Sun | Sep 24, 2017

I’m guilty of sexual harassment

Published:Friday | January 8, 2016 | 1:00 AM
THE LADIES LOVE ME! Like moths to a flame, Jodi Ann Plummer (left) and Fiona Weir pucker up for West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle at his foundation’s graduation ceremony last July.

Old-time people have a saying that 'what is joke to you is death to me'. Chris Gayle may or may not have been aware of that saying prior to the interview with the attractive Australian journalist Mel McLaughlin earlier this week. I'm sure that he is now realising what that age-old Jamaican cliche is all about.

Gayle has been fined US$7,000, and there's the possibility that he may never play in the Big Bash again. Stories are coming out of the woodwork now. The most damning one is where he supposedly exposed himself to a female worker during the last World Cup Down Under. The fact that she is still anonymous and has chosen to come out to a newspaper almost a year after should make her story less credible, but all this is adding to the new image of Gayle. You wonder at what point he may be burnt at the stake!

All this for what?! What Gayle did was inappropriate. Of that there is no doubt. There is a time and place for that. He should have known that there was at least the possibility that the lady reporter wouldn't be comfortable with this open display of admiration. His "don't blush, baby" is either arrogant or tacky.

The whole incident was a little silly. Chris was setting up himself for a huge rejection in front of the whole world. The woman could have embarrassed him on national TV by saying something like, "Why would I wanna go out with the likes of you!" Why take that risk?

Clearly, though, he didn't mean any harm. It wasn't as if he was being disrespectful to the lady. He was, when you get right down to it, complimenting a woman, and asking her out. Men have been doing that since the beginning of time. That, in the scheme of things, can't be the big deal that we are making it out to be.

Show me a straight man that hasn't behaved a little silly in front of a pretty woman! Even David, a man after God's own heart in the Bible, did some rather devious things to get a woman whom he desired. Chris will not be the last man to lose his cool and say things he shouldn't when confronted by an attractive member of the opposite sex. So why this backlash?

 

A WARNING WOULD SUFFICE

 

Why are the Australian cricket authorities fining the man? Clearly a strongly worded reprimand would suffice. A warning to Gayle that no further outbursts like that would be tolerated would surely have the same effect of getting Gayle to curb his tendency of making these statements to female interviewers.

Why are they contemplating not bringing him back? Gayle is in Australia to play cricket. Doing live interviews is something that the authorities there can control if they feel he may make another gaffe like this one. It's like grabbing a sledgehammer and beating an ant to death!

Now we are hearing perfectly learned people saying that this could be classified as sexual harassment. The Gleaner carried a front-page story in which Bert Samuels, a prominent lawyer, postulated that Gayle could be accused of such if the recently tabled sexual harassment bill is passed in its present form. Really?! If complimenting a woman's eyes and inviting her out on a one-off occasion is considered deviant sexual behaviour, much less sexual harassment, I would have been guilty of sexual harassment in the past! Several times, in fact.

No man who is pursuing a woman knows what answer he may get when he invites her out for a date. If she says no and he persists, that's a completely different argument. But how can a first-time compliment and an invitation to a drink be seen as harassment of any kind, never mind sexual? Why do we assume, automatically, that a drink invitation and a compliment is a prelude to sex? If the law is prepared to find a find a man guilty of sexually harassing a woman for complimenting her and inviting her out the first time he does it, the law is really an ass!

Since this issue has come up, many people are juxtaposing this case with tennis player Maria Sharapova openly flirting with a male reporter at the 2014 Australian Open. She was gushing about his self-esteem, telling him how she liked his form, clearly insinuating that she was admiring him. We didn't hear anything untoward then.

This is a double standard. One rule for women; one rule for men. Gayle has been accused of being too carefree with his bat in the past. He will now know that he also has to be less impulsive with his mouth.

- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.