You have to feel sorry for Chris Gayle, really.
Not because his post-match behaviour towards reporter Mel McLaughlin was at all acceptable, because it wasn’t. To make comments about someone’s appearance and imply sexual advances in the workplace – which is what the post-match interview is for both player and reporter, mark you – is entirely inappropriate.
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It was embarrassing, humiliating, and certainly not the way Gayle would have spoken to a male reporter in the same situation. (It’s usually a good rule of thumb to identify sexism – are men having to worry about this? If not, then a woman is being treated in a discriminatory way.)
Not because Gayle is being criticised by various elements of the media and the sporting world, because he thoroughly deserves it. This isn’t the first time he’s been pulled up on his behaviour, and a cursory $10,000 fine from his club Melbourne Renegades will do nothing to make him realise how he should be conducting himself.
Repoters Neroli Meadows and Melinda Farrell shared their own experiences with Gayle in an unmissable and emotional broadcast in ABC Grandstand’s The Press Room. Listen now if you have 15 minutes:
No. You have to feel sorry for him because he’s being treated as an isolated case, when it’s not in the least. Sport and society as a whole continue to devalue women and their contributions.
Cricket as presented to the public tends to treat women as eye-candy. If a woman is at a cricket match and fits the 'conventionally attractive' bill, or is leaping into the air celebrating a six, or is dressed appropriately for extremely hot conditions, expect the TV cameras to linger over her face and figure, and perhaps an approving word or two from the commentator. (As yet, there are no recorded similar objectifications of men sitting in a stadium, simply wanting to watch a match.)
Gayle’s behaviour is a symptom, not a cause.
Just look at his excuses: describing his comments as a “simple joke”. Women in workplaces the world over – not just in sport – have heard this scores of times when they’ve expressed discomfort at a colleague’s words or behaviour.
“Can’t you take a joke? Lighten up. You’ve got no sense of humour.”
He also called upon the classic non-apology apology: “There wasn’t anything meant to be disrespectful or offensive to Mel. If she felt that way, I’m really sorry for that.” He isn’t apologising for offending her; he shoves the blame on to her.

West Indies batsman Chris Gayle reacts after scoring 200 runs, a double century, during their World Cup Cricket match against Zimbabwe in Canberra, February 24, 2015 (Reuters)

Image credit: Reuters

Women in the macho world of sport are expected to put up with this kind of dismissive, demeaning treatment. And the lads and their “banter” reinforce that women will never be entirely welcome, whether they’re reporters, players, administrators, or fans.
The words from the Melbourne Renegades chief executive Stuart Coventry highlighted that. He expressed his support for Gayle by saying that during his time at the club he had been happy to talk to anyone and sign any autographs, regardless of whether they were “females, girls, [or] housewives” – why anyone would have been unhappy at signing autographs for women (a word noticeably absent from Coventry’s spiel) was unexplained.
He also took a thinly-veiled swipe at an entire gender, wondering whether McLaughlin’s reaction to Gayle’s behaviour was down to “cultural differences”. He might as well have said that women just tended to overreact too much and were led by their emotions, and she should have just taken Gayle’s words as a compliment and felt grateful he took any interest in her whatsoever.
Congratulations at least to Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, who was quoted as saying: “I think one of the things that perhaps hasn’t dawned on everyone is it’s actually a workplace. Anyone that sees the humour in that is misunderstanding and somewhat delusional about the situation.”
Of course, the people who most often delude themselves about this kind of thing are the lads that play and watch sport. They, obviously, have rallied round Gayle. The Socceroos’ Tim Cahill tweeted him immediately post-game, with the words: “On fire tonight brother @henrygayle”.
No mention of McLaughlin, of course. Too often sportsmen’s poor behaviour, particularly towards women, is simply ignored or brushed over; their achievements on the field are pointed to as some kind of excuse for their conduct, and it shouldn’t be. It’s 2016. It’s time for this to change.
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