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Last week David Mitchell wrote a piece in The Observer entitled, ‘Andy Gray and Richard Keys have finally met their Waterloo. I’m glad’. Now I’m not going to jump on the pro-Gray bandwagon but, at the risk of sounding like an awful misogynist, what exactly is the issue? I’m not a particularly ardent, or even mildly ardent, football fan, so my perspective on this isn’t skewed by any sense of loyalty. Neither do I afford any sort of superiority to males in regard to the intellectual capacity to understand basic sporting rules. However I do question the context of the jibes made by the two.
The main point of Mitchell’s article was that Sky’s commentating duo was genuinely under the impression that a female lineswoman does not have the ability to understand the offside rule; this despite the fact that being a lineswoman necessitates understanding the offside rule. Whichever level of football she is officiating, a strong grasp of the offside rule is crucial. I am unsure of exactly how aware of the rule Mitchell is himself, but he was seriously implying that both commentators were valuing the complexity of the offside rule to be surpassing that of complex mathematics. It’s not. If I can see it’s not I am certain that two grown men working million pound careers in football, however sexist they may be, can also see it’s not.
The main issue is that he appears to have argued his case too fully, putting so much effort into humiliating Gray and Keys for their stupidity that he has forgotten to take a minute to analyse his argument. Mitchell claims that the pair seriously thinks that comprehending the offside rule is too much for the female brain. Now Mitchell is a comedian famed for his deadpan humour and thus you would expect this to be sarcasm on his part, but no, Mitchell genuinely believes that Gray and Keys are so bombastic, so arrogant, that they do actually think this. Here he’s shot himself in the foot; because this is such a ludicrous proposition that humour suddenly becomes evident in Gray & Keys’ comments.
Mitchell’s points all stem from the single assumption, made by many, that the comments made were spoken sincerely. It is hard to conceive of how anyone is in a position to make that call. Without a full grasp of the context in which these statements were made it is incorrect for anyone to claim that they were devoid of all humour. A joke is still a joke regardless of the expression on the perpetrators face; a fact which Mitchell, of all columnists, should be aware.
The Independent’s Sarah Sands also regarded the pair’s actions to be inexcusable. Sands referenced Soccer AM and questioned its ‘laddish’ humour. It was her opinion that the section of the show in which dipsy female football fans paraded in front of the audience, pouting and wearing tight football shirts, was inappropriate. The issue here relates to money and exposure. These women are paid to ‘flaunt their wares’, they are paid because men like them to ‘flaunt their wares’, and they will continue to ‘flaunt their wares’ as long as they are earning money and enjoy doing it. They have not been captured or bred to do so; they have chosen to do it and to take advantage of the men who enjoy it. If anything they are the sexists.
Sands also spoke of how male journalists had questioned why ‘there is one rule for men and another for Loose Women’. Obviously this was below her and she brushed it aside. But the males have a point here, because Loose Women is ridiculous, it shouldn’t be axed, but it digs into the male race at every available opportunity. The only difference between Gray & Keys and Loose Women is that Gray & Keys did not publically make any comments. The fact the comments are now in the public domain is not their fault. If this argument was applied to society in general, 90% of people wouldn’t be able to leave their homes without being judged to be a sexist, or a homophobe, or a racist.