Sexism in the Workplace and Free Speech
So, after the sacking of a couple of dunderheads at Sky Sports, the focus has been placed on both Free Speech and on Sexism in the workplace.
About time too I would say, but what do the defenders of Grey and Keys really mean when they shout “Political correctness gone mad?”
An article in The New Statesman by an anonymous insider points to a culture of bullying and arrogance on Sky Sports’ flagship football programme, born of hubris and success. Read it at http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/01/sky-sports-keys-gray-melvin
After watching the video clips, it seems to me that there was certainly a problem here – Gray seems to be the alpha male, with Keys acting like his wingman. It reminds me of nothing so much as a bully and his creepy mate, you know the sort – you can find them in sports pubs across the land. They got found out, and now starts the bleating – “dark forces”, “genuinely sorry”, “a fine broadcaster”, and bizarrely from Giles Coren, “not in front of the ladies” – as if it is OK to behave like this at any time.
Working in The Hotel Industry, I can say that sexism in the workplace is alive and well, albeit mainly from the customers side. Yes, sad but true, female staff are still seen as legitimate targets for some sad men out there, who have not the wit to realise that the young woman in front of them is smiling because it is her job. Or that she is too young for them, or that she is not sexually available simply because she is serving them. Yuk. Guests from the Media,City, Estate Agents and Businessmen away from home being the worst offenders in my experience.(Anyone surprised?)
There is still a subtle sexism within the industry, and HR departments, however much they enforce the letter of the law, often ignore this, particularly amongst the low-paid. Which is ironic, as I have yet to experience a Hotel HR Department in ten years that didn’t have a majority of female staff and management.
The defence that this is merely Free Speech is not really an effective one here, to my mind. Of course, anyone should be allowed to hold any opinion, no matter how much I abhor it, yet in a civilised society women should expect to be treated with respect. “Banter” is only banter when both sides feel that they can win. I am by nature flirtatious, and enjoy the company of women, and, being English, enjoy a little bit of sauce.
At work, I tone this down, and am careful not to overstep any mark ; self-deprecation is always good to use. I do not make crude and offensive remarks about anyone – they are not funny, they are not civilised. The notion that it is an exercise of Free Speech to harass female co-workers, to objectify them, and refer to them in dehumanising terms is simply sad.
Lets be clear here, Freedom of Speech means that you should be able to express what you believe. In a free society, Free Speech also means living with the results of your actions