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By Anusha Tabari on 3.2.2024

Sexism in Sport: Bit of a Gray Area?

Reflecting over the last few week’s events that saw the issue of sexism in sport ignite provides less-sensationalist hindsight over the sacking of Andy Gray. We cannot anticipate what further revelations will follow in the wake of his career or how cynically we, as a media-consuming nation, will react to them but for now, as all the water-cooler gossiping and Question Time debating will pre-occupy themselves with a new shiny scandal, we can step away from the lynch mobs and fierce Gray-defenders and focus on how relevant Andy Gray’s career demise contributed in addressing the issue (which some argue does not even exist to a significant extent) of gender discrimination in the world of sport and whether his dismissal was justifiable?

Complaining seems to be embedded into British culture. If it were a sport for London 2012 the other countries might as well not even bother booking their flights and paradoxically wallow in their optimism and sunny demeanour. People complained when Gray’s comments were made, people complained when he was sacked and perhaps some of these moaners complained on both occasions and it was all about who could complain the loudest. Cue an ensuing, entirely predictable wider debate on PC rhetoric and where banter ends and prejudice begins.

Loose Women seemed to be a target for many of Gray’s defenders. They championed the man as an expert of his craft with a vast knowledge of the game therefore employed the tactic of when being attacked, attack twice as harshly to obscure any reasoning in the original argument. Those who cry “double standard” when Loose Women panellists routinely make disparaging comments about men definitely have a valid point but by re-iterating this solely, the main concern is avoiding being addressed head-on. As much as Gray’s devotees may protest it, the sequence of events that spiralled into a nationwide dispute is definitely a concern.

The Loose Women panellists make these comments live on air whereas on a number of occasions Gray was caught off-camera leading conspiracy theorists to salivate as they conjured up speculations of jealousy among his colleagues. Is it the case that sexism towards men is more acceptable in our modern society? After all, apart from the primary incident (“women don’t know the offside rule”), as long as Gray remained professional on camera then what does it matter what kind of repartee he engages in off-camera? The most recent Mad Men-style Youtube sensation that put the last nail in the coffin, at worst paints Gray, as a little dated and old-fashioned. Seeing a senior, well-respected male personality pester his beautiful young co-host in a light-hearted sexual manner isn’t the most politically correct thing but as long as she wasn’t offended then what business is it of ours? We must remember that this scenario took place a year ago but only came to light following the complaints about his comments towards Sian Massey. This seeks to feed the conspiracy theorists but these incidents, however innocent they seem individually, don’t do much to salvage his credibility when it was not the work of bra-burning feminists but Andy Gray himself who bought gender into the mix.

Perhaps it’s not the case that sexism towards men is more acceptable but sexism, in comparison to racism, is more acceptable. There’s no doubt that if the comments towards a referee of Asian descent, for example, were made then the vocal majority would justify Gray’s sacking. There’s always been a general abhorrence towards the referee but Gray did highlight the fact that her gender hindered her ability. Yes, this was sexist however you interpret it but personally I see it as a Freudian slip. I don’t think Andy Gray has an agenda to implement in regards to women in sport. The incident could have been forgotten with a public apology to Massey. Unfortunately Gray did not have luck on his side otherwise that comment alone could not have really justified his dismissal from Sky Sports.

The kind of laddish bravado that football has long since been synonymous with is really not new information to the public. It’s true that its origins may’ve started as very male and working-class and it’s all part of the game’s charm to embrace that at matches but it’s pure ignorance to deny that it’s audience has evolved as the popularity of the game has. Andy Gray was in danger of alienating his female viewers and Rupert Murdoch is a businessman after all. This whole debate has bought Andy Gray to the attention of those who are quite ignorant about sport (namely myself) and everyone has an opinion now but the opinions that should really be paid attention too are the regular Sky Sports viewers. Will the sacking of Andy Gray really be such a great loss to their viewing or will some refuse to watch now that he is no longer present on the channel? The only way we can really asses the question of whether Gray’s sacking was justified is to observe the reaction to his replacement over the coming months. Or we may’ve all gotten bored and forgotten by then… which kind of draws your own conclusion there.

Comments

  • very interesting article, i wander what author would say about sexism in Asia. i think he/she would write books on it!

    By Anonymous on 1.6.2023

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  • …and you can tell a man wrote that!

    By Anonymous on 6.2.2024

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  • You can tell a girl wrote this

    By Anonymous on 4.2.2024

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  • “Bit of a Gray Area?” – Great pun! And good article; you make some great points.

    By Anonymous on 3.2.2024

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