danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
[personal profile] danieldwilliam
Something cropped up on the radio this morning that I've been mulling over to no great effect today.

The organiser of the Indian Wells tennis tournament suggested that women's tennis was economically dependent on the draw of men's tennis. He chose to couch this view in some inflamatory language. Serena Williams suggested that this was not the case. Robustly. Novak Djokovic in a nuanced response said that he thought prize money should correspond with the financial draw of the event and the competitors.

Which got me thinking about equality and what it means and how it's measured and how it's enforced.

As a general principle I think men and women should be paid the same for doing the same work. They should be paid the same for doing equivalent work. We should systematically lower barriers that restrict people taking on work or which segregates employment by sex or gender as much as possible. A male surgeon and a female surgeon should earn (on average) the same. Office cleaners (mostly female) should earn about the same as bin collectors (mostly male). The access of women to senior positions in the professions should be facillitated and the access of men to work in nursing or primary school teaching or at home with dependent children likewise. Senior bosses are over paid. Nurses and primary school teachers under paid. Some of this is to do with the gender doing the work.

If there are significant gaps in pay between sexes and genders doing the same work that's not right and the existing legal remedies should be deployed. With vigour. I'm open to the argument that the existing legal remedies are insuffient and should be enhanced. I'm not entirely persuaded that new remedies are required rather than more vigorous use of the current remedies but there's a discussion to be had.

Where things get a bit murkier for me is exactly the situation of sports players or entertainers where the volumes of participants are so low that an element of delectus personae - choice of the person - exists. If people would rather watch Novak Djokavic play tennis against Andy Murray than watch Serena Williams play Venus Williams then, on first examination, isn't that their decision and shouldn't Djokavic be free to reap the reward of his personal draw and fandom through higher income?

Ditto a comparison of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's earnings.

But then, as a society and as individuals do we value tennis played by men more because it, being played by men, is *proper* tennis. And tennis played by women is, by virtue of being played by women, not proper tennis but a lesser immitation. It is certainly the case that in sports played by men and by women, the women's game is seen as less worthy and less popular. In sports played primarily by women professional wages are low.

There's clearly (to me at least) something structural going on about how we value women and the work or sport they do.

But it's not entirely clear to me how we say to Djokavic - it's all well and good that people paid a £9 million to watch you play tennis and only paid £1 million to watch Williams play tennis but we're going to pay you both £5 million. (Assuming that it is the case that more people will pay more money to watch Djokavic than Williams.)

It's certainly not clear to me how we would enforce such a decision and require a transfer of money from the Djokavic to Williams in any legal system that respects the rights of the individual to make contracts to their own benefit of their own free will.

So, I'm a bit puzzled.

Date: 2016-03-21 07:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmaning.livejournal.com
Yes. This is a difficult one.

In tennis it is also further complicated by the games in some competitions being different - women's games can be the best of three set whilst men's are the best of five sets, so it can be argued that male and female players don't do the same work.

Date: 2016-03-22 06:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com

It's not just the prize money but sponsorship, endorsements, advertising and branding.


I wonder if female tennis players work as hard at that or are as valuable to brands.


Anna Kournakova is a case in point.

Date: 2016-03-22 07:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmaning.livejournal.com
My guess is that for third party payments - advertising, sponsorship and branding - the market plays a much bigger role. If the champion was an arsehole, they wouldn't get much sponsorship whatever their prowess in the sport.

But what of ticket prices? Is an audience willing to pay more to watch men than women? And how much of that is down to society's inherent sexism rather than the audience's appreciation of the game?

Date: 2016-03-22 09:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com

Aye - for third party payments for advertising etc I'd expect the market to play a greater role but that this will also be moderated by inherent sexism.

I think the ticket money is exactly the point that Djokavic is making - that people go to watch men play sport and pay more to do so than for women in the same sport - so individual men should keep more of the value that they create.

And again - inherent sexism plays a role - probably and I'm not sure how best that might be influenced without unfairly restricting the rights of workers to strike the best bargain they can for their labour.

Date: 2016-03-21 10:29 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Illuminati)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Sports is an interesting topic here - because it's gender separated in the first place, and only the top tier gets paid that well.

So the question is, if tennis was entirely mixed, would any of the women players being earning as much as they currently are? If not, then there's already a system which equalises the cash, at least somewhat.

Date: 2016-03-22 06:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com

There's a question about why sport is segregated.

Date: 2016-03-22 07:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmaning.livejournal.com
I know this is verging off topic, but it would be interesting to consider in which sports one or other gender may be an advantage, and which not.

In several sports, male bulk may be advantageous - rugby and tennis perhaps - and others not. Women might have an advantage in equestrian events, possibly football.

This has got me thinking. But I don't think I know which about moody sports!

Date: 2016-03-22 09:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com

I don't know which sports would favour men and which women. I'd expect men to have an advantage where bulk or strength were a significant factor and women where bulk in particular was a disadvantage but I think there are a lot of howevers.

First, there are several ways to play a sport. My observation of women's soccer comparted to men's was that the women's game turned more on high quality passing and moving in to space compared to a more tusselly men's game. The Japanese rugby team do okay with a strategy which emphasises speed and manouverability over bulk.

Second, there's a question about whether it is culturally appropriate for women to build their bodies in ways that would suit them better to different sports.

Third, I wonder if the fact that sports have a limited number of players on the field at anyone time helps to equalise the on-the-field performance. Whilst the top 1,000 gynmanists might split 70:30 female to male is it necessarily the case that the top 20 also skew.

Fourth, there are questions of things like mechanics advantage which I think might crop up with unexpected implications for the relative performance of men and women. Slightly longer arms might make all the difference when playing cricket or a different centre of gravity in sailing.


Advantage here is interesting. With the current rules and norms I'd expect the best men's soccer teams at any particular class to beat the best women's soccer teams at the same class for the next decade or two. However, I personally enjoyed the style of football I saw at the women's world cup more than I enjoy most men's games. So perhaps I'd be prepared to pay more money to watch it.

I'd certainly like to see more mixed sports.

I particularly wonder if women's soccer might get subsumed into the men's game to become the person game as the best women players become good enough to hold down a place in the main first elevens whislt being considerably cheaper to employ for the first ten years.

Date: 2016-03-22 09:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmaning.livejournal.com
I agree with all this.

It might also be that in team sports, certain positions might better favour one gender over another.

I have been impressed by the women's football I've seen, too - they rely on skill rather than force.

Date: 2016-03-22 12:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
High testosterone levels enhance both speed and strength. So weight lifting and sprinting are areas where the best women in the world are unlikely to ever be as good as the best men in the world. Women have an (small) advantage in endurance, which eventually cancels out the speed advantages in very long distance running events. Women are also on-average lighter (which is an advantage for things like horse-racing, and ski-jumping) (weirdly the horse-racing world is not keen on female jockies)

In most sports though there are multiple ways to play well, and players naturally seek to take advantage of the skills they have.

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