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January 30, 2011

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In (partial) defence of Keys and Gray.

I can’t help feeling a bit uncomfortable about the furore surrounding Richard Keys, Andy Gray and their recent sexist misdemeanours. For sure, Keys’ almost violently misogynistic comments about Jamie Redknapp’s ex-girlfriend were probably a sackable offence. Gray’s sexually suggestive intimidation of a female colleague was also probably a sackable offence.¬†What wasn’t a sackable offence was their banter about the ability of the lineswoman, Sian Massey – yet that’s what the media have focused on, rabidly, amid a maelstrom of unrelenting sanctimony.

I’m not saying it wasn’t sexist or bigoted. It clearly was. And I don’t in any sense condone sexism at a serious level – women shouldn’t be disadvantaged in the workplace or in politics due to their gender. But how many of the¬†journalists getting worked up about this can claim to have never made a sexist jibe? Indeed can many men or women – Gandhi-esque quasi-deities apart – honestly claim to have never exchanged lighthearted sexist ‘banter’ with a friend or a colleague or a loved one? I suspect not.

One of the most publicised criticisms of the pair was that of Rio Ferdinand, England captain. He described their views as ‘prehistoric’. Are you seriously telling me there’s never been a sexist joke in the Manchester United dressing room? Or that, if there has, Ferdinand’s stood up and said “Sorry lads, we’re not having any of those prehistoric views in here.” I don’t remember him describing Wayne Rooney’s actions as ‘prehistoric’ when he committed the vastly more vulgar offence of having sex with a prostitute behind his pregnant wife’s back. Oh, and does Ferdinand think he too should have been universally castigated when, in 2006, he described Chris Moyles as ‘a faggot’ for saying he thought Alan Smith was good looking. That comment, made on live radio (Keys and Gray’s comments were, remember, unknowingly recorded), was a far nastier and greater affront to equality, yet he apologised and moved on. The lack of consistency is astounding.

The media’s criticism has been just as hypocritical. Sky themselves described the comments as “entirely inconsistent with our ethos as a business and employer”. That’s the same Sky that allows Soccer AM to have a weekly ‘sexy Soccerette‘, a model wearing little more than a football shirt, offering viewers the chance to have a pre-match oggle. No chauvinism there, of course. Funnier still, the Sun expressed its outrage at Keys and Gray’s comments, showing an article by Karen Brady in which she slammed institutional sexism. No doubt they (and she?) would claim their topless Page 3 models are ‘being empowered’ or some other nonsense?

So no, I have no problem that the two men are now out of work, but the hyperbole and faux outrage that’s greeted the comments has been tiresome, hypocritical and frankly embarrassing. Anyway, I’m off to watch the football. At least with a male referee in charge, we can be sure no mistakes will be made.

1 Comment
  1. Jen
    Jan 30 2011

    Well I think you might be partially right. What has been absurd is the castigation of Keys and Gray by the likes of The Sun or Rio’s given their track record.

    However, I don’t think it is particularly Gandi-esque to claim not to have had a pre-conceived idea of someone’s ability to do their job based on their gender and that’s not the same as sexist banter.

    If my child has a male teacher I don’t necessarily think that he won’t be as good as a female teacher in nurturing my child; I don’t meet a male nurse and assume he won’t be as caring as a female one; and if a female taxi-driver turns up, I don’t assume we’ll get lost.

    But on the other hand if my husband burns the dinner, while minding the children, I can tease him about not being able to multi-task – sexist banter based on what happened; and similarly when my sister takes several attempts to reverse the car into my drive I can tease her about women and parking.

    There is a difference between using sexual stereotypes to tease people WHEN they seem to follow them and the ASSUMPTION that their gender renders them incapable of doing their job. The latter is what Keys and Gray were guilty of: whether this is a sackable offence I don’t know but it is surely more than sexist banter.

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