Wimbledon Pays Up To Pay Equal!
As a former tennis player and tennis team captain (and more importantly, as a feminist), I was happy to learn that Wimbledon, the oldest and perhaps most prestigious event in the sport of tennis, has finally decided to award equal prize-money to men and women. Ending an unequal pay policy that dates back 123 years, this decision is certainly something to celebrate, though it seems like a no-brainer. It’s high time that male and female athletes get equal pay, right? One would think we’d all be on the same page, but the decision was met with mixed reactions.
There has been some grumbling that male tennis players deserve more prize money because they play the best of five sets while women only play the best of three. Frankly, it’s a little puzzling that this gender-based regulation difference still exists at all. It’s not as if the Williams sisters, Amelie Mauresmo, or any of the other power-house hitters lack the stamina to play longer matches. Let’s remember who won the famous “Battle of the Sexes” match in 1973 -- Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 after the 55-year-old former world-ranked No. 1 claimed he could easily beat the top female players of the day. King, who in 1967 was selected as "Outstanding Female Athlete of the World" and went on to become the first woman to be honored as the Sports Illustrated "Sportsperson of the Year," was active in the women’s liberation movement and, in 1971, was the first female athlete to win over $100,000 in prize money in a single season.
In her efforts to seek gender equality, King was preceded and joined by Gladys Heldman, a life-long women's advocate, activist, and tennis enthusiast who confronted the disparity in male/femlae prize money by organizing independent tennis events in competition with the U.S. Open.
The efforts of King and Heldman broke many barriers and helped give leverage to Wimbledon's new policy. Hopefully, their work will continue to inspire others to fight for equal pay in sports across the board!