In January 2011, football pundit Andy Gray was sacked by Sky Sports after he allegedly made derogatory comments concerning a female official. The issue prompted an avalanche of debate about workplace banter. During an episode of BBC’s Question Time, businesswoman and former Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins stirred things up even more by expressing the view that banter brings colour and interest to the workplace and that women should just ‘toughen up’.
Since that time, it seems to me that we have witnessed a coarsening of our culture that threatens to debase our civilisation for generations to come. I’m familiar with work and social environments where every shred of decency and propriety is being stripped away, stomped on and trampled into the dust.
Obviously, banter is a characteristic of most social interactions and group dynamics, especially in the workplace. But, despite the admonishments of people like Katie Hopkins, individuals should not be obliged to surrender their dignity in order to work in socially diverse environments. Nor should anyone be patronised and mocked for insisting that people respect this.
Banter may be perceived as a bit of harmless fun by some people, but it may be offensive to others. The bottom line is this: if banter violates anyone’s dignity, if anyone finds it demeaning and unacceptable, a line has been crossed and action must be taken.
Most people understand the concept of personal space. We all feel psychologically upset and uncomfortable when another person invades this comfort zone. Well, personal space is not just about physical distances. It also comprises an invisible protective layer of self-respect. And no one should be allowed to violate it. It’s becoming rare to see people conducting themselves with grace, class, dignity and style, and it’s a trend that must be reversed or we jeopardise our very humanity.