Female athletes: a swear word
I once had the most frank pre-interview conversation with one of the most celebrated and successful female athlete in South Africa. Looking back, I was probably not worthy of having that conversation with her. My younger self didn’t really know what to do with what was being divulged in the conversation. You see there I was with a full face of makeup getting ready for lights, camera and action and here was this amazing athlete telling me that she nearly didn’t make the interview because she didn’t have transport. That she barely makes enough money as a professional athlete to cover her living expenses, while her male counterparts were in more comfortable financial positions.
The thing is, she wasn’t complaining about it, she was just making a remark as if she had no expectations for anything other than what she was getting. I was of course was shocked but secretly glad it was not me (I was a lot more selfish then as well). Now in my 30’s I realize that women’s participation in sport is always taken as a kind charming, whimsical indulgence (and this is purely my observation). Which makes me wonder if the world doesn’t know what to do with women who possess the same talent and drive that their male counterparts have. We certainly can’t treat them as equals, why else are female athletes paid significantly less than males or why sponsors believe they won’t get their money’s worth?
Those that hold the purse-strings often advance the argument that women in sport get paid less than men because less people watch women’s sport, which means that it attracts fewer sponsors from revenue can be drawn to pay women. I disagree. Take football for example. Women’s football in the United States of America is almost certainly as popular as the male game, yet the women continue to earn less. In fact, so serious is the gender-based wage discrimination that the World-Cup winning American Women’s national football team filed a federal court application to go on strike about roughly six weeks ago in protest. The team is also threaten to boycott the Rio Olympics in August, if their demands are not met. And things are now different here in South Africa. One of the country’s richest clubs in Mamelodi Sundowns have experienced success across the gender divide with both the men’s and women’s first teams winning their respective leagues. Yet the women, who play in a country where women’s football remains largely amateur, continue to earn significantly less. Sundwons Ladies defender Alochia Thobokela says women’s football in SA needs more financial support:
And it seems that the Afropolitans, in the main, agree. In country where Bafana Bafana’s consistent failures to qualify for major continental and global competitions are glaring, Banyana (the women’s national football team) have by comparison, qualified for the Olympics and remained a forced to be reckoned with on the African continent. And so people ask like why for instance, Banyana can’t be paid as Bafana?
This is not even a Beyonce-women-rule-world-retort…This is about basic human rights, it’s about women’s rights to equal pay. If two people are doing the same job, then why is there such a massive discrepancy in the amount of money made by the two? Women it seems remain the largest group of disenfranchised people in the world of sport. I could spew out some numbers and research materials but the thing is, the gap is so large that there’s need to convince anyone that Aluta continua!