Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Men are 'victims' of sexism too

Sacked Sky News pundit and co-presenter Andy Gray is a boorish, opinionated man who has always come across as a bit of a bully. I've never warmed to him because of this and the fact that he seemed biased against my club, Liverpool. Despite this, his sacking yesterday for sexist comments aimed at a female assistant referee unsettles me.

It now appears that there is history to Gray's behaviour other than the comments recorded at the weekend, but was what he said enough to sack him? Particularly from an organisation that is happy to use the most attractive females as co-anchors on its news channel, and recently ran a promo for their new HD service featuring a bevvy of Sky beauties clad in tight PVC. There is little doubt that, from a purely crisis communications perspective, Sky probably did the right thing, acting with speed and decisiveness. However it looks as if Gray's comments were part of a wider cultural problem so wouldn't a statement from Gray admitting that he was wrong and sorry have sufficed before working to change the culture? Perhaps not and a purge is the only way to change this culture. From the outside, it appears that a few well briefed and leaked recordings that have emerged of previous incidents involving Gray have allowed Sky to hang him out to dry.

The days of sexism in the workplace have - on the whole - disappeared - whatever Harriet Harman alleges. Indeed, I wouldn't be a lone voice in saying that the fightback from women in the workplace has created a new breed of terrifying alpha-female who let nothing and no one stand in the way of their next promotion. These women are intelligent, driven, good at their jobs and recognise they have certain additional assets that help them get what they want.

At the same time, the advertising industry has long portrayed men as a race to be sneered at creating the kind of negative role models that surely must undermine men's place in society; particularly in the eyes of children. Watch television for a short time and you'll see men who are incapable of cleaning, men who are pathetic creatures riddled with 'man flu', men who cannot be trusted or relied upon. Children's books are often based around similar themes.

Although it makes me bristle I haven't picked up the phone and complained to the ASA, I haven't written to my MP, called for anyone to be sacked or asked for the books to be withdrawn from sale. I don't see men as victims. This portrayal of men is meant in a lighthearted fashion that helps to create a story that in turn sells cleaning fluids and washing powder.

Andy Gray's comments were - one assumes - also meant in a lighthearted fashion but people took offence and, as a result of the media storm that blew up, he has now been sacked. It should be remembered that Gray's comments are not the norm, society is not riddled with sexism but, where sexism does exist, men are often on the receiving end too.  

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