Men, Women, Wimbledon and Equality

Last week, Kevin Drum, had a post in which he argued that its long past time for men and women at Wimbledon to have equal prize money. His argument, which is one I imagine we all agree with, is that people should get equal pay for equal work.

I don’t often disagree with Kevin Drum. But I did on this. Since I read that post, I wrote and re-wrote a response to his post, but I haven’t been happy with how it sounds or the conclusion I keep reaching. But… its not improving any the more times I write, so here’s my last try.

The problem with Kevin Drum’s argument is that at Wimbledon, men and women do different work (the performance level is different – on average, men are better at tennis than women, and then there’s the minor detail that men play best five set matches whereas women play best of three set matches). Now, one might argue that its unfair to women to force them to compete with men given that men and women have bodies that are shaped differently. I understand that on average, men are stronger and have better hand to eye coordination.

But, some men are stronger than others, and some women have better hand to eye coordination than others. There is no separate category for men or women that are slightly weaker than the best exemplars of the gender, and if there was, it’s hard to see a demand that it provide the same prize money. (There are separate categories for age groups – but in general, the teenagers or elderly that win these categories are those that are the best exemplars of talent and physical condition in their age group, and if they want to win more (or any) prize money, they have to compete in the “open” division.) Additionally, if there are separate divisions by gender, why not by ethnic group? And yet, we look at the fact that black people were not allowed to play in Major League Baseball and were instead confined to the Negro Leagues as a shameful era in our history.

Also… why is it more fair to create a women’s division, but not a women that are not capable of running quite as quickly or hitting quite as hard as the top women category? And why is it fair to create a women’s category in sport, but not similar divisions in accounting, or physics, or economics for that matter?

Grumble… this still doesn’t come out quite as intended. I’m sorry if it sounds offensive – no offense was intended. Please keep any comments civil.