OxBlog

Friday, February 23, 2007

# Posted 8:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

BATTLE OF THE SEXES, CONT'D: Up until Matthew Syed's essay in this morning's Times, I'd always considered the awarding of equal prize money at Wimbledon a no-brainer; it may still be proper on balance, but only because broadly political considerations (ones to do with symbolism and gender parity of esteem) trump the disparities of viewership, advertisement revenue and depth of competition which Matthew points out in his clever rebuttal.
(15) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Additionally, men play best of five sets whereas women play only best of three. That might translate to longer broadcast time period and it also suggests that men are required to do more work in order to win a tournament.
 
Anon: EXACTLY. That is the real issue, not viewership or revenue generated, which can change at any time. If women want equal tournament pay they should be playing best of five sets just as men are required to do.

And that is coming from a girl who has been playing tennis all her life.
 
I disagree (and I, too, am a tennis-playing girl.) I think that the principle of equal pay for equal output across genders is a dangerous one. I think that female tennis players, while quite able to hold their own (i.e. provide an interesting show for spectators) in "best-of-five" sets should not necessarily need to, given the inherent differences in the female physique vis-a-vis male, accomplish equally in order to be paid equally. Call me nuts, but to me, that's a little bit like withholding the title "parent" to the father, because he did not put in the same effort as his, in this case, biologically "privileged" (dubiously) counterpart. I think that women should be granted equal pay for being great female athletes, and I argue that it is in the common interest that the best of them are recognized as the best, period. As for the revenues/viewership discrepancy, I think these are not necessarily unrelated to the wider gender disparity problem. If we were to rise to a level of awareness such that we recognized and valued (and yes, this includes, though is not limited to equal pay) the highest achieving women exactly as we do the highest achieving men, despite whatever advantage nature may have bestowed on one gender over the other, then I think it is quite likely that the esteem of the female side of the sport would increase. In any case, as things stand, one could argue what we really have is a situation where the male pro tennis players are given extra incentive, so would it be of any wonder if they outperformed women?
However, in the interest of fairness, as well as avoiding the creation of something like a perverse subsidy by giving women "the easy task", this solution of "equal pay for unequal output" presents further problems. Namely, how do we ensure that, to keep things simple, the effort expended by one gender most closely approximates that expended by the other? By effort, I refer to what is beyond natural advantage (i.e. on average greater muscle mass in males. To my knowledge, women tennis players could well play five sets. So how would it be decided, according to the principle presented above, if they should play three or four or two?
I defer to physicians on this one, but there has got to be a way of determining male-to-female ratio of the average gender-specific levels of effort (I hope that made sense), something involving vials of blood, sweat and tears. Perhaps the ratio of the no. of sets played by gender could be determined accordingly.
So, the bottom line is, should we ever have a chance to do so, let's ensure that the spoils are the same for male and female tennis players. Let's try to get them to expend similar levels of effort, regardless of the fact that one gender may on average continue to outperform another. However, in the end, the viewers will decide. Now back to my thesis.
 
Proponents of "equal pay for equal work" trade in the fallacy of inherent value. Economic goods are not valued by the effort expended to produce them. First, value is not something in the good itself, but rather a relation of a good to other goods a person can choose. The price of a good is not the value of a good. The price of a good is determined by the level of competition to acquire it, i.e. scarcity. Hence, a price is not the value of a good but a function of the relative scarcity of a good.

For whatever reason, there is more buyer competition for watching male tennis players, and this pushes up the price of advertising, etc.

Manipulating costs will inevitably cause a similar manipulation of prices. In particular, paying females the same as men will create even greater incentives to put money into male matches. It costs the same, but one gains more advertising revenue from male matches. Price and cost interventions almost always produce a contrary effect to the one intended. This one will too.
 
Men play better tennis. For longer. Shouldn't they get paid more?

Here's a solution: abolish/merge the separate gender leagues and tournaments. Men and women compete against each other.

Then we'd see how much of a subsidy the women are getting.
 
Let's say that men do play better, and they do play longer... So what? Their effort is subsidized by their natural advantages. And the problem with that is...
Nothing. Women really have no choice but to go along. Or work more for the same. It's not fair, that's my whole point, and it would be chivalrous if, in a civilized society, where men's tennis is more popular, more watched, more advertised on, more in demand, women were paid the same. It may never happen, but that would be our common loss. Perhaps not yours, but definitely your daughter's.
But you know something? These disparities come from somewhere other than genetics as well. Are we supposed to just ignore that when given a choice to do something about it?
 
True equality would not be "equal pay for equal work" but rather, "equal pay for equal production." The production for which professional athletes are compensated is the advertising revenue which results from people wanting to watch. Since advertising is booked prior to the tournament, it might be fair to set the prizes at a percentage of gross advertising. As others have said, it is unlikely that this would produce equality.

Johnny Cochran made a lot more money per case than the idiot woman who botched my divorce. It wasn't because he was a man.

Nick Kasoff
The Thug Report
 
Jeff,

"For whatever reason, there is more buyer competition for watching male tennis players, and this pushes up the price of advertising, etc."

By any chance, could one of those reasons be the greater spending power of males? If so, does this warrant a correction?
 
Anonymous, I don't think you can justify a claim that males have greater spending power. Can you?
 
Here's a book some might enjoy:
http://www.amazon.com/Why-Men-Earn-More-Startling/dp/0814472109

It makes some interesting arguments, or, rather, its reviewers do. Intriguing, but nothing that compelling as far as the women's tennis is concerned. I see no reason (after all, this falls under the "circus games", not "bread", category) why, for something like this, equal effort would not warrent equal pay.
 
Why restrict the equal pay argument to genders? Surely the junior players (and seniors if there's a circuit for them) play as hard as anybody. Shouldn't the winners of their tournaments be equally recognized?

And why presume that the winners - in this silly thread I feel I should qualify that as 'winners' - have put forth more effort than the people who finish dead last? If anything, those who finished not-first should get paid more, since they are denied the boost to their esteem that comes from winning.

Who's to say the people who qualified for the tournament put in more effort than those who didn't - shouldn't Wimbledon share its revenues equally among all tennis players everywhere?
 
Don't really have time for this, but...

"Why restrict the equal pay argument to genders? Surely the junior players (and seniors if there's a circuit for them) play as hard as anybody. Shouldn't the winners of their tournaments be equally recognized?"

No. Obviously there are reasonable limits, which probably have to be set arbitrarily, but to use the line between the genders does not seem at all the best approach. Par contre, I think there is a more reasonable argument in that juniors will get their turn, and seniors have had theirs.

"And why presume that the winners - in this silly thread I feel I should qualify that as 'winners' - have put forth more effort than the people who finish dead last? If anything, those who finished not-first should get paid more, since they are denied the boost to their esteem that comes from winning."

Effort is only one variable that contributes to success. It may be the only one we can control. Putting effort into something usually leads to a superior result, as opposed to not putting effort into it. If excellence is good, effort ought to be encouraged. Men and women are equally valuable and should be equally encouraged towards excellence. This pursuit of excellence is also why sharing revenues everywhere with everyone is not a good idea. I wish I could get into this more deeply, because I do sense confusion on some basic issues here.
 
Anonymous, as a matter of fact effort does not determine the price of a good. You are making normative claims without justifying them.
 
The line here is being arbitrarily drawn by gender. It is likely that the top women "celebrity" players draw more revenue in than the bottom-tier men in the tournament.
 
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