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Casual sexism? So what’s the problem?

January 27, 2011 by Fanny Marshall

Last week Wolverhampton Wanderers' home game against Liverpool was distinguished by a more interesting conflict off the pitch than on. Two Sky football commentators, spotting the assistant referee Sian Massey, announced that female football officials didn’t understand the rules and predicted Ms Massey would make mistakes during the match.

“Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her,” Richard Keys said of Ms Massey. Former Scotland striker Andy Gray replied: "Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don't know the offside rule." 

The tape of the off-air conversation reached a newspaper. In the event, Ms Massey correctly called a crucial borderline decision during the match, and the two commentators have been taken off the air. Andy Gray was subsequently fired.

Hearing these ignorant comments made my blood boil. Of course I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

What really makes me angry is that I’m fairly certain there is a large majority of likeable, normal guys out there whose response would be “What’s all the fuss about?” Several commentators have acknowledged that men’s football is rife with overt, casual sexism. And “sexism” could arguably be replaced with “racism” or “homophobia”.

These sorts of causally sexist/racist/homophobic comments are a great example of the sort of outdated behaviour the recently introduced Equality Act legislation has been put in place to stamp out from the workplace. If you allow your staff or customers on your premises free reign to voice similar opinions, you could face claims against you for discrimination.

So business owners who cannot see “what the problem is” should be worried. Allowing casually discriminatory behaviour to persist could lead them straight to an employment tribunal.

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