Kris Shannon: The Dos and Don'ts of women in sport

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Chris Gayle in his interview with Mel McLaughlin. Photo / Getty
Chris Gayle in his interview with Mel McLaughlin. Photo / Getty

Since Chris Gayle proved this is an inexplicably tricky topic for many men, Kris Shannon provides a helpful cheat sheet of Dos and Don'ts regarding women in sport.

While that particular domain contains some challenging issues - media coverage, equal remuneration, representation in governance - the following 10 commandments are all rather simple.

• DON'T make a pass at the interviewer. As has emerged this week in the aftermath of Gayle's behaviour, the mercurial batsman has history in this area. But, with sport often termed the last bastion of sexism, any previous transgressions were laughed off with a 'boys will be boys' attitude. Hopefully, for the sake of Mel McLaughlin, her peers and humanity as a whole, the times are a'changin and comments like Gayle's will now continue to be called out as harassment.

On a related note, DON'T consign women to only sideline reporter roles, a trap into which most television companies fall.

Both sexes, of course, are capable commentators, as the ASB Classic again illustrated this week. So while comfort may lie in repeating the oft-used formula - smooth-voiced dude on play-by-play, former pro with varying elocution abilities on colour, woman on the sideline - why not shake things up? ESPN's baseball coverage last season received a welcome boost when Jessica Mendoza joined the booth, with the former US softballer both articulate and erudite.

• DON'T offer fashion advice to improve women's sport. When your idea is shared by Sepp Blatter, evil incarnate, it's probably a bad one. But former NBA player Gilbert Arenas - best known for pointing a loaded gun at a teammate - followed Blatter's infamous lead last month, suggesting WNBA players shrink their uniforms to grow spectators' interest and writing on Instagram: "if u think this is sexist, 9 times out of 10 u the ugly one and we didnt pay to come see u play anyway". Arenas is currently unemployed.

I can't believe I'm about to write this but DON'T watch porn while covering cricket. Actually, this rule extends beyond sport: don't watch porn while working! Good grief, people! What would your mother think? This scarcely-believable occurrence was exposed in the aftermath of Gayle's interview, with The Guardian revealing an accredited media member openly viewed a "constant stream of hardcore pornography" while reporting on Australia's clash with the West Indies. No. A thousand times no.

• DON'T immediately dismiss an opinion simply due to the author's gender and don't resort to misogyny if you disagree. While we have a better chance of ending world hunger than Internet abuse, wouldn't it be nice if a woman could express a view about sport (or anything) and avoid being inundated with language that would be deemed unfit for a Tarantino film. That means no nasty name-calling and no nonsense about female journalists "sleeping their way to the top". Maybe, if you disagree, try articulating an argument without the aid of cheap slurs.

This may sound harmless to some but DON'T make irrelevant remarks complimenting athletes' appearances. After a recent television interview with Maria Tutaia, a studio presenter said with a smile, 'Isn't she gorgeous?', before moving to the next item. I'm sure no offence was intended but that hardly sends the best message to any budding netballers watching at home - reducing a supremely talented sportswoman to her looks.

• DON'T describe fully-grown women as 'girls' and don't insist their gender means they must have no knowledge of sport. Former Wallaby David Campese struggled mightily with that apparent pitfall in 2012, when reacting to the Sydney Morning Herald appointing Georgina Robinson as its chief rugby writer. "Why does the smh get a girl to write about rugby," Campese tweeted. "Now we have someone who has no idea about the game." SMH, indeed. Robinson is still excelling while Campese, presumably, has crawled back into his cave.

• DON'T quiz sportswomen about their relationship status. And don't become preoccupied with that status when there's no shortage of salient material. Lydia Ko is consistently treated to such inquisitions, seemingly because she's single and successful and why is she single? One media outlet appears transfixed by the topic, creating an online dating profile for the world's best golfer and, when polling readers about how Ko should spend her summer, including 'find a boyfriend' as an option. I'm curious about the relationship status of that poll's architect.

Speaking of ill-advised questions, DON'T randomly ask out athletes. While admirably laughing it off, Ana Ivanovic was clearly uncomfortable when fielding that fan-submitted query before the ASB Classic. It will be one Ivanovic faces wherever she goes in the globe and, honestly, what's the best case scenario for fans here? How many sportswomen meet their spouses through Q&As? I'll provide a clue: the middle finger with which athletes should respond counts as one digit too many.

• DO treat women with respect. (This rule, oddly enough, extends beyond the world of sport.)

- NZ Herald

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