Female refs? You’re having a laugh.

In our confusing, difficult modern world of structural discrimination, implicit bias, and gender identity politics, do you ever find yourself nostalgic for some good old-fashioned blatant sexism to get your teeth into? No, thought not, and there’s plenty of it around anyway.  But just in case, here is a recording of some spectacularly unreconstructed sexism from Sky Sports’ main football commentating team, Andy Gray and Richard Keys (and here’s a transcript of that slightly fuzzy recording, along with some context and discussion).

For those too fatigued to follow links, the charming pair discuss the assistant referee Sian Massey, who was on duty for her second Premiership game on Saturday. They conclude that she must be unable to understand the offside rule, owing to her having, y’know, breasts and stuff. Or maybe it’s because she can’t reason spatially? Something like that. As a bonus, there’s a dig at Karren Brady, the West Ham deputy chair, for complaining about (of all things) sexism in football. We even get “the game’s gone mad”! It’s the glory glory days all over again.

Professional football is a reliable bastion of bigotry in all its forms, but in the UK at least, racism is commendably rare, and pundits have been sacked in the past for being daft enough to express racist views into live microphones. Will Sky treat sexism seriously? Don’t hold your breath.

By the way, as Keys predicted, there was a “big one” in the game — a crucial decision for Massey to make, relying on acute awareness, perfect positioning, and knowledge of that pesky offside thing. And guess what? She got it right! Must have been a fluke.

11 thoughts on “Female refs? You’re having a laugh.

  1. Would you please remove the term ‘idiocy’ from this post? The term has a hideous history that is inextricably entwined with the history of the idea that there is an entity called “intelligence” that can be measured, and which measurement can be used to classify people in order to segregate them. “Idiocy,” along with
    “feeblemindedness,” “imbecility,” and “retardation” are among these classifications which, not surprisingly, have been used as justification and rationale for the institutionalization of large numbers of poor and working-class people, people of colour and First Nations people.

  2. Is it, I wonder, in some way comforting that the sexism is so blatant? Does it somehow lend a comic element that takes away the sting of what is being said? So overtly ridiculous in a modern, thinking society that it is merely background noise? Or am I just clutching at straws because I am so upset that people can still get away with publicly making comments like this? Nay, that they desire to make the comment at all! Or perhaps it will serve something, for already there is a media furore (front page of the Times?) and thus a discussion will be brought to the fore… I can’t be the only person to be incredibly upset rather than outraged?


  3. Update: Keys and Gray have been “stood down” from the game they were due to commentate on tonight; a further announcement to come from Sky later.

    Elenchus: I think there is something slightly farcical about it all, yeah, though that doesn’t detract much from the upsettingness.

  4. Rather pleasingly, there *is* an uproar. Even the Sun and the Daily Mail are demanding their firing. (Thanks, C!)http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/sport

  5. And with the weight of the Sun and Mail behind the campaign, Gray has been sacked by Sky. Also nice to see various luminaries of the game lining up to condemn his attitude. Turns out my pessimism was utterly unfounded. Good news!

  6. Specifically Gray has been sacked following another even more blatant incident where he asks his colleague to tuck his mic into his trousers.

    BBC story here http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/9373280.stm

    clip here for those outside UK http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCBxW-nUPus It’s pretty creepy.

    I, for one, am quite annoyed with the obsession of the game’s bodies on rooting out racism. Of course racism is an ugly thing but in terms of prevalence and impact it is DWARFED by sexism and homophobia. A quick look at the the number of openly gay players in the top flight (um none) and the life (and death) of the only openly gay one to date make this pretty clear.

    Regarding homophobia in soccer this group does great work http://www.thejustincampaign.com

  7. to briefly clarify it is the contrasting lack of work on sexism and homophobia that annoys me. I’m not saying anti-racism programs aren’t a good thing.

    That we have moved on from the days where John Barnes had banana skins thrown at him is undoubtedly a good thing and is surely work that needs consolidating.

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