Thursday 8 December 2016

'People need to get off their high horses - Peter Alliss' comments were innocent, not sexist'

Rachel Beresford

Published 22/07/2015 | 17:58

Peter Alliss was at the centre of another row over 'sexist' comments at The Open - but was the outrage justified? Photo: 2013 Getty Images
Peter Alliss was at the centre of another row over 'sexist' comments at The Open - but was the outrage justified? Photo: 2013 Getty Images

For crying out loud, you really have to watch what you say these days.

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Journalists the world over must be petrified to speak now without taking a 10 second pause to analyse every word that comes out of their mouth.

But on live TV, that level of personal scrutiny is just not possible. And Peter Alliss has learned the hard way what happens when you dare speak off-the-cuff.

The BBC commentator has suffered the backlash of comments he made as Zach Johnson was homing in on British Open victory on Monday evening.

Alliss, a former golf pro, said, when the screen shot to Johnson's wife looking nervous as he took a vital putt, "she's probably thinking, if this goes in I'll get a new kitchen".

Read more: BBC's Peter Alliss in fresh storm with 'sexist' remark about Open winner Zach Johnson's wife

And that, that was enough to make social media blow up. Alliss was labelled a sexist, many commented that he was "finished", one poster even wrote that he was "well past his sell by date" - and that right there is the crux of this.

Alliss is 84-years-old. He was raised in a time when women worked predominantly in the home and thus, a comment as such would have been considered a statement of fact rather than one of sexist stereotyping.

Still, Alliss, no doubt on the advice of his much younger bosses at BBC, quickly ensured he offered up an apology for his 'gaffe'. A gaffe, though, that is only a gaffe in this modern-day, politically correct world.

However, people still called for his head, claiming that the commentator's views were outdated and had no place in today's society.

Nonsense.

And here's why. Alliss wasn't out to intentionally cause offence to anyone. His comments, as he said them, were perfectly innocent. There was no malice behind his words.

In fact, I bet there was an entire generation of people watching at home that giggled at what he said.

I'm not part of that generation and I chuckled. I was certainly not insulted by it. Why would I? He wasn't being sexist, he was being an 84-year-old man who was raised in an age when women were homemakers.

Read more: The BBC's craven apology for Peter Alliss 'sexism' was an affront - and utterly worthless

Johnson's wife, Kim, as a matter of fact, is one of these homemakers, housewives - whatever term you want to refer to a woman who does not work for pay outside of the family home that least offends you.

Veteran commentator Peter Alliss will be commentating on wildlife as much as golf at the Open. Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
Veteran commentator Peter Alliss will be commentating on wildlife as much as golf at the Open. Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

Kim was working as a social worker when she met Johnson but since their marriage in 2003, she has focused mostly on travelling the circuit with her husband and raising their three children.

Now, I'm not sure what the PC term to categorise women that give up their careers to raise their family and support their husband's career is, but I would have thought calling them a housewife or homemaker was perfectly acceptable. Similarly, if a man was to give up his job to do the same, I'd call him a househusband or homemaker also.

And I think it's okay if you work in the home to want a nice kitchen. Hell, I don't even work in the home and I'd love a new kitchen.

Don't get me wrong, I'd be almost certain Alliss wasn't aware of Kim's profession before he made his comments but that shouldn't matter.

The fact is, he was right.

Well actually, probably not because I'm sure the Johnsons already have a pretty lavish kitchen.

But still, his comments, for me, rang true.

Read more: BBC apologise after Peter Alliss sparks sexism row at British Open

Men and women, birds and bees, chalk and cheese. We are different. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. But if you did a survey of 100 women and asked them would they prefer a new handbag or a new golf bag, I'm pretty sure we all know how that vote would swing.

Similarly, if you asked 100 men if they would prefer a new kitchen or a new games room, I'm sure the result would be a landslide.

Is that sexual stereotyping, yes it is, and is that what Peter Alliss did, most definitely yes. But is there something wrong with that? No, certainly not.

More men than women like sport, more women than men enjoy cooking, that's just how it is and it's just a couple of ways, from an endless list, in which men and women are different.

Another difference between men and women is women can have children while men can not.

Yet another fact which has caused outrage this week as a TG4 advertisement, from 2009 and which was never used, for ladies' football was accidentally posted on social media.

In the ad, you see a model, presumably a female football player or at least implying as such, wearing a jersey and cradling a ball in front of her stomach. The slogan reads, "The most important nine months of a woman's life". Underneath, it gives information on the football season, stating "January to September". Genius, absolutely genius. The advertising department at TG4 deserved a raise for this, not to have their ideas dismissed.

Nobody should take offence to this. TG4, very cleverly, took the ladies' game, with a season that lasts nine months, and connected it with what many women do actually consider the most important nine months of their lives.

Read more: Video: 'Perhaps he likes older women' - Peter Alliss made a strange comment about Paul Dunne

Again, genius.

This, unlike Alliss' comments, isn't even sexist stereotyping.

Women give birth, women play sports. The advertisers used this connection to devise a very witty advert. I really don't get the furore.

What exactly are people offended by? I've seen comments from people saying that TG4 are simply portraying women as vessels for carrying children. And there's others that said the station are diminishing the talents of women in the sporting arena. Get a grip.

What they've actually done, if you look at it with the innocence it was intended, is found a clever connection. If a woman was told she couldn't play a sport because she was pregnant, or had the ability to get pregnant, we'd be taking to the streets in protest.

The female in the ad certainly doesn't look too offended by being portrayed as a female, who can carry a child, and at the same time a sportsperson, who can play football.

Calling for heads on plates because of an innocent comment and a harmless advertising campaign is shocking.

Peter Alliss is an able-bodied, 84-year-old man of sound mind and an incredible knowledge of the game of golf, and he is being lambasted for comments that any other man, or woman at that, would have also said without hesitation or fear of public outcry.

Alliss' only crime is he said it on a public platform - a platform that no longer allows for what we now deem 'old-fashioned' views. An ageist platform if you will.

Then we have a perfectly innocent advertisement, designed to garner attention through humour, that has been taken, twisted and given a negative slant.

It's time we all calmed down, saw the funny side of certain things and only climbed up on our high horses when offence was intended.

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