Kerre McIvor: Seas, sunsets and sexism

Australian reporter Mel McLaughlin interviewing a suggestive West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle. Photo / Supplied
Australian reporter Mel McLaughlin interviewing a suggestive West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle. Photo / Supplied

Chris Gayle's comments to a sports reporter in Australia this week created quite a stir.

Possibly because it's the silly season and there's little actual news to report.

More likely, it's because a depressingly large number of people still think it is okay to disrespect women - especially those working in male-dominated professions.

Gayle, a West Indian cricketer in the Big Bash League, was being interviewed by Mel McLaughlin. He said he had wanted to be interviewed by her to see her eyes for the first time.

It's "nice", he said, and hopefully after the game, they could have a drink. When McLaughlin looked less than amused, he leaned in and said, "Don't blush, baby", while his teammates cackled away in the background.

The pick-up lines seem to be part of the modus operandi for West Indian cricketers, handed down through generations.

Nearly 30 years ago, I was working at the cricket selling souvenirs from a caravan.

The West Indies were touring, captained by Viv Richards, and I ended up working in Auckland and Christchurch.

On the last day of the test match in Auckland, the Windies' 12th man beckoned me over and told me "The Master" wanted to see me.

Anyone who knew anything about cricket knew that Richards' nickname was The Master Blaster. I had seen Windies cricketers strolling round the perimeter of Eden Park waiting to bat and although I don't recall Richards being one of those, somehow I had been noticed and was being summoned to an audience.

I told the man that the Master clearly knew where I was and if he wanted to see me, he could come and find me.

The 12th man returned to the boss and that was that in Auckland. However, in Christchurch, at the close of play on the first day, the Master made his way to the caravan.

He was an imposing presence. He introduced himself and during a shortish discussion that was basically an invitation for a night out, he told me my eyes were like the seas of Antigua and that when I blushed, it was like a Caribbean sunset.

My friends, eavesdropping in the caravan, almost killed themselves laughing.

I declined his offer - with some regret. I was a huge cricket fan and it was Viv Richards, for heaven's sake. But although I was 22 and not quite on debut, to put it delicately, I certainly didn't have the experience to deal with someone like Richards and I was just smart enough to know that.

Although the pick-up lines seem the same, at least my invitation was only in front of friends. For Mel McLaughlin, it was live on TV and completely inappropriate. Gayle was dismissive of her professionalism and saw her as just a piece of skirt.

Gayle said he had wanted to be interviewed by her to see her eyes for the first time.Photo / Getty Images
Gayle said he had wanted to be interviewed by her to see her eyes for the first time.Photo / Getty Images

I have no doubt he is seldom short of female company. There are plenty of women who would be more than happy to be another one of Gayle's conquests.

But it shows limited intelligence to regard all women as being the same - just as it would be unfair to think all cricketers were sleazy creeps.

McLaughlin clearly had no interest in the cricketer and that would be an affront to a man like Gayle. He made a half -hearted apology, was fined $10,000 and then made light of the situation on social media.

Thousands of people came out in support of him, with all the usual claptrap : it was just a bit of fun; people are so PC these days; and the most offensive comment: that McLaughlin was asking for it because she is good looking.

McLaughlin is an experienced female journalist who - go on, shoot her for it - is well-groomed and attractive. It's television. If you're a woman, you don't get on television unless you're well-groomed and attractive.

With men, it's not obligatory. Paul Henry, Paul Holmes, Mark Sainsbury - they were hired because they were good broadcasters. Not because of their looks.


Most female sports reporters I know - Rikki Swannell, Dana Johannsen, Laura McGoldrick, Mel Robinson among many - are attractive women.

But, like Mel, they're also professional, a number of them have played sport at an international level and they're all highly regarded by their (mostly) male colleagues.

Not every woman is so fortunate. Gayle's kind of cheap, lazy sexism exists everywhere there are females in professions dominated by men.

To avoid being dismissed as a thin-lipped politically correct killjoy, who is almost certainly a lesbian, you have to find a way to joke around and be as good as, if not better, at the one-liners and crude jokes.

Virginia Slims was a tobacco company that marketed cigarettes primarily to women. Their advertising punch line was: "You've come a long way, baby."

When you see sleazes like Gayle and the keyboard warriors supporting him, you know we haven't come very far at all.

Kerre McIvor is on Newstalk ZB, weekdays, noon-4pm

- Herald on Sunday

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