After two weeks of strawberries and cream and British summer sunshine, the famous Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament is over for another year. The winners of the gentlemans’ and ladies’ singles draws walked away with a cool £1.6 million each for their sensational efforts over their seven matches.
While the gentlemans’ singles winner, Britain’s Andy Murray, toiled for over 3 hours to claim his pay cheque, the winner of the ladies’ singles, Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, claimed her winnings after a mere one hour and 21 minutes. For those less mathematically minded, Bartoli played for less than half the time that Murray did, yet walked away with the same amount of money. And if you were to count up the total amount of time that she was on court for the whole tournament, it would be far less than Murray’s total, since the men play the best of five sets, while the women only play the best of three.
Although I am a feminist and a strident advocate of gender equality, this hardly seems fair. PerfectlyRandom has written before about the gender pay gap and how there is a disparity between men and women’s salaries for similar roles. I believe that men and women should be paid the same wage for the same role, but I also believe that to be entitled to the same wage, men and women have to be doing the same level of work. Waitstaff at a restaurant that have similar levels of experience should be paid the same rate, regardless of whether they are men or women. The same goes for nurses of similar experience, whether they be male or female.
If you are the same level as colleague and you work twice the hours as they do, you would expect to be paid more than they were, right?
There should be no physical reasons for women to only play the best of three sets, instead of five. Women have been running marathons at the elite level for many years so can develop a high level of fitness, and many of the women on the professional tennis circuit are supremely fit and could play five sets. If they’re not, then they need to hit the gym.
This debate has been around for quite a while, and if we are to read the opinions of some others out there, one is led to believe that the reason why the men play five sets instead of three is because it is entertaining and drives higher ticket sales. This actually implies that womens’ tennis cannot be equally entertaining, which may or may not be true. What is true, I think, is that women don’t have the same opportunity to showcase their courage, guts, and perseverance to battle out their opponents over a memorable and epic five set match that the men do.
It’s admirable that the organizers of the grand slam tennis tournaments have chosen to pay the same prize money to both the mens’ and ladies’ winners to recognise the importance of equality, however this is just good PR. In my opinion, the gesture is superficial and slightly insulting when the men must play more sets to win their matches than the women. To deserve the same winnings as the men, the women should play the same number of sets as the men, and if they don’t think they’re up to it, then they should get paid less.