Sunday 23 October 2016

Heavy breathing on high moral ground

Eamonn Sweeney

Published 29/05/2016 | 17:00

BBC Golf commentator Peter Alliss. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images
BBC Golf commentator Peter Alliss. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

Roll that barrel over here. Good man. Thanks. If you could just tip the fish into it like so. That's great. Now hand me down that gun, I'm going to write about Muirfield Golf Club.

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I am a fearless opponent of golf clubs refusing to allow women as members. I'm also against the Atlantic slave trade, dog fighting and people who reveal the twists in the latest episode of Game of Thrones before their friends have seen them. These may be controversial positions but sometimes you just have to take a stand for what's right no matter what criticism is likely to come your way.

In a world of gender-fluid schoolkids, celebrity transsexuals and the like, there's something bizarrely anachronistic about Muirfield's determination to stand up for old-fashioned sexism. The members are a bit like those Japanese lads who kept sniping away in the jungles for decades after World War Two had ended.

Unlike Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi and Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, however, the Muirfield dinosaurs make pretty easy targets. However, we should bear in mind that many of them grew up - or not as the case may be - during a much more sexist era than the enlightened time in which we live today. For example let's go back 40 years to the mid-70s, an acknowledged golden age of dumb sexism, and examine the kind of headlines you'd find in the papers back then.

'Danny Simpson's girlfriend Ashleigh Detty gets dirty as she shows off phenomenal frame while writhing in mud on Tenerife beach.' That's from the Daily Mail. So is, 'Lindsay Lohan gives rumoured fiancé Egor Tarabasov an eyeful in plunging swimsuit'. The Daily Express pants, 'Amanda Holden shows a LOT of leg as she flaunts enviable curves in skintight gown'. 'Daniella Westbrook shows off her bikini body in sexy purple two piece'. So says the Daily Mirror. And, 'Rob Kearney's girlfriend Jess Redden shows off her enviable body at debut lingerie shoot'. That's the Irish Independent.

This was the kind of voyeuristic Benny Hill-style sexism which was rife back in the . . . Oh hang on a sec. Really? You're kidding me? No way?

It's just been drawn to my attention that those headlines did not come from 1976. They actually came from last week. My bad, as the young people say these days. So it turns out that newspapers which were full of people gleefully banging on about the troglodytic attitude of the Muirfield fogeys weren't really in much of a position to go commandeering the high moral ground.

You could even argue that the sexism displayed on a daily basis in the media is actually worse than that displayed at Muirfield. Not every woman wants to join a golf club, but all women would prefer to live in a world where they're not being leered at, harassed or worse, thanks to the attitude of objectification which holds that women really don't amount to much more than the sum of their curves. Using the word 'enviable' doesn't really mitigate the offence. It's still Benny Hill territory.

For that matter, while everyone was quick to jump on old buffer Peter Alliss (pictured) when he suggested that women who wanted to get into Muirfield should marry a member, the media was a little more circumspect when Conor McGregor decided to unleash his inner misogynist lately. Yet McGregor's 'tight little ass' comment about female sports journalists, who are subject to enough sexist rubbish already, was many degrees more insulting than anything Alliss said.

Yet because McGregor is a 'legend' and a 'national treasure' and generally big business, his hateful comments were quickly skated past. When they were mentioned there seemed to be a suspicious keenness to use a photo of CMG's girlfriend along with them, as if to say, 'look, he can't be sexist, doesn't he hang out with one of them?'.

Then again maybe I'm being too PC about this. What was McGregor doing really except providing a bit of physical description? So the next time he crams his perky little buns into those skimpy shorts and waggles his pert pecs in the direction of another guy who's also bulging with muscle before they grasp each other tightly and roll around the floor, the sweat dripping off them as their enviable bodies lock together, their crotches bulge and their cute little butts go stiff with the effort, I'll be wishing Dee Devlin's boyfriend well.

Meanwhile, down with Muirfield. Because if there's one thing people won't stand for any more, it's sexism.

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