One of the motivating factors behind founding Change Her Game was my experience as a woman working in professional men’s sport. I have found both the Mel McLaughlin/Chris Gayle exchange and the ensuing social media fallout quite unnerving. Every “It was just a joke” or “Lighten up” defence does a huge disservice to women who are trying to forge careers in male-dominated industries.
I don’t know Mel McLaughlin personally, I only know her through her work and she has proved time and time again that she is an accomplished sports journalist. However, that statement in itself reeks of patronisation. The fact that she has to ‘prove’ her credentials is at the very heart of the issue.
I have both witnessed and experienced discomfort/intimidation; the need to work twice has hard to prove that you ‘know your stuff’; feeling like you have to just put up with the pervasive and culturally ingrained boy’s club mentality, because no one wants to be the woman who speaks up. I viewed Gayle’s comments as debasing; he ceased to address McLaughlin as a sports media professional and instead repositioned her as an object to be flirted with. No one deserves that kind of treatment in his or her workplace.
I have found some of the social media commentary crude in some cases, and entirely missing the
point in others. However, the number of women who have spoken up has heartened me. If there is a positive to take out of this, at least the issue is on the table. Yes, the same obstacles remain, but at least social media has given us a platform to instantly call out this kind of behaviour. Once upon a time, women in lounge rooms across the country would have knowingly shared McLauglin’s uncomfortable grimace and the giggling commentary box would have been the only statement.
Incidents like this and the arguments that follow, must be used as opportunities to educate, have conversations and change perspectives. It won’t be easy; the path to equality never is, but it is essential if we are to Change Her Game.
Bec Shaw: *crickets*
Gerard Whatley, Neroli Meadows, Melinda Farrell & Chris Rogers: ABC Grandstand - The Press Room