It's hard to believe, but women's tennis is at the forefront of social change. Martina Hingis, the Williams sisters and even Internet queen Anna Kournikova managed to do for tennis what no others ever could: they got equality and they got respect.
Two of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments now award men and women equal prize money. The U.S. Open and, more recently, the Australian Open made the switch. There's pressure on the French Open and even the almighty Wimbledon to follow suit as well. What's disturbing is the controversy it managed to create and it illustrates just how ridiculous some people can be.
Fans bring up three arguments against giving women equal pay. Some tennis fans are idiots, others are sexist, some may even be both. Can you guess which is which?
"They should never get paid the same 'cause any man in the top 100 can beat the top-ranked woman with ease."
This fan is an idiot. He seems sexist, but he's just a poor chump that doesn't understand economics. Just as many people watch women's games as watch men's. This leads to equal revenues from gate sales and TV advertising. It doesn't matter who's better. Prize money is connected to the business of sport, not pure athleticism.
"Men's games are five sets, women play only three. That's not equal pay for equal work."
Again an idiot, but quite a bit more sexist than the last.
Men's games are five sets but feature shorter rallies. With the combination of equipment and strength, the men's side of Wimbledon isn't really tennis these days. It's more of a let's-serve-the-ball-at-a-speed-that-could-kill-a-human-being competition. Men's games are usually won in a few quick hits, while women's rallies are longer and more exciting. Even though a men's game lasts a bit longer than a women's match, that's no reason to pay less. Marathon runners make less than 100m sprinters, but it's the quality of the product, not the length of play that's important.
"The same five women win all the tourneys. At least there's competition in men's games."
This is sexist, though a bit of idiocy is evident. It's called a rivalry. Williams vs. Hingis is a rivalry. Pete Sampras vs. Cedric Pioline is not. Why should great female players be punished for creating interesting story lines where their male counterparts fail? Rivalries in sport rarely get criticized when men are involved.
Tennis is a sport where women made a breakthrough. Equal pay status, especially in athletics, is difficult to achieve. It's also a sport that exposed society's ugly side--tennis fans are either sexist or stupid, and I don't know which is worse.