That women’s sport generally offers less money to those partaking is true. That women’s sport generally has fewer people watching it, fewer people willing to pay for it, is also true. Quite why these are so is an interesting question.
One logical answer would be that we’re a sexually dimorphic species, that we differ in certain manners dependent upon our gonadal arrangements. Earlier generations would not find this problematic to believe in. We can even today make a reasonable case that men are into team sports because that’s one of the things that males do. Think to hunter gatherer bands, who the hunters are going to be. Those males who need to work in a team.
Sure, too many of the evolutionary psychology stores are Just So ones but there’s still a good deal of explanatory truth in the others. Similarly, there’s a certain similarity between the men fighting for the clan – as a necessary team – and team sports. Just watch any New Zealand game in anything. Or in fact most Polynesian teams before the kick off.
Blokes do sport, are more interested in team sport perhaps, because that’s part of what being a bloke is. Being part of the group and being willing to take one for the team. Not as a matter of cultural conditioning but because we’re descended from those who did this.
We can also go off into barking mad territory for our explanation:
I have written about equal pay quite a bit, but I am beginning to think that my argument, while rooted in a desire for equality, was misguided. The issue isn’t equal pay. The issue is marketing and promotion. There is systematic sexism in sports that leads to unequal pay, which starts with how women are marketed by their own leagues. Let’s look at the WNBA, whose marketing budget makes it difficult to build a fanbase – and therefore revenue – to support its athletes.
As Washington Mystics player Elena Delle Donne said last year: “We absolutely do not get promoted as our male counterparts do. Yes, I’m talking about the NBA. When you put millions of dollars into marketing athletes and allowing fans to get to know a player they develop a connection with someone or something you are more engaged and continue to want to see/learn more. How is anyone going to get to know me or any of my colleagues if we aren’t marketed as much?” The root of the problem isn’t what women are getting paid: it is the lack of foundation that they have to build from to capitalize on their talent. When we make equal pay the central part of the conversation, we miss all the smaller things that enable a system that hurts women’s advancement in sports and their opportunity to generate equal revenue, and in return warrant equal pay. And when the marketing isn’t there, it gives ammo to the usual critics who say: “See? They don’t generate enough interest.”
Hmm, who is this argument coming from?
Anya Alvarez is a former professional on the LPGA, based in Washington DC. She now writes on gender and politics in sports
Actually, she came third in the NZ event in the Oz ladies’ tour. I think we’ll all agree that that’s entirely enough to be able to understand the inner workings of capitalism and the machinations of the patriarchy in keeping women in their place.
For note what the argument is. That the reason women’s sport doesn’t do better is because the capitalists don’t spend enough on the marketing. Which is to make that standard lefty mistake, to think that everything is indeed about marketing and advertising. Which, as New Coke shows us, ain’t so.
Ad campaigns might put lipstick on a pig but they won’t sell a pig in a poke. On the more normal lefty side we get told that all this consumerism etc is only driven by the manner in which we’re advertised to. If that were true nothing that wasn’t heavily advertised would ever sell and anything which was would. Yet anyone with experience of the actual business world knows that simply isn’t true in the slightest. Sure, things generally do better if people are informed about them, thus advertising. And there are things which seem to be priced only to pay the bills for the advertising which get people to buy them – perfume say.
But it simply ain’t true that everything which has an ad campaign behind it sells. Ford Edsel anyone?
Thus if it’s not true that advertising always makes something a success then that leaves room for the argument that the absence of advertising isn’t the cause of something’s failure. Maybe there’s some objective reason why people don’t buy it? Women’s basketball, say, might be less athletic and thus interesting to watch than men’s. Hating all forms of basketball as I do I’ve no idea whether that’s true. But it might be. It’s certainly true of women’s rugby or soccer. The average women’s international team in either of those latter two could be – and when demonstrated is – taken apart by the average Colts team of a professional men’s club.
Actually, given physiques, we’d not let a male team take on a female in a full pelt and full contact game of rugby.
And don’t forget, both Venus and Serena lost to the bloke ranked 200th or worse in the world at that time. Someone only just clinging on to the idea of even being a professional.
The idea that women’s sport isn’t bigger just because the capitalists – the patriarchy! – don’t spend enough money on marketing it is ignorant feminism. Because that’s just not the way that marketing and advertising work. They can aid in boosting a product that people actually want but they can’t sell what isn’t desired. And, you know, maybe the general public just isn’t desirous of women’s sport? Not desirous enough to pay for it that is?