Why Chris Gayle's comment to Mel McLaughlin is no laughing matter

Chris Gayle's interview fail

West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle has been slammed for making 'inappropriate' comments during an interview with Network Ten journalist Mel McLaughlin.

Last night at the cricket, Chris Gayle turned an interview into a sleazy moment towards reporter Mel McLaughlin.

The social media response is mixed. Some are saying it's just a joke, while others are calling for Gayle to face some consequences for his words.

In truth, the fact that so many women are nodding along with an understanding of the situation McLaughlin was put in shows that we need to take such acts of sexual harassment more seriously. What we need to be considering is how much we'll accept as the next generations move towards the workforce. Should they have to put up with the things we have often kept silent about?

I've faced verbal sexual harassment at every workplace in which I've been employed.

Working at a fast food shop during my teenage years, I knew I was in for a bad shift if one particular boss was there. He'd make the girls give him massages before allowing them to clock on. I always refused, and instead would lean past him as he tried to block my way to the computer, clock on and get to work. He made each of those shifts hell for me, clearly angry that a teenage girl would refuse his instructions. Silently, I just hoped the other girls saw that it was possible to say no.

For some reason, I never told my parents this was happening, that I was scared of this angry man. Instead, I just took solace in the fact my dad would always turn up early to pick me up from a late night shift, and felt thankful I'd get out of there safely.

In my second job at a bakery, the owner and baker would stay back well into the morning for one reason (or so he told me). "I love to just stand back here and watch your arse and your legs," he told me several times. This seemed creepy to me at age 19, but I never felt in danger. I'd just sigh with relief when my older co-worker turned up at 10am each day, at which point the baker would wink at me and leave.

As time went on and I worked in more places and faced similar things from more male colleagues and bosses, I found myself keen to prove something. I went into work each day with an air of professionalism and chose to rise above the comments. It was hard, though.

Looking back, I wish things had been different. I wish I hadn't thought I had to deal with it all on my own; I wish I hadn't considered it to be 'whinging' or 'causing trouble' to make a complaint; I wish I'd known that I had every right to feel safe and comfortable at work.

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And I very much wish that these things had been talked about so that I'd felt I'd be supported by my employers if they knew such things were going on.

Mostly, though, I want things to change for the sake of the next generation. I have two daughters, and the idea of one day sending them out into the workforce is confronting. Putting my kids into a situation with strangers as authority figures is scary, and they shouldn't have to arm themselves for the comments or prove themselves as professionals in order to try and avoid being seen as sexual objects.

Our kids should be able to feel safe at work, and everywhere. I don't believe that can happen if we laugh off these 'jokes' made at women's expense.

I call on every one of us to take situations like McLaughlin's seriously, with the hope of establishing new levels of what is acceptable in the workplace. It's time to make some noise to say that this isn't okay – for the sake of our kids.

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