Sporting rules

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?

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6 responses to “Sporting rules

  1. I had a discussion with a university peer about women’s sport one day. She said that men are just more entertaining to watch than women because they play sport ‘better’.

    I think this is a load of crap. Women’s sports are just as entertaining, we’ve just all been force-fed men’s sports for as long as we’ve been alive. I hope that women’s sports start to gain more prominence in mainstream media, so we can all see what we’ve been missing.

  2. Nothing surprises me about Pat Cash, he played South Africa during a self imposed ban by most Tennis players during their embargo days. And since that I have never had anything but disdain for him.

    Its a sad day when wimbeldon make a fuss aboout having to wear white to play because it about the tradition of tennis, and then go and do something as stupid as this.

    Surely people who love tennis go to see great players at Wimbledon.

  3. There are some deeply institutionalized barriers at work here, even on the basic level. Just a for instance… I’ve read articles about inequalities between men’s and women’s leagues in terms of funding, publicity, exposure and so on (in relation to American football in particular, which is the only sport I really follow), but few discussing the simple of issue of having leagues designated for men and women. The division only reinforces the historical, privileged position of men’s sports and often designates women’s as supplemental. Here in the US, anyway, we have “football” and “women’s football” (which most people don’t know exists) or “basketball” and “women’s basketball” and so on–the default is (as with most things) male.

    And even if we accept the idea that women’s leagues are good enough for now, there’s still a struggle to gain invested, dedicated fans. Part of this is under-exposure, part is sexism, but some is the natural struggle faced by anything new.

    Personally, a large part of what I love about watching American football is the sense I have of the history of my team and its fans; I know the players, the coaches, the old rivalries and such that give each game and person a place in an ongoing narrative, one I share with tens of thousands of other fans. Since women’s leagues are much newer, they don’t inherit loyalties like men’s leagues do (and have for generations). Although it isn’t a particularly gendered issue, the lack of history means that if we want to promote these leagues, it’s going to take more than work–it’ll take time to establish and pass on the kinds of narratives that make fans feel connected to their teams.

    That turned out to be much longer than I intended–I hope it makes sense!

  4. The inequality women experience in sport is obvious, although denied and ignored by many. Excuses like a lack of interest (read lack of interest = less crowds = less money) are always used. The actual ability of women in regards to sport is never fulfilled because there isn’t the infrastructure available to girls and women who are interested in continuing with their sport to a professional level. One example is the Auskick competition for kids in the AFL (Australian Football League). Girls can only play in the competition until a certain age. Boys can continue through to the elite AFL level. What does this say to girls about sport and their participation? What does this say about who should be playing sport?

    This example of girls and Auskick is only one example of how girls and women have been treated differently within the AFL and its culture. Other examples have been the cancellation of the women’s round, the lack of action on a number of allegations of rape by players and the whole event instigated by Sam Newman and his effigy of Caroline Wilson as a blow up doll. The subsequent way she is spoken to on a footy tv show by fellow commentators (one of who hosts the show Sam Newman appears on) is also appalling.

    I’m with Mal regarding Pat Cash. Nothing would surprise me either. I remember many many years ago, he blaimed a loss on ‘having his period.’

  5. Pingback: Understanding Anti-feminism

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