Friday, 18 December 2015

Jose Mourinho, Sexism and Jeremy Vine

Jeremy Vine has written an open letter to Jose Mourinho. It's the sort of emotive tosh that passes for good writing nowadays and I cannot say it is particularly worth reading, but you can find it here if you so wish. It had no impact on me until I read the paragraphs on the club's former doctor, Eva Carniero, which I quote in full here:

"And then something utterly unhinged happened. I had to explain to my young daughter why you had exploded at the popular team doctor (one of the most prominent women in the Premier League) and I could not give her a decent reason. You did not just demote her and cause her to leave, you humiliated her. You should not have done it and I believe the players were also at a loss as they tried to explain it to their young daughters."

I have not made any comment on the Carniero case, but I thought it was pathetic at the time and I think it is pathetic now. I do not believe for a minute Jose criticised her because she is a woman. In fact to suggest as much is ridiculous - Jose criticised a male member of the medical staff at the same time and in his post-match interview said everyone had to understand the game and it did not matter who you were. I do not think Vine is suggesting this, but rather is telling us that for some reason he could not explain this criticism to his daughter, as if somehow women are incapable of suffering and dealing with criticism, or indeed, should not ever have to.

Vine states she was "One of the most prominent women in the Premier League." I do not doubt this. However, I hated the fact she was one of the most prominent women in the Premier League. I hated it because she was one of the most prominent women in the Premier League because a good number of male football fans are sexist wazzocks. I hated it because she was known as Chelsea's "fit" doctor, defined by her looks. I hated it because she was used to explain why Drogba liked to fall over and pretend his groin was hurt. I hated it because she was a prominent woman not because she was good at her job, which I assume she was, but because she was a woman who seemed to care about football and was, apparently, 'fit'. 

But this is not the issue. The issue is that it is completely irrelevant that she was a woman. It is completely irrelevant that she was a prominent woman in a male dominated industry where it was only a few years ago that two of the most prominent men in the industry questioned and joked about a woman's ability to understand the offside rule. Her sex is not relevant. Her ability to do her job is relevant and is all that should be relevant. We all know why Mourinho criticised her (and, for what it is worth, a male member of the medical team as well) and that was to deflect attention from another poor result - and it worked. However, whether or not we agree that she was or was not wrong to run on to the pitch, the fact that she is a woman should not enter our consideration. 

Imagine the paragraph read as follows:

And then something utterly unhinged happened. I had to explain to my young son why you had exploded at the popular team doctor (one of the most prominent men in the Premier League) and I could not give him a decent reason. You did not just demote him and cause him to leave, you humiliated him. You should not have done it and I believe the players were also at a loss as they tried to explain it to their young sons.

We would think Vine ridiculous. Why are we treating women any differently? Why do women need to be protected as if they are weak and vulnerable and unable of looking after themselves? Mourinho's reaction to Carniero's running onto the pitch was motivated solely by the running onto the pitch, not by her being a woman. Our response to it should be to criticise Mourinho for criticising the running onto the pitch or to criticise the running onto the pitch. To respond by complaining that we cannot explain Mourinho's actions to our daughters is absurd. It simply does not matter that Carniero is a woman and by treating her differently because she is one, by suggesting she should be immune from criticism and Mourinho's overreaction (something we would never do if it were a man), we are suggesting women need to be protected and looked after, because they cannot do it themselves. 

So perhaps, Mr Vine, you could tell your daughter that sometimes people overreact, that sometimes they do stupid things. Maybe you could tell your daughter that in life you may get an incredibly emotional boss who says what s/he is thinking without qualification. Perhaps mention that life can suck and sometimes your boss will suck too. You could even tell your daughter that sometimes she will make mistakes and pay a heavy cost for those mistakes but that is okay. Please, I beg you, do not suggest that women need to be treated differently from men, that women need to be protected or looked after or somehow are worthy of a different reaction. You become part of the problem when you do that.