The men’s world number one and the organiser of the Indian Wells Masters have both had their say on prize money for women. And they’re wrong.
I suppose we ladies should be grateful for Novak Djokovic, really.
I mean, Raymond Moore had already pointed out that tennis’s “lady players” should “get down on their knees” in gratitude for the very existence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, whose presence on the planet has apparently been the only factor ensuring fair pay for women.
Now Djokovic, the men’s undisputed world number one, has weighed in with his thoughts on pay equality and women competing in professional sport, acknowledging that the ladyfolk have worked hard for fairness, but they shouldn’t really have worried their pretty little heads about it.
” Equal prize money was the main subject of the tennis world in the last seven, eight years. I have been through that process as well, so I understand how much power and energy WTA and all the advocates for equal prize money have invested in order to reach that. I applaud them for that. I honestly do. They fought for what they deserve, and they got it. On the other hand, I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more, because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches.”
So according to Djokovic, women fought for what they deserve – equal pay – but actually they don’t really deserve it because men deserve more. Just intrinsically.
And if that wasn’t enough, he also took some time out to explain the female body and endocrinal system to half of the world’s population.
” I have tremendous respect for what women in global sport are doing and achieving. It’s knowing what they have to go through with their bodies, and their bodies are much different than men’s bodies. They have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff, we don’t need to go into details. Ladies know what I’m talking about.”
Djokovic, with a clear grasp of human physiology, indicates here that men have no pesky imbalances troubling them; indeed, the placid and not-erratic-at-all behaviour of players on the men’s tour certainly indicates that they have no hormonal overloads of any kind.
And in the ever-present, all-powerful disclaimer against accusations of sexism, Djokovic then happily pointed out that he admires and respects women, and is even married to one.
” I have had a woman that was my coach, and that was a huge part of my tennis career. I’m surrounded with women. I’m very happy obviously to be married with one and to have a child.”
Nice going, Nole. Here’s a tip for next time. If you begin the answer to a question: “I don’t know what to say, I heard about it, obviously it’s a very delicate and sensitive subject to talk about,” maybe you should stop talking there. On no account should you ramble on, talking yourself into circles of casuistry.
Having thus empowered the male population of Twitter to begin explaining to women exactly how their bodies work, he stepped out of the debate, leaving it to two magnificent women to bring a sense of logic to things, focusing on Moore’s original statement and the subsequent fall-out.
First up was Billie Jean King, the ringleader of the original nine who fought so hard for women to be paid appropriately in professional tennis, and a consummate diplomat.
Then came Serena Williams, scorching the earth with a withering put down of the very idea that Moore’s ideas could have been taken out of context.
” If you read the transcript, you can only interpret it one way. I speak very good English. I’m sure he does too. You know, there’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man, which is not — we, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”
As for the hoary old debate around equal prize money, this is well-worn ground for both sides of the tour.
Indian Wells’s women’s champion this year was Victoria Azarenka, who was asked in her press conference about the double standard of women being criticised for “grunting” on court when men are not. Her answer is apt not just for that question but for so many issues relating to gender equality.
” I think it’s still a problem in the world. It’s not just in sport – it’s in business.”
The fact is that equal prize money is a statement of fairness. There are set amounts to be won according to achievement – not according to whom one beats, or how long one spends on court, or how exciting the match is adjudged to be, or how famous you are, or how many people are in the crowd.
This is the same for men and women. And Djokovic should actually be grateful of the fact: if excitement were the yardstick, then he’d have been paid a pittance for his impressive but crashingly dull demolition of Andy Murray in the Australian Open final, while Angelique Kerber and Serena would have split the lion’s share of the prize pot after their stupendously dramatic encounter in the women’s singles. Instead, everybody got the same.
Tennis is a proud leader in this kind of equality – acknowledging everyone’s contribution to the success of the game, reaping the rewards, and sharing the profits among participants equally.
This is noble – and it’s right. Turning the clock back 40 years and dwelling on some kind of golden age when women were expected to be grateful they were allowed to compete at all is no way to represent the world’s most gender-equal sport.
Source: Carrie Dunn @ Eurosport