The sacking and resignation of Sky’s Andy Gray and Richard Keys for what has been branded all across the media as ‘sexist behaviour’ raises many interesting questions.
Reports of a culture of bullying and intimidation featuring Gray and Keys have been detailed by people who worked around them. They appear to have had no pool of goodwill to draw on when under this pressure. Indeed, many seem happy to see them go which suggests that this was the tip of a very big and rather unpleasant iceberg.
God knows I’m no politically correct wilting flower but this whole ‘women don’t know the offside law’ is just bollocks and just very, very boring old rubbish. Yes its sexist but more than that its just idiotic and tedious. It’s like a joke you heard in 1969 which is still being trotted out as though its a new, witty insight. The fact that they were so keen and willing to spill it out to each other again, something they have presumably done many, many times before, albeit supposedly in private, reveals their culture as dated, narrow and hints at something nastier all together; it hints at misogyny, of disliking women spoiling the boys club. I’m only 4 years younger than Keys and I’d never think of saying such a thing, not because i’m some sort of super hip, PC guy, but because its pathetic and worn-out as a joke and as an attitude. There’s nothing to be gained by it.
Whether its a sacking offence is a value judgement made by the employer. Neither are employed to comment on gender politics, after all. However, their position was probably untenable because viewers in future could not divorce the men on the screen from that tedious, boring, out of date ‘banter’ and thus, their credibility is fatally undermined. They become boring old farts who we no longer want to see.
The fact that some people do talk like this is no defence. It doesn’t mean they are somehow connected to the audience and that this is a liberal elite punishing the ordinary man. There have to be some standards for a broadcaster and its not a good idea that it should be the lowest common denominator.
Then we had the video of Gray’s ‘lewd’ behaviour and Key’s vulgar sexual talk in the studio. One has to tread carefully when critiquing such things, as its easy to be a hypocrite. There are few amongst us who have not talked in explicitly vulgar terms about what we might politely call intimate relations. Similarly, there are few of us who have not made a misjudged double-entendre or comment to a disinterested woman. We are less likely to have done this at work of course and not year after year. More usually such talk is amongst friends and in private. Those who see Keys and Gray as being persecuted shouldn’t forget that. Our private lives are our own, our public work lives are a different matter.
Some have said that we are all too sensitive about this kind of thing these days, that its a crime against what those people see as a kind of liberal fascism which is trying to outlaw a certain kind of thinking and attitudes. It’s a tempting idea, especially to us older dudes who do instinctively feel the cutting edge of life has been blunted by too much legislation and preciousness. But this wasn’t really about that, it was clearly the culmination of a long history of alienating behaviour which had pushed people too far and meant someone had finally decided to sink their ship by releasing these clips
Perhaps in that respect it was the spirit and intention and character behind the words used rather than the words themselves. Some people can be very rude, very vulgar and yet be charming with it, others just come across as a nasty bastard. It was clear which side of the fence this business was on.
So this isn’t a victory as some might say, for the PC brigade, rather it is a victory for wit, for intelligence and for self-awareness. Keys lucked out for 20 years. He was never an exceptional broadcasting talent – just a bog standard presenter and similarly, Gray, though clearly a passionate football man, had creamed up big money for years essentially doing the same gig day after day for two decades and that in essence was the problem.
It’s not 1991 anymore. If it was I’d still have big hair-metal hair.
Time has moved on. Attitudes and styles have changed. Though one thing has remained constant: if you’re a c**t to people, eventually, as John Lennon once said, ‘Instant karma’s gonna get you.’