Friday, July 06, 2007

Fit women in short skirts

In the occasional break between rain delays, the tennis at Wimbledon plods to its million dollar conclusion. I'm not going to compare the general level of pay for top sports performers with that for soldiers or nurses, nor discuss the effect on society of such gross differentials. But this is the first year that Roger Federer (I'm going out on a limb here) is going to receive the same prize money as the winner of the competition that is restricted to ladies. Can that be right?

The usual justifications were about 3 sets versus 5 sets. Anyway the first few matches for the top female players often end 6-0 6-0 within 30 minutes. That doesn't happen in the men's game. Adding another set would achieve nothing in those circumstances. Sound reasoning, old arguments.

At a more basic level, isn't it still nonsense to insist that a competition restricted to ladies should have equal pay to a competition that is simply designed to find the best tennis player - regardless of age or race or gender?

There should be equal opportunity, in tennis as in virtually everything else. It's true that some women can beat some men. So if a woman wants to compete in an open tournament and wins, good luck to her!

But the ladies cry foul. Because on average the typical man is faster and stronger than the typical woman, then there must be a separate competition for them. So should we have a separate competition, offering equal prize money to the main one, for those who are born with an extra X chromosome? Or for those born with Down's Syndrome? Those are genetic differences too. But there aren't so many of them so it doesn't matter?

There are loads of Chinese and Indians though. So if the average one is at a disadvantage to the average white or black guy, does that mean that we should have a separate competition for those ethnic groups? Well isn't that broadly the same principle as giving their own tournament to those missing a Y chromosome?

If ladies want to have a separate competition, fine. If men want to watch them, fine. If they want to dress in revealing attire, fine. But if it's a separate competition, judge it on its own merits. Reward it on its own merits. Does it have the same value?

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