This has been a horrendous year for Cricket South Africa (CSA). The Proteas crashed out of the World Cup and the less said about their tour of India the better. Off the field, it’s been even worse: the board is in utter disarray, the chief executive is currently suspended and any journalist who dares to ask questions is at risk of having their accreditation summarily removed.
But this isn’t enough for CSA, which appears to have adopted the dubious technique of creating new problems for itself at every opportunity, in the forlorn hope that this will displace the old ones.
In the latest example of such a stunt, I received an email from the Official Proteas Supporters Club (OPSC) — a branch of CSA — on Tuesday afternoon. Apparently the OPSC has “done extensive research to find out exactly what okes and binnets alike want this December”.
“Hmmm,” I thought. “Here is a word I haven’t heard before.” Learning new words is one of my favourite things, but I didn’t have a good feeling about “binnet”. Google confirmed my suspicions. “Binnet,” according to Urban Dictionary, means a “slut, whore or any other colloquial term for a woman”.
Seriously, CSA? Is this what you think of your women cricket fans? And what about the women Proteas — don’t forget that you represent them as well.
CSA took its time in responding to the tweet I posted on Tuesday afternoon: “Dear @OfficialCSA It is simply unacceptable to refer to women cricket fans [as] ‘binnets’ [link to Urban Dictionary]. I expect you to send out a retraction and apology by close of business today.”
I was not the only one to notice the OPSC’s offensive language. A few hours later, fellow journalist and cricket fan Tom Eaton chipped in: “Hi‘Binnet’ is a highly derogatory, aggressively sexualised name for women. Perhaps urge your supporters’ club to do some ‘extensive research’ into casual misogyny before they send out another email, OK?”
On Wednesday morning CSA apologised to Eaton — and thanked him for “bringing this to our attention”.
Excuse me? I have no beef with Eaton — and was glad someone else had also pointed out the error of CSA’s ways — but he was not the first person to tweet about this issue.
CSA posted a response to my tweet later on Wednesday afternoon, in which it apologised, threw its agency (One Custom) under the bus, conveyed its distress, took responsibility, denounced denigration and marginalisation, and expressed its commitment to promoting and raising awareness about women’s issues (whatever those may be).
I have accepted CSA’s apology. It has certainly dealt with binnetgate more promptly and thoroughly than with many of its other problems.
But, at the risk of sounding petty, the manner in which CSA originally sought to erase my voice by ignoring it — while privileging Eaton’s by recognising his message first — is symptomatic of the organisation’s ethos. It appears CSA felt it was more urgent to respond to criticism from a male journalist with a healthy Twitter following than a female journalist without the same level of influence.
In addition, that word was not the only problem with the email — merely the most obvious one. The majority of the email was about buying a Christmas present for an imaginary friend called Greg, who is, apparently, “one of our best mates/ultimate ledge/king of bants/Top Gun-grade wingman”.
Who does CSA think South African cricket fans are? This was clearly an email directed exclusively at (white), English-speaking men who went to former Model C schools, use words like “oke” and “boet” unironically, and think nothing of calling women binnets. I’m not saying that such men aren’t cricket fans. But they are not the only ones. The last time I went to a Test at the Wanderers with a group of friends, it was me, Kuhle, Deshnee, Kwanele and Jes. There wasn’t a Greg — literally or figuratively — among us.
Transformation is not just about quotas for the national and provincial cricket teams. It’s also about recognising — and speaking to — diverse cricket fans. What CSA needs to do next is hire a new marketing team that isn’t composed entirely of Gregs.