MCLAUGHLIN AND THE PERILS OF BEING A WOMAN IN SPORTS

In 2015, we saw that if you’re a female sports reporter you might have a hard time getting in certain locker rooms.  Well, 2016 has picked up right where 2015 left off with a stark reminder that it STILL takes some pretty thick skin to make it as a female in the sports world.  The reminder this time comes from way across the pond in Australia.  On Monday, Reporter Mel McLaughlin was tasked with interviewing Jamaican cricket player Chris Gayle.  What started of as a pleasant interaction quickly went way, way left.  I’ll let you see for yourself:


Sexist, sleazy or both? Whatever it is, @Mel_Mclaughlin handles this exchange with Chris Gayle superbly @henrygayle pic.twitter.com/JQyIUiNV3l — Auskar Surbakti (@AuskarSurbakti) January 4, 2016

Gayle went from complimenting McLaughlin to propositioning her to calling her “baby” in a matter of seconds.  There was no interview just Gayle unprofessionally objectifying a woman who was trying to do her job.  Gayle’s team, the Melbourne Renegades, fined him $10,000 AUD (about $7168 USD) and condemned his behavior.  When given the opportunity to rectify the situation at a press conference, Gayle (rather than provide a sincere apology) basically told everyone to lighten up because he was just joking.  Gayle’s weak attempt to spit game at an inappropriate time; his tired, disingenuous apology; and his suggestion that everyone else had blown the “interview” out of proportion just shows how clueless he his.

I get that Gayle is a man and that it may sometimes be difficult for men to sympathize with women.  And I get that sometimes men and women have different senses of humor, but his actions aren’t being scrutinized because of the differences between the sexes.  This situation isn’t about men not being able to see a woman’s point of view or women not being able to take a joke.  The uproar is about his failures to be a professional and to control his carnal desires which in turn placed McLaughlin in an uncomfortable position.  No one, not a man, not a woman, wants to work in an environment where they aren’t taken seriously.  Gayle wouldn’t appreciate it if during interviews reporters spent time asking him about his love life and clothes rather than his skills and his team.  You (whoever you are) don’t want to work on a group assignment only to have your colleague completely ignore the task at hand to have discussions about your appearance and dating you instead.  Objectifying people (especially in the professional environment) is disrespectful and demeaning, but that’s what Gayle did to McLaughlin.

Far too often, women in sports have to deal with Gayle’s kind of behavior.  The extra, unwanted conversations about their sex lives, their bodies and their good looks are placed on their plates simply because they’re women.  I don’t think most reporters, athletes and writers are trying to be intentionally sexist or to intentionally harass women, but their motives really aren’t the issue.  The effect of their behavior is the issue.  Whether it’s a reporter asking a professional tennis player to give the audience a twirl or a professional player asking his female counterparts to be half-naked when they go to work; the effect is damaging.  It bruises the egos and undercuts the hard work of the women who are the targets of the objectification.  And it’s harmful to women and society in general because it sends messages that it’s ok to hold women to different standards and it’s ok to overstep a woman’s personal boundaries.

Well it isn’t ok.  Women in sports shouldn’t have to be ready and willing to have their bodies or beauty as the subject of talk if that’s not their desire.  Women should be able to report on sports, play sports, officiate sports and regulate sports with the same dignity as their male colleagues.  And this goes for society as a whole.  Stop with the catcalling, the extra-long hugs, and the brushing up against women who have made no suggestion that they want your attention.  And no, wearing a tight skirt and make-up is NOT asking for your attention.  Let women, in sports, at the bank, on the street, in the car next to you, be women without you making them uncomfortable for it.

What are your thoughts on the interview? Did Gayle take it too far or are we all being too sensitive?  Leave us your comments!  And don’t forget to follow GladiatHers on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

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