Saturday, February 24, 2007

3=5?

The All England Club announced this week that Wimbledon would now pay out equally for the men's and women's tournaments. Their new policy matches those of the Australian and U.S. Open, where the men and women are paid equally throughout the tournament. The French Open differs in that it only pays the winners equally.

Venus Williams was among the people who lauded the decision:
From this moment forward, Wimbledon will be treating the women equally to the men. ...

It’s an historic moment for women’s tennis and for the players, from pioneer Billie Jean King to the stars of today, who have always believed and never given up in the struggle for equality. ...

Equality is a principle and it is a cause. More importantly for women, it is a mindset. The decision by Wimbledon is significant because it will positively impact that mindset in young girls and send the right message to all corners of sport and all of our society, that women and men merit equal treatment. ...
Equality, huh? What about the fact that the men play best of 5 set matches, while the women play best of 3? So the men's champ has the potential to play 35 sets over the "fortnight" while the women's champ could potentially play 21. Roger Federer, who won last year and dropped just a single set, played 1 more match than a women's champ could possibly play. (Last year's women's champ Amelie Mauresmo played 17 matches.) So much for "equal pay for equal work."

If I were a woman, I'd be embarrassed. This is groundbreaking for the equality of women? To be paid the same as men while working less? That's equality?

Talking heads on sports TV and radio have been looking back to a previous "win" in the fight for equality in tennis. On September 20, 1973, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs (6-4, 6-3, 6-3) in the "Battle of the Sexes." King had this to say about the match: "I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn't win that match. It would ruin the women's [tennis] tour and affect all women's self-esteem."

At the time, King had won 10 career Grand Slam singles titles, with 2 more to follow. Riggs, meanwhile, was the #1 ranked men's player ... in the 1940s. Earlier that year, on May 13, Riggs had defeated the top ranked women's player, Margaret Smith Court, 6-2, 6-1. Court won 3 Grand Slam singles titles in 1973, and 24 for her career.

I find it sad that King thought that "all women's self-esteem" would be affected by a tennis match between a nearly 30-year old woman and a 55-year old man. Actually, I'd find it sad if she would have thought that about an evenly paired match.

I'm sick of empty rhetoric of "equality." Who cares that Maresmo won "only" $1,117,000 for winning Wimbledon last year? (Compared to Federer's $1,170,000.) Is that really a major battleground for equality in our world? $53,000 for playing a sport? What a joke. Aren't there actual problems with equality out there? Or was Wimbledon the final frontier?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a woman who is currently living in England, I must say that I am finally feeling like I can be viewed as a viable member of society and the world after this important decision has been made. I was starting to wonder if women in the world, and particularly England, would ever receive any notice for our contributions to the world. FINALLY...we can contribute less and get the same pay on a world stage! That's what it's all about, ladies and gentlemen. Okay...really, it's completely ridiculous. But I'd better keep my real thoughts on this whole issue to myself. :-) ~J in the UK

Jeremy said...

What do you mean by, "if I were a woman"? I'm holding back here...