Does Sports Talk in the Office Victimize Women?
This is what feminist leaders are concerned about these days—and the narrative is a predictable as feminist pie, involving child-like women and predatory “lads.”
Various news agencies recently reported that Chartered Management Institute head Ann Francke has claimed that “sports banter can exclude women” in office environments—and that office managers should be on the lookout for it.
The Chartered Management Institute is a professional organization in Britain with over 80,000 members. It publishes magazines about business practices and advises government and other organizations on business-related policies. Like nearly every other organization in the western world, it seems to have gone full-on feminist: not only in advocating for equality of outcome in business, but in suggesting that men’s behaviors need to be strictly controlled in the office even to the extent of punishing men for talking about subjects that some women may not find interesting.
According to Ms. Francke in an interview on British public television, office managers and bosses should limit employees’ discussion of sport because such talk creates an unsafe or unwelcoming environment for women. The problem is that not all women “follow sports” and many “don’t like either being forced to talk about [sports] or not being included.”
The suggestion has been widely ridiculed for its nanny-like dictatorialism. Forcing people to limit their conversations on the basis that some *might* feel excluded will surely stifle whatever natural camaraderie could be found in many workspaces.
What has been less discussed in the general outcry is the overt anti-male bias evident in this woman’s comments. Though she did not advocate outright “banning” sports talk (merely “controlling” or “moderating” it—well, that’s better, isn’t it?), her decision to focus only on men’s presumed exclusion of women, and particularly on the presumed association between sports talk and so-called misogyny, reveals her kneejerk suspicion and dislike of men and masculinity.
We’ve already seen multiple feminist attacks over the past few years on normal male behaviors at work, from jokes, friendly touching, and requests for dates (now all potentially classed as “sexual harassment” and liable to be severely punished) to the way men sit or stand (“manspreading”) to the way they converse (“mansplaining”). Now male sports enthusiasm has come under the punitive gaze of the feminist censor. According to Francke, “discussing football and, for example, the merits of video assistant refereeing (VAR) can disproportionately exclude women and divide offices.”
It’s easy enough to imagine a scenario where an obsessive focus on sport might indeed exclude some women. But it’s just as easy to imagine a scenario in which high-spirited sports chat could well contribute to general goodwill and office unity. Are women not mature agents capable of interacting with their male peers on a mutually respectful basis? Is Francke herself not guilty of reductive gender stereotyping in assuming that all men are crazy for football while no woman is? Furthermore, are not women equally—if not more—capable of focusing on subjects (feminism, for example) likely to bore or alienate their male peers? How far does Francke think managers should go in monitoring the subjects their employees discuss?
Of course, we know how far she thinks they should go: only men are to be monitored, only female feelings of distress are to be taken into account, and the entire basis for office surveillance is the insulting and groundless assumption that all men are just one sports-related anecdote or observation away from verbal “violence.” According to Francke, football discussion is dangerous because “It’s very easy for it to escalate from VAR talk and chat to slapping each other on the back and talking about their conquests at the weekend.”
“Conquests.” It’s a rather antiquated word for 2020, 50 years into a revolution led by women like Gloria Steinem who claimed to oppose “slut-shaming” and declared women perfectly capable of making their own sexual decisions. They were not “conquests,” a sexist term that saw women as passive objects of male desire; they were sexual beings who preferred freedom to protection, and who declared their right to talk about sex or engage in sexual activity in any way they wanted.
The feminism of an Ann Francke, and of many other feminist leaders today, has become the very caricature it was (rightly) suspected of being from the beginning: a censorious and prudish initiative opposed to male being-in-the-world and obsessed with female vulnerability, incapacity, and purity.
A woman with attitudes so at variance with reality has no business advising government, setting policy, or outlining good managerial practice. She should be laughed out of her role as quickly as possible. But she likely won’t be.