Thursday, 27 January 2011

Andy Gray and Richard Keys. They Do Not Walk Alone

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 this Andy and Richard, now you've got all that free time on your hands:

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Steve said...

I was going to write about this myself tomorrow but I don't think I can or would do it half as well as you have done here. Spot on. The comments were sexist. Lord knows there are complaints a-plenty about male linesmen and the like - but their gender is never referred to or held up as a subject for ridicule. This kind of behaviour is Neanderthal and unacceptable.

Frog in the Field said...

Good for you writing this, horrible, horrible experience.

Gordon said...

The 'banter' angle is a difficult one, and I'm sure I get it wrong sometimes, but to even suggest what they said was 'banter' is complete and utter bollocks.

And thank you for that last line, it's really not pleasant being in situations like that with the expectation that you'll join in. Ugh.

Tony said...

"most blokes feel as uncomfortable in the company of sexist pigs as women do." YES!

suburp said...

A new low in the UK media world..
but whenever I see or hear stuff like this, I think: at least there is proof and witnesses what happened indeed. I worked in the Metal Industry and in related Logistics for a long time. Around me, mostly males. First I was a secretary to the director (you hear all the banter, and you cook them coffee), later in a management position (so I knew I was now subject of that banter).
I too had male collegues that warned me or told me about some of the worst things that were said. It is hard not to feel crushed by this total disregard of your person, your work..So much has changed but some blokes just don't. They'll deny it but obviously they are scared of women and need to keep them down. Seriously.. "It" ?!

Modern Military Mother said...

It's outrageous that this is still happening. It shows how far we really have to go before we can expect a template for what is the acceptable conduct of adults male and female.

I am pleased that it has come to light like this and Andy Gray has been made an example of but I fear he will not quite understand what all the fuss is about because he is so ignorant.

For me, it's about respect. People should show each other respect. This was disrespectful behaviour. It's not about gender - it's about respect for another human being. It's just that Andy Gray clearly has no respect for women and that makes him a misogynist.

Heather said...

Bloody hell, I hadn't heard about this before and just watched the clip and read the article you linked to. Sorry about your experience, it's crushing when you hear people having talked about you like it, I've worked in a lot of male dominated places and experienced it a lot of it and on one hand you feel stupid for feeling upset about it, like you should be able to laugh it off, that say or doing anything about it would be causing an unnecessary scene. I regret not standing up for myself more and speaking up about it.

misssy m said...

Steve: I really wanted to make the point that a good deal of my male coworkers were uncomfortable with what happened. not just on this occasion but on the many subsequent occasions when these men were acting the goat.

Frog: I still feel embarrassment about it.I felt sick on the night.

Gordon: Their tone was that of banter. They were not joking when they talked about the linesman.They meant it.

Tony: Especially when asked to chime in.

Suburp: Yes. Racism-not acceptable. Sexism-still ok it seems. Looks like a lot of folk at Skysports are delighted these two have got their comeuppance. No-one there defending them.

MMM:Oh no- these guys think they are victims. thinly veiled apologies don't cut it.

Heather- The news over here have being going mental over this. Did you see how uncomfortable Jamie Redknapp was?

Bumbling said...

Hear hear!!

New to your writings, really enjoyed this piece. Thank you.

Readily A Parent said...

Seriously? If it had just been one comment than I could let it go as typical male locker room banter:

"Oh Lord we've got a woman on the field!"
Cue laughter
Aaaand get one with our professional lives.

I mean, God knows, you'd probably hear a similar comment if a burly man showed up on Martha Stewart to do a craft segment.

But they kept at it. And kept at it. And it went beyond banter, actually. The hatred in their tone made it classifiable as hate-speech in my opinion. All we needed was a "someone ought to put her in her place" and it could have been considered a threat.

As for your experience. That sounds just soul-crushing. It's difficult when you're harrased in the workplace in general. But when you're harassed or talked about behind your back because of your gender it puts you in an even more diminished position. Kudos to the cameraman for telling you about it. Too bad he advised you to put on your jacket rather than advising the director to go take a leap. But, of course, it's always people in power who make these kinds of comments - leaving those who disagree little choice but to do so quietly.

vegemitevix said...

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing such a deeply embarrassing and personal experience. I've also worked in a male oriented environment for most of my working life. I've had a number of distressing experiences including one of my male colleagues trying to punch me in the face because I dared to question his performance. He didn't like women very much. When I reported him and requested I didn't travel with him again they were aghast and agreed. Two weeks later I was made 'redundant'. We cannot allow such behaviour to continue in the professional context. Their comments weren't innocuous they objectified women. I'm so thrilled the camera man told you so that you could adjust your behaviour and not suffer such abhorrent sexism. However, truth is you shouldn't have had to be the one to adjust your behaviour, he should have.

On a completely separate note, I'm so impressed you broke that story. You are a legend! :-)

David said...

Well as a regular follower of football I can say I could see this coming.I might also add, I do not take the typical stereotypical line as portrayed by certain tabloid newspapers.
These 2 fools have spouted so much b*ll*cks over the years that you could see it was only a matter of time before they'd trip up.
As expected it didn't take long for certain media outlets to print the typical white van man,mars bar munching,sun reader opinions,....'it was only a bit of banter'.A typical downscaling exercise which I also find as equally vile as these pair of pillocks.

Linda said...

Such an excellent post. My dad like yours has always believed women could do anything and managed to foster in me a belief that anything was possible. My dad played football in the days before footballers were paid what others would love to earn in a year, in a team that's now in the English 2nd division. He also managed a couple of non league sides, he loves football and he would never ever talk about women as those two pundits did. I remember once how embarrassed he was when he brought a business contact to a pub where I was working behind the bar, he didn't hesitate to tell that business contact what he thought of him when he made a leery comment about the barmaid who happened to be his daughter. I am so sorry you had to put up with the shit you did and thank you for such a great post. I think your point about not all men of that generation being of the same mindset is spot on, and I think that goes for men in football too.

Bambam said...

Great post Misssy... I'd also like to point out that both calls they were ridiculing the female linesperson for were spot on! So not only were they being pigs they weren't even right.

My grandfather is (was) a 1920's Glasgow Scot and he had five daughters and was one of the least chauvenistic people I've ever met!

As for your nipples, I bet the older, more experienced Misssy would have called them on it, and got the guy booted! We grow with age, eh?

suburp said...

it's a good thing the others are NOT playing it down or defending it. Chauvinistic peer pressure seems to be so big in male dominated areas.
scoop : you can be a real man without being a total dickhead.
i am trying to teach this to my son.

Michaela Waddell said...

.. so much I could say, but I can hazzard a guess as to who made those comments...

Not a NOtting Hill Mum said...

To be honest I'm more shocked by your story than the sky presenters. Having also worked in TV and journalism a long time I'm afraid that low level sexist comments were so rife it was considered banter, by men and women, however unpleasant. I admit these guys were at the top end of the scale and seem like really nasty people. But your story is horrific - so incredibly demeaning. Had I been there I think I would have advised you to cover up but maybe not told you what was said in case it dented your confidence beyond repair! I'm not saying this would have been right but again underlines why these people don't get fired!
I remember when I was a newseditor on a paper whenever the MD came in he would stand behind my chair and massage my shoulders while he talked to me. It made me incredibly uncomfortable and as you say feel rather sick. Eventually I told his secretary that if he carried I would report him for sexual harrassment ( I don't know who I was going to report him to as he was the boss but strangely at 25 was more confident about my rights than I am now having been worn down over the years!)
She was completely amazed and clearly thought I was making a bit of a fuss - and the thing is I think he may have thought he was being friendly!! But word got back somehow and it did stop.
I could write a book about this kind of stuff but it doesn't stop me being shocked and horrified when I hear stories like yours x

the fly in the web said...

I read the Deborah Orr article and found it as shallow as most of her lump all men of 1950s Glasgow together is such a class laden cliche...

I worked in law at a time when few women did....except as typists...and was treated with courtesy.
Mark you, in those days all one ever doffed in the working environment was the raincoat on arrival!

Neurosceptic said...

I'm now looking forward to the new politcally correct Sky Sports Super Sunday coverage for the future.


With your commentators, Peter Tatchell and Germaine Greer!!!!"

Nota Bene said...

Am in total agreement....sexism has no place in society at any level.

But - there's always a but - surely your Dad is being sexist when he says women make better pipers than men...and if he said men are better pipers than women that definitely would be regarded as sexist.

Alex X said...

I think it's just a case of good guy versus wank. Nice guys don't undermine other people and make them feel worthless. Wanks do. It's as simple as that.

Keys and Gray-wanks.

Your old boss-top wank.

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

I'm glad this has happened. Now those two dinosaurs have left then the floodgates will open for presenters and crew to be more equal.

Hopefully this will also encourage more woman and girls to go into the game, there is no physical reason that a woman cannot run the line or become a ref in men's football. They will have to pass all the same tests as their male colleagues.

Well done to Sian Massey & Wendy Toms for being pioneers - 10 years time no-one will blink twice about female refs and assistants.

Ellen Arnison said...

Well said. I think we've all suffered so much of this kind of crap that it's become increasingly difficult to defend ourselves.
It's impossible to win, complain and you're a po-faced cow (or worse, a feminist) go along with it and, well...

Cate said...

Well written! Absolutely agree with you re those two buffoons, and absolutely feel for you in having to go through that horrid experience.

I worked in virtually an all-male domain for years in the music biz, and certainly encountered all sorts of sexist comments. Even more so as they would tend to forget about me (I would eventually blend in with a band as the only female muso) - but then I would hear all the crap that they spouted about the dancers in some shows that we played for.