CHRIS GAYLE HAS been heavily criticised for asking reporter Mel McLaughlin out during a live interview. Gayle, who has since insisted he was just joking, said “Nice, so hopefully we can win this game and we can have a drink after.”
The cricketer added: “Don’t blush baby,” prompting the embarrassed McLaughlin to shake her head and reply, “I’m not blushing”.
He’s been fined A$10,000 (that’s €6,660 and not a lot to a guy that’s worth A$15 million) for “inappropriate conduct” and cricket authorities have condemned Gayle as “completely out of line.”
However an online poll here on the TheJournal.ie found that more than 50% of us think the incident was “only a bit of fun.”
So, was Gayle being genuinely sexist or did he just make an awkward attempt at attracting someone of the opposite sex? He’s claimed the incident was a “simple joke” blown out of proportion, and that he meant no disrespect.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt
Personally, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt right now, but there’s clearly a time and a place for asking somebody out and live television isn’t it. And shouldn’t he have taken into account that it isn’t right to make a woman feel horribly uncomfortable in her place of work, as Mel McLaughlin very obviously was in this instance.
You see, it turns out that soft sexism is something very real, likely something you’ve experienced personally, and is a slippery thing to prove in a court of law. But that doesn’t mean we should stop talking about it.
It’s those moments in your working and personal life that are just nagging enough that you notice them and feel the burn of unfairness, but equally subtle enough that you can’t exactly prove it as sexism: A link to a porn video that pops up on your chat. A comment about how hot you look today as you walk by a co-worker’s desk. Sexual harassment hasn’t gone away, it’s just taken on ever new forms.
Sexism and workplace discrimination is another thing that unquestionably exists. Women earn less than men for the same work, even before they start up with the babies and the choices that some try to claim are to blame for pay inequality.
Sexual harassment at work
A survey found that one in three women between the ages of 18-34 has been sexually harassed at work.
Cosmopolitan surveyed 2,235 full-time and part-time female employees and found that one in three women has experienced sexual harassment at work at some point their lives. Out of the women who said they’ve experienced workplace sexual harassment, 29% reported the issue while 71% did not.
According to the survey, the field with the highest levels of reported sexual harassment is food and service hospitality. Health and education had the lowest levels.
Sexual harassment is your boss hitting on you and you having to play silently along. It’s your boss describing your assertiveness as too assertive, and suggesting you might be better suited for a junior role. It’s you being asked to make the coffee at a client meeting.
It is pervasive. It is persistent. And it is so, so exhausting, all those subtle hints that you are a little different and that your behaviour is being interpreted a little differently to that of your male colleagues.
Is sexism dead?
Maybe the problem here isn’t that men think that sexism is dead forever; maybe it’s that some men don’t know what sexism looks like. The consequences are real, too: Fewer opportunities. Poorer evaluations. And opening yourself to hostile acts if you complain.
Then women start to view themselves as less, as undeserving. They don’t get upset when some lad who has been with the company far less than you and doesn’t have your qualifications gets the promotion that should be theirs.
But in spite of those who claim that it’s all just a bit of fun, a hilarious joke, drawing attention to the issue is still a hugely positive step and a critical part of changing things and hopefully changing times. So, in support of women experiencing sexism everywhere, let’s speak out.
Lorraine Courtney is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter @lorrainecath.