The two Sky Sports presenters who were caught on tape making disparaging remarks about women earlier this week are a pair of daft old duffers, and no mistake. It is important for me to say that first, before I get to the business in hand.
Andy Gray and Richard Keys are a couple of dull, flabby, middle-aged football bores and are just the sort of doddering old clowns you would expect to relax off camera by swapping ancient prejudices and poking fun at women — in this case a female linesman — for not understanding the offside rule.
You shouldn’t pass unflattering remarks about women behind their backs because it is not a well brought-up thing to do, and they needed to be told. I would never do it myself. Not because I am a feminist, but because I am a gentleman.
The real sexists? Gile Coren wonders how the Loose Women can get away with some of the things they say about men
But while Gray has now been sacked, I don’t expect that will be the end of the matter.
We will hear an endless shrieking to ‘kick sexism out of football’; a PE teacher will be fired for telling his goalkeeper to ‘stop crying like a girl’; and a hapless League One manager will be deported for describing a fight between players as ‘handbags at dawn’.
There will be the endless apologies, public soul-searching and self-flagellation. And as usual the rest of us men will be expected to atone as a sex for a couple of remarks by two fat, superannuated fools on the telly, and to grovel for forgiveness with every snivel and cringe of our waking lives.
Not that that’s anything new. To be a man in this country is constantly to have to apologise for oneself and to be ever so very careful about every sentence we speak or write which contains any reference at all to members of the opposite sex.
While at the same time, and this is the shame of it, we ourselves are fair game for women. While sexism from men is the outstanding social crime of the modern world, women can say absolutely whatever they like about us.
For make no mistake: sexism is alive and well in this country and applauded in all quarters — as long as it is practised by women. And they are allowed to say the most terrible, terrible things.
Only last week, for example, Jo Brand, the newly crowned Best Female TV Comic at the British Comedy Awards, was on Have I Got News For You and replied to the question ‘What’s your favourite kind of man, Jo?’ by saying: ‘A dead one.’ Oh, how the audience fell about. And the other contestants, all male, chortled away too.
I’m not saying it wasn’t funny. I’m just saying we live in a world where the thorough-going awfulness, uselessness and superfluity of the male sex is such a given, that a frontline television comic can get big laughs by saying she’d prefer it if we were all dead.
Giving men a bad name: Andy Gray, left, and Richard Keys caused outrage when they made disparaging remarks about a female linesman
And I’m trying to imagine a world in which I am on that show and they say, ‘What kind of women do you like, Giles?’ and I reply: ‘Dead ones.’ I just don’t think it would get the same laughs, do you?
Here’s another of Jo Brand’s (excellent) gags. ‘What’s the way to a man’s heart? Straight through the chest with a kitchen knife!’ Again, not unfunny. But predicated on the idea that killing men is hilarious. Whereas killing women, as we all know, is a very serious affair and not to be joked about.
It’s not just Brand, it’s all women. ‘What do you call the useless flap of skin attached to a penis?’ they joke. ‘A man!’ they all reply, and clink their chardonnay glasses and chortle till dawn. How on earth did this get to be OK?
I’ll tell you how. It is because pretty much from birth women are schooled by their mothers to deride men. They are sugar and spice, we are slugs and snails.
They are reflective and sensitive, while we run around kicking balls and shouting. And then as girls push towards puberty their mothers take them aside and tell them: ‘Boys are only after one thing!’
If women ruled the world countries would be invaded because 'she’s always been jealous of my feet' and 'she looks down on me for going out to work'
The great lie. All men want is sex. Not so. If anything, it is women who think only of having it off. Girls on average lose their virginity much younger than boys and have more sexual partners in youth.
As a teenager, I was terribly shy about sex and yet girls were trying to do it with me all the time. I used to run, literally run, from their bedrooms when they tried it on. And yet women are allowed endlessly to harangue us with our supposed lechery.
And the prejudice festers. Harriet Harman says that men caused the banking crisis, and the harridan legions nod their heads. ‘If women ruled the world,’ they cry, ‘there would be no wars.’
What nonsense. Women are far meaner, more brutal, aggressive, small-minded, jealous, petty and venal than any man.
If women ruled the world countries would be invaded because ‘she’s always been jealous of my feet’ and because ‘she looks down on me for going out to work’.
Millions would die, torture would increase. If women ruled the world there would be carnage.
And what sort of an insult is it anyway to suggest that most women don’t understand the offside rule? It’s true, for a start. Most women don’t. And most of them declare it proudly.
Most of them use football as an example of one of their favourite gags, the one about how men never grow up, about how we’re all just children — most often manifested in the one where a mother-of-two says ‘I’ve got three children’, you raise an eyebrow, and she nods towards her husband. Hilarious.
Nonsense: Women are far meaner, more brutal, small-minded, and petty than any man, says Giles Coren
And nor are men, in this female narrative, merely puerile, aggressive and underdeveloped. They are hypochondriacs, too.
‘He’s got a touch of man flu,’ say the womenfolk and titter. But what nonsense is that? It is women who make a big fuss about mild discomfort, not men.
I have never had so much as a cold in my life, nor claimed to. I even suspect sometimes that the whole palaver about the pain of childbirth is a conspiracy to ride roughshod over men.
My own mother, a consultant anaesthetist herself, has always claimed that giving birth was a breeze but that she pretended it had been painful to build bargaining chips with my father.
You look at shows like Loose Women and you wonder how on earth they get away with the terrible things they say about men. I went on once and it was horrific. I wanted to die.
No male-hosted show could treat women the way those outsized harpies treat men.
I don’t especially want to throw my hat in with Dominic Raab, the slightly bonkers Tory MP who has called for an end to legislative discrimination against men, but there is no question that women today have it all.
They retire younger and live longer to such an extent that minor inequalities in pay levels are obliterated when you consider whose money pays for those 25 years of retirement. And it just isn’t fair that they are allowed to be so vile about us.
I suppose, in a way, British men are like white people were in Nineties South Africa or young Germans after the Second World War.
We are expected to go through a period of atonement for the sins of our fathers. To be treated worse than we merit because of crimes previously committed in our name: in this case the crime of feeding, protecting, loving and nurturing women in accordance with our biological imperative.
They don’t want that any more. They want to be linesmen. And so we have to let them tell us endlessly how they wish we were all dead.
If that’s not off-side, I don’t know what is.