How do you explain the gender pay gap to your kids? That was Serena Williams’ question to Novak Djokovic after he said male tennis stars deserve more prize money than females because their games attract more viewers.
“I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic’s comments came after Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore’s sexist remarks landed him in hot water. Moore commented that women must go through “hormones and different stuff” and saying:
“If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”
Moore has since resigned.
Williams’ statement in response to Djokovic was powerful:
“If I have a daughter who plays tennis and also have a son that plays tennis, I wouldn’t say that my son deserves more because he is a man. If they both started at three years old I would say they both deserve the same amount of money.
“Novak is entitled to his opinion but if he has a daughter – I think he has a son right now – he should talk to her and tell her how his son deserves more money because he is a boy,” she said.
Djokovic has since responded on social media, claiming that the adrenaline and excitement after his win on Saturday had overwhelmed him when he’d made the comments.
“Tennis helped me so much in my life and being where I am today, I felt the need to speak about the fairer and better distribution of funds across the board – this was meant for both men and women,” he said.
“We all have to fight for what we deserve. This was never meant to be made into a fight between genders and differences in pay, but in the way all players are rewarded for their play and effort.”
As you may note, there was no actual retraction of his comment that men should be paid more than women.
The idea that women’s sport puts fewer bums on seats and should therefore be paid less is a weak and extremely outmoded way of thinking. Certainly, men’s sport attracts more viewers (and therefore more money). This is due to the singular reason that we are encouraged to perceive men’s endeavours as somehow more serious and legitimate than women’s. We are manipulated into thinking the success of men is more valuable than the success of women. But how are we judging success? By how much money is made from it, of course. I’ve no doubt that, in time, this way of thinking will eventually fade, and we can begin to look at the achievements of men and women as equal.
What do you think of Djokovic’s and Moore’s comments? Did you think Serena’s response was tough, or could she have made a stronger statement?