By Shruti Sunderraman
Oh, the many mysterious ways in which men participate in rape culture never ceases to amaze me, even if it exasperates me all the time. From not believing the victim to blaming the victim, we arrive at another component called ‘sue the victim’. Which is precisely what West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle has done to the woman who accused him of sexual harassment.
According to a report, a sports masseuse named Leanne Russell had accused Gayle last year of flashing her during a massage session. Distraught, she left the room and “cried uncontrollably”. Gayle has now slapped her and Fairfax Media — that carried a series of stories about the incident in its newspapers — with a defamation suit for trying to ‘ruin his reputation’. Classic silence-the-victim tactic. Pity it did not faze Russell. Russell relayed the entire incident at a Sydney court on October 25 stating how upset she was at Gayle’s behaviour, considering she had known and worked with him as a sports masseuse for 10 years.
But Gayle has gone a step ahead and declared that he is allegedly ‘scared’ of women after being accused of harassing Russell, according to a report. Eh? Even if I’m tempted to feel a grim satisfaction at his reaction, I’m also puzzled by it. Fear for personal safety is a feeling women are all too familiar with, but Gayle trying to make himself sound like a victim is as insulting as the defamation suit, if not more. What Gayle is scared of is not women, but the truth and the consequences that’ll follow if proven guilty. Because this isn’t his first brush-in with inappropriate behaviour. In June 2016, Gayle had made advances on sports journalist Mel McLaughlin on live television by telling her “don’t blush, baby”. Embarrassed, she looked away and quickly moved on to the next question she was asking him.
The problem with Chris Gayle is not just that he has behaved inappropriately with women, but that he is systematically trying to normalise sexual harassment and rape culture in the attempt to let himself off the hook. Someone please point out to Gayle that, unlike in cricket, some boundaries in life are not meant to be crossed.
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