms of 'hotness'. Nor do I find anything to laugh about when people suggest women are inferior. This supposes that thay can be treated badly because they don't count as much. Last week in New Zealand a woman was burnt alive and left on a rural road. Police suspect it is an honour killing - women can be used as commodoties because they are 'second class citizens'.

You may say that to connect these things is a giant leap, but I believe if you condone casual sexism you are taking the first small steps towards degrading and debasing women. And if you are one of these women who encourage such sentiments, I despise and pity you in equal measure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG. I've been away from your blog for a couple of weeks, and I come back to see all these fantastic and thought provoking articles!

Really wonderful blog Kate. You know, I thought the comments of those two football commentators were really disgusting but I was unsure in my heart about whether they should have been sacked. Now reading your blog, I'm feeling much better that they've been sacked.

I also recall when I spent time in that bar in QT and was nearly bullied out of the pub when I said Graham Henry was a good coach and that Robbie Deans wasn't all that. those men in there looked at me with abject disgust, to the point I was actually quaking in my boots. But i stuck firm to my theories and I have to say, i recalled that conversation when the ABs beat Australia several times this year.

Still - I'm not meaning to gloat about the ABS because as I know, that are not exactly your most favourite team, although I do notice you have a fan in a R.McCaw here....

Anyway - thank you for this very well written view about sexism in sport and sexism in general. Really brilliant.
Psycho Phil