This morning the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the All England Tennis Club has made its decisions on the Centre Court schedule at Wimbledon, influenced by the looks of the female players.
According to the SMH:
A spokesman from the All England Club, Johnny Perkins, was quoted in the Daily Mail newspaper in London: “Good looks are a factor. ‘It’s not a coincidence that those [on Centre Court] are attractive.”
Female competitors who are better known for their strength and ability than their feminine wiles – Serena Williams for example – have been relegated to lesser courts while pretty unseeded players get to play early matches on the world famous Centre Court which can hold greater crowds, all of whom pay more for a centre court ticket.
Former Wimbledon competitor and oft-TV commentator Australian Pat Cash has joined the discussion in typically chauvenistic style saying that sexiness is basically all the women’s game has going for it. Nice.
This latest demonstration of sexism from the All England Tennis Club doesn’t actually surprise me in the slightest. It wasn’t until 2007 that female players competed for the same prize money as their male counterparts. In 2006 men played for £30,000 more than the women, in 2004 it was $42,000 more.
In 1973, Billie Jean King founded the Women’s Tennis Association aiming for equality for women on the professional tennis circuit. It seems that that very same year the US Open offered equal prize money to both male and female winners.
In 1984, the Australian Open began offering equal prize money – although for some reason this equality was paused between 1996 and 2000.
Roland Garros and Wimbledon both waited until 2007 to equally reward women. 34 years after the US event organisers.
Women who think that the Battle of Feminism was fought and won by our mothers in the 60s when the contraceptive pill became widely available (in a couple of countries) miss the point entirely. If a woman goes through her life without encountering discrimination on the basis of her sex she is the exception, and more than likely she just isn’t noticing it.
I would be interested to know your thoughts on which are the main battles left to fight for women’s equality in sport. Are there other tournaments where men are rewarded more than women? Does anyone know the average value of sportsmen’s sponsorship deals compared to sportswomen’s? And can anyone shed any light on why – at least in the UK and Australia – male sports are considered more mainstream for spectators? While women’s netball is at least televised in Australia, and I believe soccer is seen as a worthwhile women’s sport in the US, do any countries regularly screen women’s rugby, hockey or anything else on mainstream channels?