Skirt Sports: Show Me The Money!

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I have wrestled and strained; tossed and tussled; agonized and grappled; even done the unthinkableasked others what they thoughtabout how to approach the subject I’m about to cover.

That’s right, gentle reader, I’m about to get all feminist and political and antagonistic and argumentative and…well, none of those actually. Okay, not much. I AM pissed, but I’ve opted for keeping it civil and brief-ish. What has me all riled up this time? It’s the damn world of sports and how much inequity there is in when it comes to girls vs boys and women athletes getting paid for being awesome.

Did you know that not one, but two time female world cycling champion, Giorgia Bronzini, was only paid 3’833  euros for her championship title last year? And that the Manx Missile (also voted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year out of a list that included a total of ZERO women finalists), was paid 7’667 euros, twice as much? [Source: Page thirty-four of the UCI 2011 Competition Guide.] And let’s be clear; he’s won the title only once. A heinously obvious case of pay inequality in the sport of professional cycling.

Let me go back to the SPOTY issue for a moment. Naturally, there was loud outcry among women who know a thing or two about sports (despite the stereotype that women don’t know a football from a tennis racket) at the complete lack of acknowledgment of women’s inclusion in the 2011 list of finalists. It’s as if the panel of judges for this award are going out of their way to turn a blind eye to women’s contributions to sports. Is this because women are less masterful at their chosen sport? Do women just have less “personality” than men?

Photo Credit: Adrian Valenzuela

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment and take a look at one woman-based sport, say, Roller Derby. I mean, of all the sports women play, doesn’t Roller Derby exemplify everything that is bland and boring about women athletes? Doesn’t it? Er, right. No one with eyesight and half a brain could claim Roller Derby as a sport and the players who do it lack personality. Pffft. Come on SPOTY judges, you really have no excuse for this kind of discrimination. (Especially in a year that saw the first ever Derby World Cup.)

And then, of course, there was the issue of the International Amateur Boxing Association wanting to require women boxers to don more appropriate attire for the sport.

Like skirts.

Yes. Skirts.

And you thought boxing was about agility, strength, and strategy. Silly boxing fans.

All right, so I’m holding back from a grossly expulsive rant here, but I just hafta ask: WTF is it with the sports world? Are women such a threat to the traditionally male realm of physical athleticism that some loosely organized and nefarious consortium of Male Privilege Saviors are doing everything in their power to just make women go away by perpetuating low pay and sponsorships, outright dismissal, and ridiculous rules about attire? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there an entire culture of voyeurism based solely on turning the female body into an object of the male gaze? What could be better than super-fit chicks in spandex?

I don’t have the time or stable enough blood pressure to look for similar disparities in other sports, but no doubt they are there. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light uses the ambitions and talents of women athletes as fuel. Just take a look at Rebecca Rusch and all she has achieved, not least of which is the SRAM Gold Rusch tour. And a hearty cheer of respect to SRAM for sponsoring it.

As sports fans, it’s up to us to look at the reasons why we watch our sport of choice, and make a conscious decision to put as much energy into and pay as much attention to women’s teams as men’s. In a perfect world, an athlete would be appreciated for their athleticism, and sports organizations would pay athletes based on their performance, not their gender. But because, like politics, it’s all about money, if there’s no one watching women, then there’s no attention to and thus no profit for the big companies that sponsor athletes, events, and prizes.

Regardless, women athletes will continue using their bodies as playgrounds for the sports they love. Bullshit pay disparities and active disdain from sports organizations are no match for full-on guts, glory, and pain, and women eat that shit like Clif Bars.

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All content copyright unless otherwise specified © 2008-2013 by Tammy Salyer, writer. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided proper attribution is given.