If you thought the Christmas break would provide relief from the professional outrage brigade, think again. This time the target was the interview given by Mel McLaughlan to Chris Gayle.
Were Gayle’s comments awkward and cringeworthy? Definitely. Were they clearly intended as a (bad) joke and perhaps part of a dare? Most certainly. Did they amount to sexual harassment and warrant banning Gayle for life from playing in the BBL cricket competition? Give me a break.
Generally speaking, sexual harassment is defined as an unwanted sexual advance or obscene comment. In this case, there was no sexual advance and the comments were hardly obscene in the highest sense (read: disgusting, repugnant, depraved, crude, gross, vile, nasty, evil, odious, vulgar, foul, filthy, lewd, smutty – you get the picture). Gayle simply noted that he was happy to see Mel’s eyes and invited her for a drink after the game.
You could try to argue that Gayle’s comments were obscene in the lowest possible sense in that they were ‘offensive’. The outrage brigade loves to slop around in this sewer because anything can be ‘offensive’ to anyone. In this case however, the words used by Gayle wouldn’t even draw a PG-13 rating. This is because no sane person actually wants to live in a world where we kill free speech to the point where someone can’t awkwardly say that they like somebody else’s eyes and invite them on a date (joking or otherwise).
And then there is Mel herself. While she was clearly surprised to hear the comments, there is no evidence so far that she is a victim of the situation in any way. Indeed, who is to say that the comments were necessarily ‘unwanted’? Gayle is hardly the Elephant Man after all.
While we’re throwing confected outrage around, I ask the following questions to those outraged – is the overblown reaction to this situation simply because a black man had the audacity to proposition a white woman on national television? Would the reaction have been the same if a white man had done it – or if a white woman had made such comments to a white man or… a black man? I wouldn’t exactly bet my house on a consistent reaction is each of those situations.
We’re heading into serious Orwellian 1984 territory when we start throwing outrage and offence taking around, rather than simply giving Gayle a break for having a bit of fun. A $10,000 fine for making millions cringe is more than enough. People have been fined a lot less for bashing others senseless.