My dad is ace. He is sixty four. He is that generation. That generation for whom we seem to give a whole host of excuses for bad behaviour. The sort of behaviour exhibited by the likes of Sky Sports pundits Andy Gray and Richard Keys this week (see links here if you don't know the story). My father is not sexist. He is the sort of man that believes that woman can do anything they want. It wouldn't even occur to him to be sexist. He is a piper and always says that the best pipers are women. He encourages his daughters to do whatever they want. He makes no distinction between his daughters' potential or worth and that of his son.
Deborah Orr in the Guardian today tried, in the interest of debate, to give Andy Gray's dinosaur attitude a bit of perspective. (You can read Deborah's article here) She said that he came from that background where sexism and inequality of the sexes was the norm, 1950s Glasgow. Hmmm, my dad is a child of 1950s Glasgow. He doesn’t spend his nights down the pub, or refer to women as “it”. Same background as Andy Gray more or less. Hmmm, I like Deborah's columns but I think she is giving him too much slack. This is not a generational thing, this is simply a ignorant git thing. Andy Gray is an ignorant git. Lots of men of his generation and background are not. Let’s not go down that road. Let's not let any more ignorant gits off the hook.
So this week TV football pundit Andy Gray got sacked for the remarks below. I’ve added the You Tube clips for those who haven’t seen them at the bottom of this post and you can read this link if you want to see how the story broke. His onscreen partner Richard Keys whose remarks I would argue were even worse, resigned yesterday.
Was what they said banter? I think not. Banter doesn’t hurt anyone. We all love a bit of banter, especially in TV when the lulls and hanging around in between takes can be tedious. This was not banter because it hurt, demeaned and/or embarrassed people. Both men and women.
I, like many women, have been on the receiving end of hurtful and demeaning comments dressed as banter. I wish I could have had those remarks recorded and held up to speculation like Gray's and Keys's but like most folk, I just have to try and ignore them. I am still embarrassed by them. I am so embarrassed that I hesitate to tell the story here because my parents read this blog. But then since I didn’t make the comments, why should I be embarrassed?
About 15 years ago when I first started working in production I was the producer of a live TV show that ran throughout the Oil Show and was also broadcast on Aberdeen Cable. This industry event which takes place in Aberdeen every two years is a huge deal for the oil industry and for Aberdeen. Working on that show was my first shot at live telly. It was very exciting. And we broke the Shell Brent Spar story, a fact which I am still very proud of. I was a young woman in charge of a pretty large crew and I was also writing almost all of the content for the show with very little previous experience. This was a huge deal for me at the time.
At the last moment in our preparations for the show, our entertainment presenter had to drop out. My managing director decided I should fill in for her. No argument. I had never been on camera before. I was crapping myself.
As the week’s rehearsals went on I began to get more confident both on camera and behind it. By the time we went live I was actually looking forward to being on camera alongside my infinitely more experienced main host who had been on telly from the age of 20. We had a great first show and I felt elated. Nothing had gone wrong, and I felt a mixture of relief, extreme pride in our production team, and happiness that I was in the right job after all. That night after we’d all packed up I dropped one of the cameramen home. I was on a high, most probably gushing about the show.
My friend was a little quiet.
“If someone had said something out of order about you, would you want to know?” he said.
I assumed someone had been bitching about me. One or two of the guys in the crew with more miles hadn’t been chuffed that someone as inexperienced as I had been asked to produce the show.
“Who?” I asked.
“The MD. I wouldn’t say but I think you might want to know so that you can wear something different tomorrow. Maybe keep your jacket on.”
What??? He explained. In the outside broadcast van where all the camera feeds were mixed for the live programme the fifty something managing director and a couple of his board members had been hanging about watching the monitors whilst I was doing rehearsals. I had been rehearsing my links and had taken my jacket off. Probably because I had been running around arranging things just beforehand.
My friend had been in the van presumably adjusting camera levels and overheard the so called banter between the boss and his fellow board member behind him. The banter concerned my nipples. The prominence of them. And the assertion that I must have been in a state of sexual excitement during my links. This apparently went on for the whole of my rehearsal during which quite a few of my crew had been present in the van’s gallery whilst technical adjustments had been made. As a new person came in the OB van (all blokes) they were invited to give their opinion on the state of my nipples. Thankfully my friend told me that most of them were probably quite embarrassed and didn’t join in to any degree. Much like the embarrassment clearly displayed by Jamie Redknapp in that clip of him being encouraged to dish the dirt in that clip with Richard Keys below.
Remember that confidence that I mentioned I felt? Well, it just evaporated in that moment. My co-workers had been invited to ridicule me. My boss, the MD, who might have given me the opportunity to produce the show, was laughing at me along with other blokes in charge of my future at the company. For them I would forever be the girl with the nipples.
My colleague had obviously been thinking long and hard as to whether he should tell me. He was very embarrassed himself. But he did the right thing.
Needless to say the jacket stayed on throughout the week. And possibly two bras at a time.
When I read about Andy Gray and Richard Keys being the subject of all this news hysteria this week I knew the release of those tapes to the media were from folk that they had worked with that they had ridiculed, embarrassed and pissed off. Male and female.
It pays to remember that people have long memories and technicians and production assistants that you’ve pissed off have access to recording devices. And that most blokes feel as uncomfortable in the company of sexist pigs as women do.
Oh and by the way.....watch this Andy and Richard, now you've got all that free time on your hands: