I think you guys are right about golfers looking like everyone else. Two that I know of who actually keep up a physical regimen as part of their golfing are Tiger Woods and Gary Player. (I recently heard Player explain his daily routine. Admirable; and he's in his seventies, I think.) A lot of the others look as if they get up in the morning and perfect their swing, and that's it. Even their "athletic attire" looks like clothes any of us could wear. I don't know if the same feeling is typical of women weekend golfers, though. I mean, look at the first truly famous woman golfer--Babe Didrikson! She was one of the top five athletes of the first half of the twentieth century. So women's golf probably always looked like something for athletic stars.
Thanks for the correction about its not being a "game," Robeye. Apologies! I understand the scoring and structure of tennis and baseball but have never been exposed to golf. Even my golf viewing experience consists only of watching Katharine Hepburn, a sterling athlete, have at it in Pat and Mike, one of my favorite movies.
I started a comment on the athleticism of golf (no less an icon than Michael Jordan is on the record as saying that Tiger Wood's sporting achievements are greater than his own), but I soon realized that the topic was far too long for a post in a skating forum. Let me just say that, IMO, there are certain similarities and parallels between golf and figure skating, some more obvious than others, that should make the casting of stones at least problematic .
(I'm a movie nut myself. Do you remember the scene in "The Aviator" in which Kate Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Howard Hughes (Leonardo di Caprio) play golf? Scorsese's homage in passing ).
(It's unfortunate that BJK's pioneering efforts apparently have faded into obscurity. I hope that young female tennis players have not forgotten her commitment to making the sport better for all women.)
I know it's somewhat awkward to say, but the truth is, even in Billie Jean King's time, it had less to do with a bunch of male chauvinists who wanted to pay women less as a matter of evil principle, and more about the fact that the women's matches did not fill seats with butts as well as men's matches, and that also went for television ratings. This is, in fact, still true today in tennis.
In golf, it is even worse. The plain facts are that ratings for LPGA events are a pitiful fraction (a very small fraction) of that for PGA events.
The reality that no one wants to recognize in all of the ruckus that at times borders on self-righteousness is that women, as a consumer segment, simply have not shown the level of interest in sports that routinely marks the male segment, and therefore do not support female athletes by buying tickets and watching the events, and boosting Q ratings. The female demographic, if I were to hazard a guess, spends vastly more time, effort, and dollars in support of their favorite movie, television, and music stars, than they do on female athletes (present company excepted, of course).
The reality is that somewhere down the line, someone has to sell something, whether it be tickets or advertising slots or consumer products, in order for money to wind up in the athlete's pocket, Who wants to bet me that if one did an analysis of the contribution of athletes to commercial revenue generation, that one would find a fairly precise correspondence with their incomes, irrespective of gender?
A few generations ago, a very underage Shirley Temple was one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. Under current PC thinking, one would have guessed that she would have been shafted, seeing as how she was both a minor and a female. Not the case. All the moguls cared about was that her saccharine offerings were box-office hits. And as I mentioned in another thread, Oprah, a somewhat portly African-American female who would never be confused with Beyonce, has transcended performing and become a genuine billionaire media mogul in her own right.
Let's have the gumption to look the truth in the eye.
Robeye, I haven't seen The Aviator, though I think I have it in my collection. I'll look for it. A bit of movie trivia: Cate Blanchett is so far the only actor or actress to win an Oscar for portraying an Oscar-winning actor/actress. I wish they would release the TV movie When Billie Beat Bobby on DVD; I'd love to see it again. Billie Jean was played by the equally forceful Holly Hunter. Here's a clip:
As for your point about women as sports audience, I think there's some value to that, although for tennis I think there actually was money discrimination for a long time on the grounds that women weren't as deserving of a large purse as men. Remember that tennis tournaments are very old, going back about a hundred years, so that kind of sexism was just a fact of life. Maybe in those days women's matches were not as long as men's, because women were thought to lack the strength for it? I can't recall the details, but there was a definite difference of thinking about it. Keep in mind that until I think the 1980s, women weren't even allowed to run in distance races in the Olympics, because it was thought that more strenuous physical exercise was dangerous for them. I think the 800-meter race was the longest available for women? I'm not certain, but that number sticks in my mind. A lot of that changed all at once in the 1970s or so, and one event that was both a cause and an effect of this was the establishment of Title IX, that equalized sports facilities in educational institutions. (Ironically, it was signed by President Nixon, who actually had a great record when it came to matters of equality.)
With movies, there is a glamor factor (or in the case of Shirley Temple, the cutie-pie factor), which made it acceptable for females to be at the head of the line, so the situation isn't completely equivalent. That happened in figure skating as well, in the U.S. at least, because skating was looked on here as a frilly sport, with all those sequins. People were probably not aware that sparkling little Sonja Henie was an astute businesswoman as well as a tough athlete, the first to do many of the women's jumps. Ironically, the other sport in which she was nationally ranked in Norway was tennis.
And I wonder what the TV ratings for U.S. soccer have been -- meaning ratings for U.S. women compared to ratings for U.S. men.
Compared to U.S. men, surely more U.S. women have become household names: Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, ...
And during the women's heyday, their fans seemed to include as many men as women.
Until he lost.
Here is the prize money for 2013 Wimbledon.
The men's and women's champion get exactly the same money, 1.6 million pounds. The ladies caught up to the gentlemen in 2007, but this is the culmination of a long struggle in which, yes, Billie Jean King was at the forefront. There was a time just before 2007 when the prize money was almost equal but not quite, based on the argument that the men play five sets to the women's three, so if the prize money were equal, that would mean women would make a higher hourly salary than men.
By the way, for the first ninety years of the championship there was no prize money at all to the players. Professionals were allowed to compete only in 1968.
The "doing the right thing" argument was very much in the forefront of this movement, not just "butts in seats." But it also helped that there were a slew of woman players who were just as popular as the men -- popular with both male and female audiences. Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova , Steffi Graf, now we have Serena Williams -- these athletes were just as much in demand as the guys. (Well, maybe not quite as much as Roger Federer, but still.)
I am trying to think if there are any coed sports -- besides figure skating and gymnastics -- where the ladies rule the roost in terms of money-making potential. In the United States, I would say soccer. That is because, for whatever reason, U.S. men have never been able to field a competitive international team, while the ladies have been up there contending for world championships for some time. Mia Hamm was the most popular female athlete in the U.S. in her heyday.
Edited to add: Beach volleyball?
Last edited by Mathman; 08-19-2013 at 08:23 AM.
Going back to when Lindsey Vonn was happily married to Mr. Vonn:
Mind you, I have never been a fan of hers. And I have no idea whether she earns as much prize money as her male counterparts, or whether TV ratings go up because of her.
But for years, the media have given her lots and lots of attention -- more than they have given to America's male skiers, AFAIK.
(Again, she generated that level of interest long before her involvement with Tiger Woods.)
MM, I think you are right about beach volleyball.
I have never understood the appeal of the sport (esp. for television viewers), but that's another story.
Also have never understood why the American women have gotten more attention than the American men.
Maybe I was feeling a bit bored and feisty when I wrote my last post, but I didn't realize it would kick up such a hornet's nest . While I may have been less circumspect in my wording than I could have been, I do believe that my post was factually grounded. Allow me to explain (I will try to address points made by several posters, including Olympia, golden411, and Mathman, here, rather than separately, for the sake of flow and efficiency):
1) Earnings in Tennis.
Roger Federer has the highest aggregate career prize money, probably around $80 million or so. Serena Williams has won the most career prize money among women, in the neighborhood of $40 million, maybe $45. They are contemporaries. On the other hand, both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have had shorter careers than Serena, have significantly surpassed her in career prize money, with both near $60 million, is my rough guess. No other woman in history exceeds $30 million.
This is because, while prize money at the joint Grand Slam events have been equalized (for reasons that are not entirely economic, at least in the obvious sense), prize money at the more mundane tournaments still more closely hew to principles of economic value; that is to say, the prize money on the ATP (Men's) tour is significantly greater than for the WTA (Women's) tour, for the simple reason that, on average, the men's tour is more popular, in terms of attendance as well as ratings, which primarily determine how much prize money is available for distribution.
As far as I am aware, there is no sustained period in which this dynamic was not the case. People tend to focus on the Grand Slam championships, and assume that the monetary parity there is representative of the rest of the tennis calendar, that men and women earn equal prize money. I must disabuse the group here of that notion.
Off the court, certain women players can make up ground, with endorsements, etc. But by measures of popularity as sport, i.e. how many people watch, either in the stands or on TV (and which then determines the levels of prize money), men's and women's tennis are not on the same level.
2) Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, and the Battle of the Sexes
I first learned about this match in detail while reading a book, one of my favorite books ever, a book about professional gamblers. ("Fast Company", by Jon Bradshaw. I could not recommend anything more highly). Bobby Riggs was the subject of one of the chapters.
The vast majority, even sports fans, don't seem to realize just who and what Bobby Riggs was. Which is fitting, because he was underrated even during his prime. Riggs is one of the few men to have won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the French Open in his career. Back then, professionals were not allowed at the Major Championships. Once you turned pro, a player was barred from the Majors. Nevertheless, Riggs turned pro after winning his Major titles, earning good money barnstorming with the likes of Don Budge (who was like the Sonja Henie of men's tennis), where he proceeded to win the US Pro title over Budge three times. Bobby Riggs was, you may be surprised to learn, one of the greatest players of all time. He would quite possibly have won more Major titles had he not turned pro. [EDIT: Riggs only made the finals of the French, but did not win. He did, however, win 2 US Opens and 1 Wimbledon. Was also ranked world #1 for three years]
Riggs was a born hustler. He was a famous tennis gambler, betting on his matches, spending at least as much time on negotiating maximum odds. What is generally not known is that he then married rich, became a staid, increasingly pear-shaped exec, living, by his own admission, the proverbial life of quiet desperation for many years.
He returned to tennis with his famous matches against Court and King because he saw a golden opportunity to make a buck, but also because he craved the excitement and attention again. He was 55 years old. He looked like the neighborhood dentist. If you thought it was outrageous, then you had already fallen for his set-up of his "hustle". What he was not was a sexist. That was part of his shtick, his build-up, and I am convinced that he influenced modern hucksters such as the World Wrestling Federation.
A hustler's stock in trade is the ability to accurately and objectively size up the match-up. He was completely aware of the seemingly insurmountable difficulties he faced in challenging the top ladies players in their primes. If you want to know how he managed to beat Margaret Court, then considered by far the best female player in the world, read the book . After his defeat by Billie Jean King, he was very gracious.
3) The Glam Factor--Sports as Entertainment
From an economic point of view, there is little difference between sports and other forms of entertainment, in my view. I actually fail to see, from the viewpoint of the employer, what the "glam factor" of movies has to do with explaining the fact that actresses got paid, and sportswomen didn't. I am very firmly of the belief that they would not have cared if someone acted or sang or danced or skied or played tennis or golf, so long as it generated a satisfactory profit.
Where the glam factor might come into play, however, is from the perspective of the customers. I do think that female athletes (with a few exceptions) were not considered by the general public to be glamourous, exciting, or attractive, or role models, while entertainers were, and that this largely explains why female entertainers got paid, and female athletes, in general, did not.
And thus we return full circle to my original point: the sexism in sports which explains the gender gap in pay is not the blatant sexism of males in positions of power who want to withhold monies rightfully earned by female athletes.
No, in my view, it is the sexism of the audience pool, who choose not to view female athletics with the enthusiasm that it views male athletics. It is, in short, the sexism of the remote button.
Yet again, however, I come back to the hard truth; it is at least somewhat understandable that men would tend to watch other men playing sports (figure skating being an exception to the rule, as we have touched on in other threads). What, however, is the women's excuse for not supporting women's athletics in a way that makes many more of them (other than the lucky few such as tennis) truly viable? We have, supposedly, come a long way, baby. Surely the whole "glam factor" (or lack thereof) stigma does not still exist? Or does it?
Thanks for all the info, Robeye! I didn't realize all that about Riggs, except that he definitely was a hustler and enjoyed it immensely. I don't think you stirred up a hornet's nest in your earlier comments; I think you opened up an interesting topic of discussion. Always room for more of that!
Your point about the perceptions of the audience pool being a factor in women's acceptance in sports is valid. In a similar vein, I've heard it said (to my sorrow) that one reason older actresses don't get parts in movies is that women in the audience don't want to identify with them. (Thank goodness for Susan Sarandon and Meryl Streep!) I imagine that's not entirely false. There is also sexism in the producers' offices, though, so no one's getting off the hook with that. And there's the fact that most movies these days are geared to boys and young men, so that has to be mentioned as well. It's not just the remote button.
I wonder how the situation in the U.S. compares to that in other countries, where other sports are more popular. What's it like in a country like Austria during the ski season? What's televised, and what's watched? Of course, skiing is co-ed, so I guess both genders are shown pretty much equally during a competition, but I'd be curious to know.
If we think of team sports as war substitutes and individual sports as gladiatorial combat, it is easy to see why it’s a man thing. Furthermore, little boys are taught from childhood that it is very important to run faster than someone else, or to throw a ball farther, while traditional females roles are cooperative and nurturing.
As for tennis, I think one of the reasons that the ladies are doing so well (Serena makes half as much as Federer! – I bet the athletes of the Women’s NBA wish they made half as much as their male counterparts) is that up until very recently the women’s game was actually more interesting, featuring longer rallies and more strategy than the men’s power game.
I am afraid that in the CoP era figure skating is headed in the unisex direction, where ladies’ skating is just men’s skating only the ladies aren’t as good.