Pop-Culture | Posted by Rosamund C on 02/2/2011

What Penalty For Sexism in Sport?

Sky News Reports Richard Keys and Andy Gray

Sky News Reporters Richard Keys and Andy Gray

Anyone living in Britain at the moment would have to be hiding under a rock to have missed the current Sky news sexism row. It hasn’t quite got its own ‘-gate’  suffix yet but it’s surely only a matter of time, as what started as a few off-the-cuff comments has snowballed into a national debate.

Sky Sports presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray were commentating on a football (soccer) match last Saturday, when, believing their microphones to be switched off, they made sexist remarks about the female referee, Sian Massey. The game hadn’t even started when they were already criticising her ability to do her job, complaining that women “don’t know the offside rule” and that “the game’s gone mad.” They also complained about Karren Brady, one of football’s most prolific businesswomen, who had written a recent article about sexism in football.

Ironically, during the match, Massey correctly called a query which many sub-standard referees may have missed. She has kept fairly quiet throughout this time, accepting Keys’ and Gray’s apology. Brady, on the other hand, was outraged by the men’s comments.

What worries me the most is the reaction of the general public. The two men lost their jobs, though not straightaway; after a rather inadequate apology, Sky decided that heads had to roll. But there is a lack of support for this action from many Brits. They believe the two men have been unfairly treated and that this is another case of ‘political correctness gone mad’.

I find it hard to believe that this blasé attitude towards sexism still exists. Britain has made huge strides in the last 20 years in regards to racism and homophobia. It’s completely unacceptable to make a racist or homophobic joke in any context, and yet we still encounter sexism around each corner. As Anna Kessel, who writes for left-wing daily national The Guardian, said, ‘Try explaining the difference between an expletive-filled rant concerning the colour of a player’s skin affecting his ability to do a job, and an expletive-filled rant about a person’s gender affecting her ability to do her job.’ This is the problem in Britain today – one of these is not acceptable, and the other one is.

It’s not just in football where sexism is still institutionalized. What’s most worrying is society at large’s attitude towards sexism. Many men nowadays believe that society is anti-men, and made up of men-hating, extreme feminists. They complain that when it comes to sexism, it’s labelled as ‘a bit of a laugh’ when the jokes are about men, and discrimination when women come under fire.

They may have a point. Personally, I feel it is just as unacceptable to make sexist remarks about men as about women, and I would like to see harsher penalties when this occurs in the media. However, we cannot forget that women are still the ones who need help here. We are still struggling for equality, and the fight is not helped by the attitudes of men like these. The sacking of Keys and Gray has caused an unfortunate backlash – I just hope that this is not a setback for women and for the issue of sexism to be taken seriously.

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  • A @ at 1:06 pm, February 2nd, 2011

    great article! as an non-brit i knew nothing about this. the attitude that sexism and homophobia aren’t as important to combat as racism is disturbingly pervasive everywhere. :(

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 1:07 pm, February 2nd, 2011

    Excellent post. I’m in the US, so I didn’t hear about this until now.

  • Tweets that mention What Penalty For Sexism in Sport? | fbomb -- Topsy.com @ at 3:06 pm, February 2nd, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Julie Zeilinger, Tita Royanti. Tita Royanti said: What Penalty For Sexism in Sport? | fbomb: Sky Sports presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray were commentating on… http://bit.ly/fgwAwB [...]

  • marta1 @ at 12:52 pm, February 3rd, 2011

    It wasn’t just after an inadequate apology that Sky decided to fire them. There were TWO other videos that came out showing Andy Gray’s sexism – one where he and another reporter commented on Sian Massey’s looks and one where he stuffed a microphone or something down his trousers when they were getting ready to broadcast and asked his female cohost to ‘tuck it in for him’ Only after ALL THIS was he finally fired. Richard Keys resigned a bit later.
    Even more evidence of the sadly pervasive sexism inherent in Sky Sports, sports in general, and society.

  • Sasa @ at 12:27 pm, February 5th, 2011

    I was hoping you guys would talk about this… Yeah, I’ve had to listen to a lot of rubbish at my sixth form college after this: “Oh, they’re making a big deal out of nothing”, “It’s football, what do you expect??” And “Women are sexist too!” Women are sexist too??! I don’t think they understand that using that argument means that you accept that the behaviour was sexist and wrong but still want to defend it anyway.
    SMH, the thing is with Britain is that it’s in denial about, well, everything. We’ve certainly made amazing leaps and bounds but many forms of discrimination are still right in front of people’s faces, yet nothing’s happening. The fact that I have to argue with both students and teachers (male and female) about something that is so obvious just goes to show we have a long way to go.

  • Toni @ at 2:20 am, February 10th, 2011

    As both a girl and a football fan, I was disgusted by this, but (sadly) hardly surprised. I’ve heard a hundred jokes about women not knowing the offside rule and only watching to perve on the players, and like you said, it’s scary that this attitude exists within the general public. I’ve met so many girls through online football forums and sites that are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the game. If there’s any positive that can be taken from this whole situation, I guess it’s that the overwhelming majority of the media was quick to condemn Keys and Gray. (My favourite thing that I read in response to this was a tweet from the journalist Kelly Cates, who worked with those two at Sky and whose father is Kenny Dalglish, the manager of Liverpool FC — so if any woman knows her football, it’s her. She wrote: “Phew am exhausted. Just read about something called “the offside rule”. Too much for my tiny brain. Must be damaged from nail polish fumes.” I love her.)

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