FENNO: Don Cherry’s views are as outdated as, well, Don Cherry

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ANALYSIS/OPINION

Don Cherry doesn’t think female journalists belong in locker rooms.

No, this isn’t a bulletin from 30 years ago.

Try this past Saturday. That’s when the longtime commentator summoned an ugly and archaic era, when women had to fight for the same access as male counterparts, during Coach’s Corner on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada.”

“I don’t believe women should be in the male dressing room,” Cherry said. “I remember the first time it happened to me. Guys are walking around naked and I hear this woman’s voice. I turn around and she’s asking me about the power play. I say, ‘Let’s go outside.’ She said, ‘I’m not embarrassed.’ I said, ‘I am.”’

At least Cherry knows how to exit if the mere presence of a woman left him so uncomfortable.

“You want men in the dressing room with women?” he continued. “I don’t feel women are equal. I feel they’re above us. I think they’re on a pedestal and they should not be walking in when naked guys are walking in. And some guys take advantage of it and I don’t think [they] should be.”

There you go. The belch of chauvinism couched as a defense of female journalists from those nasty, out-of-control locker rooms. For their own good.

Cherry is no stranger to bluster and pot-stirring on matters from fighting in hockey (hooray!) to politics (pinkos!) and a hundred other minicontroversies. Dismissing the misogynistic rant as more self-important blathering by Canada’s wacky uncle who seems to yearn for an era when men were men and women were, well, in the kitchen is too easy. Really, that misses the point.

Locker rooms and clubhouses are workplaces, for athletes as well as journalists. Not just male journalists, though that may surprise Cherry. But legions of talented and professional female journalists, too. That’s where relationships are built. Critical details mined. Where much of the daily reporting occurs that goes beyond carefully managed news conferences.

You know, journalism. The roll-up-your-sleeves sort of work that’s different than a dandified ex-coach dripping gold jewelry, white flower shoved in his buttonhole, spouting nonsense in a television studio to a national audience.

Look, locker rooms can be awkward places. For both sexes. There’s little privacy. Interminable waiting. Unwritten rules. Interviews minutes after the sting of defeat. There can be tension and misunderstandings and blow-ups. But, more often than not, the balance between athletes and journalists works. Both sides are professionals. Both sides, usually, act like it.

But in Cherry’s upside-down world, women belong on a pedestal, which actually means their access shouldn’t be the same as their male counterparts. Keep them out. Keep them safe from the horrors of a towel-clad player dressing as a media scrum waits for a few postgame comments. Who knows what calamity would otherwise result.

So, Cherry’s vaunted pedestal earns women and their notebooks a seat on the bench, while men do the real work. All in the twisted name of equality. And protection. Or something like that. Compliments don’t come any more backhanded.

Cherry’s pedestal demeans the female journalists who trudged through years of hostility to fight and win the battle for equal access (perhaps he missed that part), as much as the able women who work in locker rooms and clubhouses across the country today. And, really, Cherry demeans us all. At least anyone interested in unfettered access, a diversity of viewpoints and the best possible journalism. Anyone interested in equal opportunity for their wife or sister or daughter.

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