For some time now we on the Rust have been reviewing the status and quality of women’s sport – something we shall continue to do – in the context of both the 21st Century’s obsession with political correctness (and its supplementary accessories, not least equality of opportunity, equal pay, diversity and positive action including equivalent media coverage) and the harsh realities of real life represented by match/event crowd attendances, television audience ratings and the commercial/sponsorship revenues generated by popular success and profile.
Inevitably there exist some disconnects between things as they are and things as some would wish them to be.
One of them is the thrust in some quarters that if the men’s version of a sport attracts a zillion dollars in turnover and say thirty hours per week of prime time sports television output, ergo the women’s equivalent is somehow automatically entitled to similar, or ought to be.
Whilst in theory – amidst the modern all-pervasive political correctness imperative – this might seem not only a good idea but an achievable goal at which to aim, it flies in the face of both commercial reality and the proverbial ‘laws of the jungle’ and natural selection that rule life as it is lived by every species upon the Earth.
To suggest otherwise is the route to a weird and unhealthy kind of madness.
Say the world of women’s fashion generates my previously-stated zillion dollars’ worth of turnover.
So, to satisfy the politically-correct lobby and achieve true equality you’d have to divided that sum between those working in women’s fashion who are women, transgender, LGBT, men, BAME, every grade of Paralympic disability (or indeed any combination of the above) and distribute the same equally to each of them.
In other words, the likes of individual creativity, genius or brilliance; technical skills; networking abilities; personal likeability; the vagaries of random opportunity (and the taking thereof, or not); personal ambition or drive … plus any degree to which any individual’s designs ever turned out to be “the flavour of the season”, or created a new trend, or even became the biggest commercial sensation in terms of profitability since the invention of the mini-skirt … would all have to be ignored.
That’s how the theory of the current campaign to get women’s sport ranked equally alongside men’s would work out in the fashion industry if it was taken to its logical conclusion.
My second point today on the subject is to mention the variety of ways in which different women’s sports have historically steered their progress into the modern world.
With Wimbledon currently in its second week, it would seem appropriate to begin with tennis.
There are separate women’s and men’s professional tours but from the outset, it sees to me, those working within the women’s game recognised that it was distinct from the men’s and cleverly took the route of allying the women’s version to the men’s for the Grand Slam events.
And so we have reached where we are.
Although the premium men’s matches are statically more popular than the women’s (ticket applications and black market prices testify as much) the women’s game is so embedded within Grand Slam tournaments that the public both accept and enjoy the variety of spectacle presented on any given day, including the mixed doubles event.
There are a number of sports – I shall not list them here, beyond giving the example of equestrianism as a starting point – in which men and women compete side by side.
Arguably, where strength and size are theoretically irrelevant, this should always be the case. I cannot personally see why e.g. diving, snooker, darts, chess and shooting [are some of these games rather than sports?] should ever be divided into different ‘sports’ between the sexes.
See here for an interview with Susie Wolff suggesting that in motor sport women should compete with men – DAILY TELEGRAPH
Overnight one of the first pieces in the UK media that caught my eye was one that seemed horrendous – “AUSTRALIA THRASH ENGLAND BY 194 RUNS IN THIRD ODI” … what possible catastrophe could had befallen England in the cricket World Cup? … that is, until I went – see here – to this piece that featured on the website of – THE INDEPENDENT
… and realised that it was only the England women’s cricket team that had succumbed to a score of 75 all out.
Hasn’t the UK media – and the world – somehow got its sporting priorities wrong?
Treating women’s sport as on a par with men’s is going to take a great deal of getting used to.
Unless, of course, perhaps until the days all distinctions between women’s and men’s sports are abolished and it is simply a case of “the best playing the best” irrespective of gender, sexuality, diversity and any other consideration …
We shall continue to cover this topic whenever it becomes relevant.