For a long time, one of my prized possessions was a tea mug with a picture of a pig on it and the words “male chauvinist”. It was given to me in good humour (I believe) by my mother, but where she was likely also making a point. It is now the normal expectation that women should be treated equally but then there were a number of things where it was not the normal expectation for women to participate, and one was sports commentating. Attitudes have changed considerably since, including (I hope) mine.
But then that is not entirely true as the recent hiatus over inappropriate comments made by West Indian cricket star, Chris Gayle, to the female sports commentator, Mel Maclaughlin, would seem to indicate. During a short interview Gayle made some arguably sexist and inappropriate comments to his interviewer which invoked an adverse reaction by several of those looking on and a light slap on the wrists by those in charge. While Gayle made what some saw as a half hearted apology, anger was felt because he had done similar in the past, and seemed to see nothing wrong in the way he had behaved on those occasions.
Listening to some of the discussions taking place concerning this and similar incidents, including with female sports journalists who have suffered because of something similar, it was clear they had been made to feel uncomfortable by the attitude of men who ought to have known better. I am tempted to say that we should not act disproportionately when people show attitudes or say things we don’t like, yet I also recognize we should also challenge inappropriate behavior. While I suspect the adverse publicity given to this great cricketer may have been punishment enough, I would have liked to see the cricketing authorities impose greater sanctions to make it quite clear that such behavior is unacceptable.
Having women journalists in the world of cricket is a far cry from the days from when I listened to John Arlot and Brian Johnson, along with their old boys club, exchanging all sorts of banter and views on Test Match Special (TMS). I continue to be a TMS fan and have noted the changes made since what was to me that golden era, including (currently) having Alison Mitchell and part of the commentary team. She brings a fresh perspective in what was once an all male domain and is clearly competent. We cannot live in the past and must adapt to and even welcome the changes being made. Women like Alison Mitchell and Mel Maclaughlin should be judged purely on ability and what they are able to contribute, and from what I can make out these ladies more than meet that criteria and should not be subject to unwelcome male attention who, if I were to make a sexist comment, should behave like gentlemen.
Cricket remains a game I love to follow. I said as much in one the earliest blog postings I made. I write this with TMS commentary on a fascinating match taking place between England and South Africa sounding off in the background. What looked for some time to be heading for a dead draw yet may still have a sting in the tail, with even the possibility of an unlikely South African win. The remarkable batting heroics of Stokes and Bairstow (England) were followed by those of Amla and Bavumla (the first black South African to score a century) and in another part of the world, we learn of a 15 year old Indian, Pranav Dhanawade, who scored an astonishing 1000 runs in a schoolboy game.
It is stories such as these that we want / need to hear rather than those concerning a cricketer, albeit one with huge talent and what seems an ego to match, making comments that have no place in the world of cricket. Due credit needs to be given to this new generation of female journalists for helping to bring those stories to us.