I was reading a news article today a comment on how Venus Williams has been a tireless campaigner for women in sport: It made me contemplate how equality in sport may actually be counter productive towards achieving gender equality overall.
“Venus has developed as the more steadfast of the two, emerging as a leader for all women on the tour with her advocacy for equality with men in a sport where a pay gap still exists despite tennis’ ground breaking equal pay efforts at the majors. ” to quote the article.
I have nothing against equal pay in sport, but i do believe it needs to be separated from other gender equality issues and considered as a special case.
Consider these two examples:
1) A woman supreme court justice
2) The no1 woman’s tennis player
The supreme court justice is selected because of her legal skills. Outright. Because there is no reason or observation that men are better than women at legal skills. If significantly more men are selected than women to be high court judges than at some level the system has a problem as the legal skills are equal for both genders.
But now consider the tennis players. Tennis skills are not actually equal for both genders. Sport is the main remaining area where the genders actually do NOT have equal capability. This does disturb me, and represents a problem, but it is still a fact. The no1 woman’s tennis player is not assumed to be the best player in the world, but the no1 men’s tennis player IS assumed to be the best player in the world. There should however be an equal chance that the best woman chief justice in the world would be a woman.
The original injustice was the failure to achieve equal pay for equal work. And by equal work it is implied ‘equal skill at that work’. It is normal and still respected that if you are less skilful at an occupation, then be less pay may be reasonable.
I see sport as a special case. In many, if not most sports, men are actually have an advantage that means men and women are not equal. Earning equal pay when not actually being equal is a completely different issue then earning equal pay and equal access to opportunities and employment when men and woman are equal.
Society has largely evolved from a society where fighting skills and manual labour determined many employment opportunities, to a society where almost every role can be equally undertaken by men and women. But not sport, so it is a different case.
The danger is that some can see the whole equality debate as being about women wanting equal pay and opportunities despite not being equal. But apart from sport, women are equal!