Today I was blocked on Twitter by a group promoting female sport, specifically football (@GirlsPlayFooty). I had followed their account when they first joined the platform, and helped to spread their message.
Ensuring more women (and men, for that matter) play sport is a social good. Physical activity improves health outcomes, boosts confidence, teaches teamwork and provides numerous other benefits, and if a competition can grow to the point where the athletes can earn a living by providing others with entertainment, then it’s a win for everybody.
However, following a few tweets of crimespeak I was blocked.
My crime was to suggest the pay disparity between male and female footballers may not be a sexist outrage and to urge caution and wait for the relevant data before declaring it as such. Our world is already too extreme, and filled with far too much misinformation and prejudice to allow for productive discourse.
Their specific complaint was that 200 female footballers are set to share in $1.5 million in their inaugural season in 2017, or ‘equivalent to the average pay of five male AFL players’, and that this outcome is ‘not okay’. Provided you make no attempt to understand the situation this obviously seems unfair: ‘whatever happened to equal pay for equal work?’
Setting aside the obvious inequities in performance and the sheer scale of competition that refute the very notion of their respective activities being in any way ‘equal’, the fatal flaw in this reasoning is to assume that sport qualifies as ‘work’. It doesn’t.
Work is a financial imperative. There would be nobody down a mine, repetitively assembling 10,000 examples of the exact same item, cleaning other people’s toilets or standing behind a counter for 8 hours a day were it not for financial necessity. In this respect, sport is the polar opposite of work; it is an entirely voluntary recreational activity that typically costs participants vast sums of money.
Remaining involved in sporting activities into adulthood often becomes prohibitively expensive, even though we all know we would benefit from participation. The opportunity to play for free is a bonus. To make a small sum is rare. To be able to earn a living wage and remove the burden of a ‘real’ job is great privilege. To build a career and earn seemingly obscene financial rewards compared to the average worker on the street is exactly as it seems; obscene, but that is a quirk of the economic system we employ. Sport only offers a facade of ‘work’ due to the economic case for these select few athletes at the pinnacle of a select few sports.
Furthermore, the sport itself is not an athlete’s ‘work’. The ‘work’ of an athlete, insomuch as you can called it that, is to attract attention. They are living, breathing billboards. Everything else is secondary. This is what allowed Anna Kournikova to become the highest paid female athlete in the world despite hardly winning a tennis match, or allows Danica Patrick to out earn most of her male counterparts despite only finishing in the top 10 on half a dozen occasions in almost 5 years of NASCAR.
Viewership creates financial potential in a sport which in turn allows some athletes to build a professional career, but without the eyes the player receives nothing, regardless of their professionalism, proficiency, or indeed, their gender. Financial returns are a simple equation. Some sports offer $100+ million contracts, others – at most levels and for most competitors – offer only fun, accompanied by a significant bill for membership fees, equipment, personal trainers and medical expenses. In short, complaining about sporting remuneration is like complaining about winning a small lottery jackpot, especially in the case of female football where the lottery is yet to be drawn.
Setting aside tangential business investments and focusing entirely on the product and directly resultant revenue streams, the men’s game generates 100% of the profits. Given the reported female salaries, the male athletes will be earning over 99% of the total player payments. Only time will tell if this admittedly wide disparity is a gross underestimation of the value of female football, or a generous gift whereby female athletes are subsidised for the sake of optics.
Due to the exponential returns regarding attendances and television audiences, a small downturn quickly transitions the largest sporting venture in the country to a financial black hole. Overheads mean that half-full stadiums or cut price tickets don’t simply reduce the profit, they render hosting the event a liability. Lower television ratings similarly reduce or remove the viability of the broadcaster’s product and subsequently remove the majority of the value from sponsors striking a double blow. It is very feasible that the inclusion of the women’s game will lose money for the AFL.
Hopefully this will not be the case, and there will be a strong economic argument to raise women’s wages once the data begins to emerge in the 2017 season. Unfortunately in our current social paradigm, merely suggesting that we wait for the required information before devolving into hysterics about discrimination is considered an egregious misogynistic insult. How can we ever hope to progress if this is the weight we give considered and informed assessments?
The greatest obstacle to equality in the modern world are the antics of feminists themselves. It becomes increasingly difficult to support their causes when they are so wilfully devoid of civility and rational thought, and it becomes exceedingly easy to dismiss everything they say as a paranoid delusion as detached from reality as this current brouhaha over the remuneration of what are essentially amateur athletes entering their first year of an experimental competition.
At this stage, the ‘reasonable feminist’ appears as mythical as a rainbow unicorn flying a pure phlogiston powered UFO to heaven, and back, to reunite you with your long-lost childhood pet. Once someone publicly declares themselves to be a feminist, or takes up feminist causes, they become pathologically opposed to objective thought on anything that can possibly be twisted to revolve around gender.
Are you a reasonable feminist? If you are, if you believe there are real issues that require a gender specific movement in order to be adequately addressed, then I suggest you speak up and hold accountable the ridiculous voices that infest the mainstream of your movement, or risk its death.
And if you want the women’s league to succeed, don’t complain, act! Play the sport, get a team membership, buy their apparel or other merchandise, watch the matches at the ground or on TV, and above all else, talk up the game. Defining the endeavour as a charity in need of free money before it has even begun only damages its credibility.
The establishment of this new league should be cause for celebration, as should be the culture that grants such an opportunity without first having to demonstrate economic viability. Instead, when presented with unearned rewards, the modern feminist’s reaction is to imagine sexism, manufacture outrage and issue yet greater demands.
Following the success of the women’s exhibition match, demands for equal pay have only increased. The important factor glossed over above was the scale of the competition. The full schedule is yet to be finalised but assuming the expected, the situation would unfold as follows:
Women’s league: 28 regular games and 3 finals, total of 31.
Men’s league: 198 regular games and 9 finals, total of 207.
The upshot of this, is that even if both sexes attain the same ratings and attendances, the female league will only generate 15% as much money as the AFL.
However, due to the smaller playing lists, that revenue would be shared between far fewer players (only 200 as opposed to almost 800), nearly quadrupling their take home sum. As a result, the women would earn almost 60% as much as their male counterparts per season, which for the gender ideologue would still be an outrage but it is an impressive sum considering it is only a small preseason competition that barely amounts to a third of a season.
And, when viewed on a match payment basis, this would equate to the women earning almost twice as much per game as the men!
And, somewhat surprisingly, this analysis leads us back to the male competition. Perhaps there is merit in a shorter season and smaller lists, which could address the unbalanced fixturing situation and the dearth of talent required to maintain an 18 team competition, respectively. Food for thought.