Ian Boyne: Gayle’s joke was not cricket
Chris Gayle’s appalling display of unprofessionalism and impropriety has provoked outlandish statements on opposite sides of the raging debate.
In his machismo defence of Gayle, sportscaster and comedian Oral Tracey said on All Angles, “We can look woman any time, anywhere,” while a Gleaner editorial on Wednesday says Gayle’s offensive behaviour “represents egomaniacal contempt for women”.
Others have pointed out correctly but misguidedly that tennis star Maria Sharapova engaged in similarly inappropriate behaviour during an interview with a male Australian journalist, without any protest.
So all this fuss over Chris Gayle’s expressing his “admiration” for an Australian broadcaster is just so much hypocrisy, racism and bad-mindedness. People should stop making a mountain out of a molehill and “stop crucifying Chris”.
Others say that those in Jamaica who are elevating this issue to one of national importance should hang their heads in shame for neglecting to mention the high levels of crime, corruption, mismanagement, unemployment plaguing the country.
It is this political administration that has made us ashamed internationally, they charge, not Chris Gayle and his harmless flirtation. After all, some would say, it was not a man he was propositioning. Thank God he is a normal man!
But no matter the gymnastics, shadow-boxing and diversionary tactics, there is no justification for Chris Gayle’s behaviour. Chris Gayle was not propositioning or “complimenting” this woman suggestively in private. He was doing so while she was on the job. Her body language showed clear discomfort and embarrassment. She certainly did not show any evidence of welcoming his advances.
No one —woman or man— ought to be uncomfortable or subject to unsolicited and inappropriate endearment on the job. Even Oral Tracey had to admit Gayle’s action was “inappropriate”. That is enough to make it reprehensible. It is not the first time that Gayle has engaged in this kind of disgusting behaviour. He did it in Antigua, but because we don’t have respect for our women in this region, it created no major stir. But, happily, not everyone subscribes to ‘Caribbean values’ or ‘Jamaican exceptionalism’.
Gayle, in answer to the question “How does the pitch feel so far in terms of training and the weather?”replied, “Well, I haven’t touched yours yet so I don’t know how it feels,” before going on to say, “I like your smile; that’s nice.” Well, his behaviour was not nice. It’s a pity that Gayle had to go way Down Under to learn what good manners and deportment are.
It’s a pity that some of these sports stars don’t have people around them who can coach them about decency and tell them how to behave appropriately.
They have money but dysfunctional values. They export the Jamaican ‘a nuh nutten’ approach to sexual harassment overseas, but they soon learn that’s not appreciated everywhere.
When Gayle made his come-on remarks to the Antiguan journalist, a spokesman for the Caribbean Premier League took it as a joke. The Antigua Observer quoted that official saying, “Chris is excited for the tournament and was having a laugh with a journalist who had a laugh back.” Which strikes me as even more offensive than Gayle’s statement.
And the fact that those subjected to objectification don’t protest or even condone it does not make the act any less objectionable. The oppressed often internalise their own oppression and become complicit in it. When they express Stockholm syndrome-like features, we should not think that violators should be let off the hook.
The Chris Gayle issue raises the matter of cultural values versus universal values. In other words, why should we as Jamaican men be imprisoned by the scruples of Australian or British society? Who says we have to ape feminist North American definitions of sexism? Many Jamaican men are now saying what ‘these people’ want us men not to be able to even say hello to a woman or try to get a date without being accused of sexual harassment!
Our own long-awaited sexual harassment bill is now in Parliament. It will be a culture shock to Jamaican men who see as their (our) right to say anything, anywhere to any woman. As long as it’s not a man we’re saying it to, it’s okay. In this bill, it says that no one in any institution may engage in sexual advances to anyone. Sexual advance is defined as not just physical contact or touch but also sexually coloured remarks or sexual innuendos (what’s that? some would ask), sexual suggestions or the showing of pornography.
The bill deems punishable by law “the making of any sexual advance towards a person by another person which is reasonably regarded as unwelcome, offensive or humiliating by the person towards whom the sexual advance is made”. Men will quickly point to the likelihood of this law being used by “malicious, lying and wicked women” to frame men.
All sorts of apocalyptic scenarios will be concocted at the contemplation of this law, but its enactment will represent an advance for women’s rights in particular.
No one is restricting Gayle’s right to be promiscuous or to have ‘nuff gyal’ or ‘gyal inna bungle’. If he wants to sleep with 20 women a day when he is not playing Twenty20 cricket, that’s his business or right. But he has no right to be begging dates, calling professional journalists “baby” and engaging in other solicitous gestures.
The people of Australia are telling us Jamaicans that if we allow him to do that to our female journalists, they are not going to allow that in their civilised, rights-respecting country.
That failed television broadcaster Piers Morgan had a convoluted article in the Mail Online on Thursday decrying the hypocrisy of those who did not condemn Maria Sharapova and Ellen DeGeneres for their objectification of men on television. But an argument for consistency is not a justification for bad behaviour. As we were taught in early life, two wrongs don’t make a right. That’s elementary.
That Gleaner editorial of Wednesday had some important points. “Gayle failed to appreciate that a cricket ground is part of a sport reporter’s work environment and that civil and professional courtesy and protocol should be adhered to in such circumstances.
We don’t presume to instruct Chris Gayle on his romantic pursuits in private. However, when reporters or others are operating in their professional capacity, such advances are anathema.” Chris Gayle defenders have no rational answer to that.
Talking about racism, hypocrisy or ulterior motives for wanting to disparage Chris might all be valid points, but they miss the point that Gayle was out of order and was properly fined and excoriated for his egregious wrong. He must not get away with such bad behaviour. I bet you he will never do that again.
Never. And he gave no real apology or showed that he understood the gravity of what he did. He should be embarrassed that he thought such crude behaviour was a joke.
I ask our macho, ‘bun-a-fire-pon-homosexual’ men: How would you feel if a homosexual interviewee were flirting with you, complimenting your eyes, good looks and inviting you out on a date while you were doing your job? When you think of how that would feel, perhaps you can feel how a woman feels about unwelcome sexual advances; especially when they are just trying to earn an honest bread rather than sit home and depend on a rich man like Gayle to feed her.
- Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist working with the Jamaica Information Service. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.