I recently umpired the county over-60s cricket team in a match against another county, at one of the finest village grounds in the home counties, its pedigree amply demonstrated by the oak panelled lists of former captains, the excellent teas, and the presence of one of the former England cricket captains. I was advised to officiate one of these fixtures as it would be a good learning experience for me compared to the U13s, 15s and 17s games I’ve been doing a lot of recently. What I hadn’t anticipated was the marked social differences which accompanied the day’s play.
Given the distance involved and my preference for cycling, I was kindly offered a lift to the ground by two of the players, along with the scorer. These turned out to be affable and boisterous individuals, aside from the extremely quiet scorer who smiled at their jokes and rarely said a word. The other two spent much of the journey following a fairly standard, if upbeat, script of the sort of conversation I’ve learned to engage with and take an interest in with people where the only initial connection is a sport: mostly about the state of the roads and the cricket pitches of Cambridgeshire.
While these players were very jovial and confidently jokey, I hadn’t considered the casually sexist and offhand misogynistic language that my dad and uncles sometimes use when together at family gatherings, and hadn’t drawn links between the generation of that group of older blokes and this; at least not until we pulled into the ground.
When we were momentarily held up on the driveway by a reversing driver in a sports car, the initial comments of ‘what is she doing?’ carried the scent of everyday sexism without overt malice or objectification. When she then drove past us with an acknowledgement, however, the driver commented to me:
-Bet you’d like to share a car with her.
This was accompanied by some knowing looks. They fell short of elbow nudging and shouting ‘weeeyy’ as younger lads do, but it was the same culture, the same “boys club” of sexualisation and objectification which exists in any privileged “male” space.
My response – a simple ‘it is a very nice car’ – did at least achieve the purpose of closing the subject with a few slightly awkward looks and a quick change of subject. Not in your club, guys, and not a fan.
Once the players were all gathered, many of them with decades of playing against one another behind them, the important business (drinking and socialising) started. Lots of familiarity and friendly greetings ensued, though some of them were of this nature:
– Where’s your lady wife? Gone home to do some ironing, housework, cleaning?
Even in jest, this massively underlines the established and still prevalent prejudices and casual comments that women have to put up with on a daily basis. This article outlines it far better than I ever could. Those who argue that feminism is outdated in our modern, Western culture need only wander down and listen to our dads and uncles chat when they’re in one of their temples – the pub, the sports pitch or the men’s clubs.