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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0 Replies to “Skirt Sports: Show Me The Money!”

  1. Shantnu Tiwari

    Tammy, you forgot to mention: The skirts must be at least ankle length. Also, the women must wear full sleeve shirts, buttoned to the top. And they must behave in a lady like fashion at all times. 😉

    1. K. Scott Lewis

      Let’s get back to the original olympics: all nude. Yeah, men too. Pretty people are fun to look at, and athletes have pretty bodies, the stuff which inspire marble sculptures.

      On a serious note, you raise good points. I’m also struck by your comment “it’s all about the money”. The question is, why then is no one watching women (hence, why the business need to gazify it and pay less, since viewers are the source of revenue). I don’t have any theories… just wondering. I’m not a sports fan, but I would imagine if I were, I can’t see gender mattering, just performance.

      1. Tammy Salyer Post author

        Hey Kyle,
        Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I don’t have the texts or research with me right now to back up the following theories, but I think female sports don’t have the same type of viewership for a variety of intersecting reasons. 1) Since Elizabethan times, women have been encouraged (sometimes forced) to remain frail, dainty, and dependent–think layers of skirts that were almost too heavy to walk in and corsets that were almost to tight to breathe in. These perspectives are still widely entrenched in our cultural values, making women’s sports seem “unwomanly” and distasteful to some. 2) Women are discouraged from being competitive because, again, of social values. Women are “trained” to be supportive, helpful, and, yes, nurturing. Thus, fewer women are comfortable watching sports that involve women competing because it seems “wrong.” Along that same vein, and I can’t verify this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of sports viewers in general are not women. Most social groups tend to gravitate towards other social groups that they can identify with, and men don’t identify as well with women. 3) Sexism and discrimination. You’d be surprised at the number of discussions and trolls that I’ve had to delete from this very post by men saying women just aren’t talented, skilled, athletic, and physically capable enough to be any good at any sport. That proves without a doubt to me that there is still a great deal of discrimination against women playing sports. Plain and simple.

  2. Pingback: How to Raise a Feminist, or as I like to call them, People | Tammy Salyer

  3. jeff

    i'll grant you all of your points, because they're spot on…for the layman.those of us involved in sport tend to be more in awe and appreciative of the female athlete. as cyclists, we're nuts over amber neben, kristin armstrong, emma pooley, et al. as runners, we're fanatics for paula radcliffe, deena kastor and catherine ndereba. triathletes constantly channel the strength and determination of chrissie wellington. and let us not forget where women dominate. ultrarunning. i am CONSTANTLY schooled by my female running partners, and it is through this sport that my true appreciation for women in sport stems from. i have never seen deeper wells of strength and motivation, nor the level of encouragement and camaraderie than from women out on the trails.the closer you are to the subject, the more clearly you can see truth. those of us in the know, know. unfortunately, those with the pen or the checkbook are often not in the know.

  4. Susan S

    Wow. Just…wow. Skirts for boxing??? I'm literally speechless.This is why, when I chose my college sports, I chose fencing and equestrian (dressage and hunt-seat over fences). Fencing separates males and females, but the rules and gear are the same. In equestrian events, women and men compete together. Granted, intersex competition doesn't make sense in sports where it's the human, not the horse, doing the jumping, but even so – it costs nothing to use the same rules for everyone.And I think those women should agree to wear skirts in the ring – the same day the men do.


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