HERE’S one for the men. When a woman tells you she’s been made to feel uncomfortable by sexist behaviour, what’s your reaction?

If it’s anything other than listening, learning and offering support, you’re doing it wrong.

On Sunday night, Sky Sports and BBC Sport host Eilidh Barbour tweeted: “Never felt so unwelcome in the industry I work in than sitting at the Scottish Football Writers’ Awards. A huge reminder there is still so much to do in making our game an equal place #callitout #equalgame”.

It later emerged that Barbour had been among a number of attendees at the ceremony who walked out during a routine from speaker Bill Copeland, following a series of allegedly ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ jokes.

As a high-profile figure at the top of her profession, Barbour’s voice carries weight, and she would not have taken the decision to tweet about her experience lightly. You would think the natural response would be to take on board what she’s saying. If you’re a man who’s part of this world, it might cause you to reflect on your own behaviour or on your failure to challenge the behaviour of those around you.

While many did just that, there were some who reacted by criticising Barbour, whether it be for the manner in which she highlighted the incident or even the fact that she had an issue with sexist ‘humour’ in the first place.

There were demands to name names and be specific about what exactly had made her uncomfortable. And then there were the numerous comments from middle-aged dullards who use the word ‘woke’ as a pejorative. “If a few woke types were pissed off, so what”, “Pathetic, woke, humourless”, “You are a weak, woke piece of s***”, that kind of thing.

This is a recurring theme in modern life. Any attempt to highlight injustice or unacceptable behaviour is met with ‘You’re free to call it out, just don’t call it out in this particular way or in this particular place or at this particular time’. Essentially, you’re entitled to complain, but don’t be so loud that anyone has to actually do anything about it.


Solicitor advocate and Aberdeen season ticket-holder Erin Grieve told me: “A huge number of people are desperate to downplay what seems to have been agreed were unacceptable comments. Calling upon someone to repeat inappropriate and offensive statements so you can attempt to moderate their reaction and accuse them of being ‘woke’ is entirely missing the point”.

Rather than finding fault with how women raise these issues, it’s incumbent upon us to hear their concerns and ask awkward questions of ourselves. Are we making women uncomfortable, or at least validating those who do with our silence?

The SFWA’s statement on Monday failed to ask those questions, claiming it “apologises to anyone offended or upset”. Such passive language takes no accountability for their part in making attendees feel uncomfortable.

Only three of 95 staff roles for sports reporters at Scottish print titles are filled by women, and seeing their peers lap up material that belittles them further cements the idea that this is not a welcoming environment.

As Erin put it, “There are sadly still many people who don’t think football is for women. It’s very hard to change attitudes when there’s still so much resistance”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’’s Lunchtime Live, Gabriella Bennett of the Women in Journalism Scotland group said it was “worth pointing out there were lots of people laughing at these jokes … lots of people found it really funny”.

I spoke to Dundee United fan Laura Costello, who helps to facilitate a Mental Health Awareness course within Scottish football.

She said: “Any man who attended the awards would have known the speaker had crossed a line. When the ‘name names, don’t be vague etc’ responses came, that’s where men should have stepped in and said the comments were out of order and insulting, because if they had it would 100% have taken the heat off Eilidh. This is not Eilidh’s battle to fight – it’s the men within the industry who need to fight this.

“Any man involved in Scottish football should have been outraged at how that night developed. Why should anyone go to an awards ceremony, be faced with these awful slurs and have to sit amongst fellow colleagues and listen to them laugh along?”.

Among the men who laughed at those jokes on Sunday, there will be some who wonder where they can get away with using those words.

The takeaway shouldn’t be ‘I need to be more careful who I say awful things in front of’, it should be ‘I need to stop saying awful things’.

Most of us realise that laughing along with sexist jokes is unacceptable, but it’s also time for us to stand with the women in our game rather than shifting awkwardly in our seats and hoping the moment passes.

If they get up and leave, so do we.

When women who love football and enhance the sport are made to feel uncomfortable, we risk driving them away.

And then the joke’s on us.