Why does Chris Gayle think sexual harassment is a joke?
Chris Gayle made headlines a couple of days ago that had nothing to do with his batting achievements. In fact, he is being chastised all over the world for misbehaving with Mel Mclaughlin, a reporter from the official broadcaster of Big Bash League. He flirted in the most unabashed manner; called her eyes beautiful and then threw in an offer for drinks later.
Imagine being confronted with this sort of behaviour at a social event. You would cringe, roll your eyes and decisively walk the other way in disgust. Now think about having to face this conduct in a professional situation – on live television, with millions of people watching, and the possibility of it ending up on the internet that could leave an imprint for digital eternity.
Can you imagine the inexpressible indignation that would wash over you?
Well, then you know how Mclaughlin felt.
This illustrates the tendency celebrities have of behaving ‘inappropriately’ with media personnel. Reporters talk to them with an enthusiasm that their job requires, but does that legitimise such crass behaviour? Behaviour that is deemed inappropriate even in naturalised social settings?
We are still reeling from the Richard Gere-Shilpa Shetty debacle of 2007. Gere dipped a startled Shetty and stole a kiss at a fundraising event in India. It was a televised event and created a cultural scandal in India. It raised questions of whether this kind of conduct is actually ‘workplace sexual harassment’.
Is it okay for a man to ‘flirt’ with a woman under the guise of humour on a professional platform?
Would he behave in an unprofessional manner with a man?
Another media incident that screamed of social inappropriateness was the compliments Asif Ali Zardari’s showered on Sarah Palin back in 2008. He told a Vice Presidential candidate of the United States that she is “gorgeous”.
It was one of those rare moments in time when an entire nation face palms in unison.
What is it that kept Zardari from talking to Palin about abortion or foreign policy issues?
What is it that drives men to judge a woman’s worth by her physical appearance? Why do they react to the way that a woman looks instead of reacting to what she has to say?
Nabil Gabol’s flirtations with Reham Khan, ridiculed by Hamid Mir in his program, also garnered significant media attention.
Not to mention, Aamer Liaquat’s flirtatious efforts with Sanam Baloch and Neelum Munir on live television.
The distaste in these cases is just not felt by the woman subjected to this nonsensical behaviour but also the audience. It can also be damaging to a female’s reputation in certain cultures where she is blamed for instigating the ‘praise’. This has been true for the Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty episode where she was criticised vehemently by the conservatives of the Indian society.
As a woman, I understand how hard it is to stay on message when all a man can talk about is how you look. The notes you had prepared for the meeting/interview/any professional situation go out the window, and it all becomes about politely turning the man down.
This kind of sexual harassment ranges from ogling to insulting catcalls, even to unnecessary ‘accidental’ touching. Being objectified by male co-workers causes psychological stress which proves to be damaging to the entire workplace environment. This inhibits a large section of the female population of Pakistan from participating in the professional world, thus reducing the overall productivity of the country.
There is a need for maturity in the way we approach each other in the public life and the way we behave professionally. Chris Gayle has dismissed all the admonishments by saying that his comments were a “simple joke”. Nobody is laughing, Gayle. Not your fans, not me, and certainly not Mel Mclaughlin.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.