Paul Lewis: Chris Gayle stuck in the dark ages

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Chris Gayle. Photo / AP
Chris Gayle. Photo / AP

Unless you've been orbiting the Earth for the last week or so, you'll be aware of West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle's lounge lizard approach to a female broadcaster live on TV in Australia and the storm it provoked - with other women later relating tales of his unwelcome advances.

He has now unleashed the dogs of law, threatening defamation action against a report he partly exposed himself to a different woman, which he denies. Gayle did himself no favours in his live TV turn. His sleazeball pick-up line induced international vomiting and he fared worse than the female sportscaster in what he later claimed was a "joke".

It focused attention on Gayle's questionable judgement, ego, sense of entitlement and a view of women as notches on his bat handle. This is the man who installed a strip club in his own house, complete with pole, proudly Instagramming it to the world along with a selfie lying on his bed, surveying the mirror on the ceiling above what he called the "hanky panky bed, for whatever view of your choice".

Last year he answered another female broadcaster, who'd asked what he was feeling about pitch conditions, with: "Well, I haven't touched yours yet so I don't know how it feels."

He uses Instagram a lot (his Instagram handle: "Boss Universe"), mostly shots of him surrounded by women and/or alcohol and generally being the cool cat, 36-year-old party boy. He is clearly not a member of the Couth & Breeding Society and was obviously in the toilet when the good taste and common sense were handed out. He was pictured cuddling a statue of a reclining nude in Paris, with the caption: "The boobs caught my eyes; I did give them a squeeze off camera".

It has to be said T20 (Gayle was playing in Australia's Big Bash League at the time) is a different beast and Gayle's is a highly marketable image for a sport falling over itself to get into the entertainment sphere. That's the hypocrisy of it all. T20 is out to attract new fans, including women, but also caters for the beer-swilling mob; cheerleaders waggle their bottoms at the crowd at some games, TV is attracted like flies. Music booms, commentary and ground announcements are hyper, booze flows, dancing follows and it's party time - the exact environment someone like Gayle might think appropriate for a live come-on.

The backlash included not just the predictable Aussie bloke stuff that often holds sway in a wonderful country with some wonderful people but some of the most throwback males in western civilisation. Some defended Gayle and criticised the TV empire which put a good-looking woman in front of him, claiming such women are on camera simply to use sex as a tool - so Gayle could hardly be blamed when he took the bait.

It raised the whole issue of women in sportswriting and sportscasting, who have a far tougher path to credibility than any bloke. That's one reason there are few of them and they deserve to have their questions and careers taken seriously.

Google 'why do we have female sportscasters?' This is what you get on the first two pages: '10 of the sexiest female sportscasters'; '40 hottest female sports reporters'; 75 hottest female sportscasters'; 'Top 10 most beautiful...'; 'Top 10 sexiest...'; '40 most popular' and '23 men on how they really feel about female sportscasters'.

You get the picture. Sex-based references almost outnumbered issues-based references. Comments from some of the 23 men defined the problem: "Does anyone else have a hard time taking them seriously, when they are all made up, with their short dresses that are low cut at the top, their high heels and make-up so thick it looks like they could be working on a street corner?" In other words, they're asking for it...

The Channel Ten studio team were heard sniggering at Gayle's line before (presumably) a boss told them to shut up and adopt the party line about respect for women. It was a far cry from the Australia of the 1960s when visiting crooner Frank Sinatra called Australian female reporters hookers; there was widespread indignation, the union movement locked things down so tight Sinatra couldn't even re-fuel his private jet to get the hell out of there. He had to apologise before they'd let him go.

Women also have to battle against the perception they are not qualified to analyse or pass judgement on male sport if they haven't made a big hit or know what silly mid-on is.

But you don't have to put your hand in a shark's mouth to know it has sharp teeth. It comes down to the professionalism of the person, male or female, but that qualification perception still rules; women broadcasters are often restricted to sideline interviews, a la Gayle, where they are still seen as eye candy and thus fair game.

It will be aeons before such things change. The games men and women play will never cease and women don't always help their cause. The war of the sexes, as the old saying goes, is the only one in which both sides sleep with the enemy.

- Herald on Sunday

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