The Thing About Andy Gray, Sexism and Feminism

28 Jan

Well, two things, actually.

For those unfamiliar, this man has been sacked for such activity as this:

1. Hatred vs Banter

What the hell is all this talk of banter? The majority of the people I socialise with are rugby boys – I know banter. Banter is what the other, extremely awkward man is attempting. The look on Andy Gray’s face is what one would expect if he had heard that the linesman was a child molester, or mass murderer. On this occasion, he wasn’t going “oh those girls – what do they know about football?” he was actually disgusted. I’m not sure exactly what it is we, as a gender, have done to him to incite such disgust, but it sends a shiver down my spine.

A man who cannot – even in his workplace – control his hatred for a group of people based on something they did not choose to be has no place on our screens.

2. Loose Women

I knew that by the time my dear old Dad came out with “but what about Loose Women?”, that argument had reached bandwagon proportions. This response to the Andy Gray situation has appeared in every pub, comment thread and Twitter feed across the country. Loose Women is a daytime talk show, hosted by a (I don’t have a collective noun for this – coven just seems insulting to our Wiccan sisters) of horrible, screechy women.

You know when you meet someone for the first time, and they say “I’m like Marmite – you either love me or you hate me”; and you know that the majority of people hate them? The kind of person who says “I can say what I like – it’s a free country!” and is unable to back up any criticism they make with reasoning or rationale. The epitome of empty vessels making the most sound. Someone gathered together the worst collection of occasional tv presenters, former actors and wives of famous people and turned a camera on.

My opinion on the has-been entertainers of daytime TV is irrelevant. The banter rules apply here, but it’s still not necessarily a good thing.

The thing that concerns me is when banter and genuine prejudice get blurred. When I hear a friend ask “why do women have small feet?” and I know the answer is “to stand closer to the kitchen sink”, I know it’s a joke – I know that they don’t really expect women to do any more than their fair share of the housework. However, anti-male sexist comments seem to be taken much more seriously than that.

We’ve heard so many jokes about the refusal to stop for directions or read manuals. On television shows and adverts, men have a terrible reputation when it comes to housework, leaving dirty socks around the bedroom, and rolling over and snoring immediately after sex.

Stereotypes are used for comic effect, especially by lazy writers, but they seem to have seeped into our consciousness. I read a forum post recently, in which a woman essentially said that men aren’t capable of being caring. There seems to be an acceptance that “men are… [insert negative quality here]” and that you shouldn’t expect any different. It doesn’t matter if you’d rather your partner didn’t watch porn/visit strip clubs/cheat, because that’s just something men do. Talk radio callers scoff at the concept of paternity leave – real men should have no interest in being around their children! That’s not just insulting to men – it’s damaging to women. After all, you-must-not-end-up-alone + that’s-just-how-men-are = no good for anybody.

Wedding forums such as Hitched and Confetti were a big eye-opener on this subject. I’m not even thinking about the cliché of the marriage that ends before the wedding debts are paid off, but the number of people planning modest weddings despite desperately unhappy relationships was truly saddening. I know that outsiders will never understand exactly what is going on inside a relationship; and we often only hear the worst; but examples of ongoing infidelity, verbal and emotional abuse, and complete breakdown of communication were common.

Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t hold Loose Women remotely responsible for the high divorce rates. It’s more of a symptom of the much wider problems of this battle of the sexes that ought to have been over long before now, and this misguided use of sexism as a form of feminism. The answer to inequality is not further inequality. The answer to objectification of women is not to leer and grope at men. The answer to the negative effects of beauty magazines on young girls is not to stick posters of headless six-packs at every bus stop.

Question: What do you think constitutes harmless banter? What does feminism mean to you?


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