I am writing this whilst sitting in The Stag’s Head surrounded by football fans who are all glued to the much anticipated match of Manchester United Vs Southampton FC. Observing the male fans, I can hear a lot of banter throughout the pub. I attribute the term “banter” to boys sharing jokes, having a laugh and generally being boys, yet a lot of the banter is focused upon the opposite sex and this is where the problem lies. In light of Richard Keys and Andy Gray being overhead making sexist remarks about a female linesman, I pose the question: when does banter become bullying?
Racism, Homophobia and sexism are all forms of prejudice which are not tolerated in twenty-first-century century society. Discriminating against someone on the basis of their skin colour or sexuality is classed as bullying and the same goes for sexism. Judging somebody purely on their sex, whether they are a man or a woman, is unacceptable behaviour, therefore hearing men make sexist jokes, which are degrading to women, can certainly be classed as a form of prejudice. But is there really any harm in a bit of male banter?
It is completely understandable that many women were highly offended by the comments made by football pundits, Richard Keys and Andy Gray. However, most men enjoy joking around with their mates and I am sure that we have all heard the kind of jokes that are often shared amongst a group of guys. The opposite sex is a very popular subject matter: many men enjoy either bragging about their dealings with women or telling some fictitious jokes about the opposite sex. But the result is the same: women are degraded to objects of sexual desire. Yet within this storm of media controversy, we must remember that the conversation between Keys and Gray was private and it was unfortunate that a private conversation between friends was thrown into the public domain. If this type of conversation is typical for men up and down the country, it suggests that the situation has been blown out of proportion.
However, Keys and Gray were working in the media, supposed to be setting an example to fans both young and old. I asked a mother for her opinion on this story and she said that, although she regards the comments to be male banter, she would not wish her young son to consider this an acceptable way to talk about women. Their comments were indeed offensive to women and they should certainly have been behaving better, especially given their jobs.
Although men are renowned for their banter, women can be just as bad when it comes to discussing the opposite sex. Myself included, girls enjoy indulging in a spot of “man bashing”, as my friend eloquently termed it. You only need to watch an episode of Loose Women to see that men can be a popular conversation topic amongst women, who can spend hours critiquing and analysing the opposite sex. However, can these kinds of conversations be considered bullying? I think not. There is a noticeable difference between girlie gossip and the male banter between Keys and Gray. I will fully admit that women can be just as bad in the banter stakes but I am not convinced that we are as offensive. Unfortunately, Keys and Gray over-stepped the mark on this one with many arguing that their sexist remarks were a form of bullying as the female linesman was degraded and humiliated for what turned out to be a correct decision.
The consequence of this story is encouraging in that it proves that sexism will not be tolerated in our society, or at least not in the media. Andy Gray has been sacked and Richard Keys has resigned. Listening to Keys’ public apology, it does seem that he genuinely didn’t mean to offend anyone but it’s too late. His comments did offend many women and, whilst it can be considered a shame that two men who were brilliant at their jobs will no longer be on our TV screens, overall I believe that the outcome is for the best. This story shows that there is a fine line between friendly banter and sexist bullying, so it seems that we should be careful what we are discussing with our mates and be even more careful that there are no microphones around.