28 Jan 2011

So, there's still sexism in football....

...next week, Pope in 'Catholic' shocker, and the week after that, 'bear utilises woods for his lavatorial needs' scandal. Why anyone is surprised that a field of interest which remains closed to women, hostile to women and is largely built on the premise of excluding women turns out sexist chumps such as Andy Grey and Richard Keys, I don't know. I've always thought of women who loyally follow the supposedly 'Beautiful Game' a bit like I think of turkeys voting for Christmas, but then I do view most team sports as an excuse for a bit of organised savagery anyway. What's most dismaying about the whole scandal and the debates it's thrown up, is how many women have clamoured to, if not exactly defend Grey and Keys, then play down their inexcusable behaviour in the name of Not Being One of those Annoying Wimmin Who Can't Take A Joke.

Allison Pearson was at it in yesterday's Telegraph (really need to persuade my family members to desist from bringing it into the house, it's giving me far too many easy targets), moaning that "You can't be too careful these days. Make a sarky remark about the opposite sex and before someone can wave a red card, you're heading for relegation." The gist of her article is that the PC Thought Police have gone mad, persecuting people for a bit of "grumbling to each other" and hysterically crying misogyny whenever someone dares to suggest that they're not so enamoured with this whole 'respect for those pesky XX chromosome-types' idea. My first thought is to wonder if she would dare write this article if Gray and Keys had been caught saying "Black people don't understand the offside rule. Did you hear Ian Wright complaining about racism in football? Yeah, give us a break, son.". My second is to despair at the way Pearson resorts to the typical defence of 'why's it OK for women to be sexist and not the other way round?'. It's such a lazy response, but it's currently being trotted out all over the shop. Fortunately, another smart blogger pre-empted pretty much exactly what Pearson ended up saying in defence of the dubious pair:

"Women are just as bad as men. If not worse. In fact, definitely absolutely worse. Probably. Almost definitely. A woman once looked at me funny and all of that. Loose Women, they're allowed to sit there and say things about men, which is just as bad as all the misogyny in the entire world; honestly, you have no idea what it's like to be on the receiving end of a sweeping generalisation from Coleen Nolan - you have no idea in the world what it's like. It hurts. It hurts like hell. But men are supposed to just sit there and take it, but we're the real victims. We're the real victims because we're on the receiving end of some pretty nasty criticism from women, and that hurts. I mean, what kind of world is it where you can't just sit around and talk about smashing some woman, and calling her it, and say you're probably going to be hanging out of the back of it? That kind of harmless banter has been going on for years, and there's nothing wrong with it, because it's completely harmless, and if you say it's not sexist then that means it isn't."

Compare with Pearson's irony-free complaint that:

"The all-female panel of ITV's Loose Women has made a career out of chuckling over blokes and their inadequacies. Just try to imagine a Loose Men presented by Premiership footballers: "Tonight, Ashley and John will be lightly roasting Janine, who they think they met in a club last night." They'd never dare broadcast it."

Ah, the Loose Women defence. Do so many allegedly intelligent, educated individuals really believe that a table of five middle-aged women cackling about sex somehow redresses the balance for millennia of discrimination, segregation and violence against women? LW is no feminist victory or the result of some mythical 'campaign to bash men' - it's trashy daytime TV of the lowest common denominator, and it doesn't do anyone, male or female, any favours in terms of extending their political consciousness. To trot it out as an example of how the balance has supposedly insanely slipped to the point where men are objectified, trivialised and humiliated like women are on a daily basis is just plain bollocks. Or should I say just plain tits, for the sake of that mythical 'PC brigade ' that's supposedly always watching?

Women like Pearson want to depict themselves as able to 'rise above' the boorish mumblings of knuckle-dragging men, to show that they're not po-faced reactionary feminists who 'can't take a joke'. But the unfashionable truth is that there is still very little that's funny about sexism in a world where it results in women losing jobs, money, rights, bodily autonomy and even lives just because of their gender. I would hope that the 'Loose Men' show that Pearson envisions would never get past public broadcasting standards, but sadly that hasn't stopped the very behaviour she describes occurring both in footballing world and beyond. If the sexual exploitation and abuse of women was just a sad and distant memory for our progressive society, then maybe we could joke about it. As long as it remains a terrifying reality, it's just not very fucking funny. Maybe next time a group of female footballers are accused of raping a lone man in a hotel room after a drunken night out, and the man is lambasted and excoriated in the tabloids for his tight trousers, alcohol consumption and sexual history, men can truly complain that they know what discrimination feels like. Until then, female apologists for shitty, ignorant sexism that would never be tolerated were it prejudice in any other form (e.g. race), really need to STFU.

No comments: