Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Show bullies like Andy Gray and Richard Keys the red card

Former Sky Sports presenters Andy Gray, left, and Richard Keys

It's stating the obvious, I know, but it's high time that workplace bullies were shown the red card.

There should not be a single work environment in the land where any member of staff is allowed to get away with bullying, no matter how senior they are and no matter how well-paid they are.

In terms of crimes against humanity, making smutty remarks isn't exactly up there with mass-murder, but it's still unnecessary, infantile, out-dated and unpleasant.

The minute Andy Gray was sacked from his £1.7m-a-year job as a commentator on Sky Sports and Richard Keys resigned from his £500,000-a-year studio anchor position, I suspected there would be more revelations to come.

Step forward Vanessa Bridger (43), who says her life was ruined by working for the company. Years of bullying led to her taking anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication, having a panic-attack on the way to work, resignation, bankruptcy and the loss of her home.

She now lives alone on sickness benefits after her marriage also broke down. I'm sure this is only the beginning of a steady stream of anecdotes featuring Mr Gray and Mr Keys.

And as for that old chestnut, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen? What are we living in, a boxing tournament? Going to work in the morning should carry with it no more stress than the usual traffic snarl-ups. No one should have to take medication as part of their daily working experience.

People are hired to do a job, not to do battle with the bullies as well. Some people can laugh off sexist remarks; other people feel suicidal.

If Andy Gray and Richard Keys were aware of what happened to Vanessa Bridger, and they didn't immediately modify their behaviour, then, really, they have no one to blame now for their very public downfalls. If there were a few more high-profile sackings maybe it wouldn't be so easy for the bullies to get away with it.

I have no idea why Andy Gray and Richard Keys risked their lucrative careers for the small pleasure of making sexist remarks about Sian Massey and others. You'd think with so much money at stake they'd have had the wit to keep their daft comments to themselves.

I have no idea why any man makes sexist remarks in this day and age; or any woman either. It only makes them look like a dinosaur, or obsessed with gender politics, or intimidated by gender politics, or slightly deranged.

I think we can all agree that men and women make an equal contribution to society and that neither gender is superior or inferior, or any of that medieval nonsense.

I wish Gok Wan would stop calling breasts 'bangers'. I wish some one would tear up Charlie Sheen's contract for the sexist jamboree that is Two and a Half Men. I wish pornography and lap-dancing clubs had never been invented. I wish romantic love and mutually-supportive marriages hadn't become so unfashionable.

I wish men and women were nicer to each other in general. I wish all those foul-mouthed comedians in shiny suits would shut up for five minutes. I wish the verb 'to make love' hadn't been replaced with a four-letter word starting with the letter F.

Television is the most powerful influence on our lives today and it's important that standards are not allowed to fall any further.

Young men are growing up with very few positive role models. If any young man is reading this column, let me assure him that girls wish to be treated with sensitivity and respect in 2011, so please don't think all females are as dim (and as obliging) as Charlie Sheen's co-actors.

Please don't use the F-word when talking about sex. Please don't think understanding the offside rule makes you some sort of intellectual giant.

And for the more mature male, please don't think that asking a young and glamorous co-worker to put her hand down your trousers is terribly funny.

It isn't remotely funny. It's actually quite a disturbing scenario, which will only draw attention to how middle-aged and portly you are. Every girl loves a sincere compliment made in a non-threatening fashion. No girl wants to be pestered by a sexist bully all day long.

Oh, and finally, if you're the sort of person who calls anyone 'it', you might like to consider seeking professional help.

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