Friday, 4 June 2010

What's wrong with equality anyway?

Last night, a trio of old cycling men was overheard disparaging the call for equality in prizemoney for women. The logic that was used goes something like this:
Anyway, men are discriminated against because women in tennis get paid the same as men to play less games so they are paid more then men so that proves it so there anyway it's all just political correctness gone mad

It’s been paraphrased, but reportedly not far from being verbatim, and captures the spirit of the discussion.

Equality in prizemoney has come up rather a few times in my life lately, the most recent being from a male friend who read my blog last week and said: “This business about equality for women; it’ll never happen you know “ , or words to that effect. Hmmm not sure I actually used the word “equality”. I think it was “equity” and the two are different. As is parity, which is what I am lobbying for. Because, frankly, as my male friend illustrated, as did the three muscateers last night, equality is too hard, too tough a concept for these guys to get their brains around, let alone chew over and reason out. I’ll leave the question of why, for the same reason.

Equity and parity in respect, which includes prizemoney (or recompense for racing, and doing well, as some put it) is more palatable. It doesn’t mean equality. Equality is not a battle female cyclists are going to win upfront. That requires numbers, and money, neither of which are forthcoming in women’s racing. Yet.

Before I go further, so some people don’t have to refer to their local Professor of  Linguistics for  meaning and etymologies (I prefer a dictionary myself), here are some to clarify what I am talking about:

Equity: the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness;

Parity: 1. equality, as in amount, status, or character.
2.equivalence; correspondence; similarity; analogy.

Interestingly parity also refers to pregnancy, and the pregnant woman herself, so in many ways a very relevant term to use here.

So what I am seeking, as an agitator, squeaky wheel and lobbyist, is equity and parity in women’s racing, in terms of quality of event, numbers of events, and in recompense for successfully racing (ie winning). In other words, fairness and equivalence in those.

The equality argument is always always countered with

1. Women don’t race like men. A: no, because they are not men. It doesn’t mean women’s racing is less deserving though;
2.  There are less women racing, so therefore women should have a lesser share of any total prizemoney. Now this one is a hard one to counter. Promoters do have limited financial resources, which includes funding for prizemoney. As a promoter myself, I understand this, and understand the need to support those individual races that carry prestige, from history, myth and legend, cultural standing, and.. prizemoney (funny about that one!). Mostly those races are men’s races, because racing is a male-dominated sport, historically. There is baggage there that can’t be countered, although it can be moderated now.

The second argument has some kind of logic in its legs, which is why the equity and parity case will be a stronger platform from which to push the big rock up the even bigger and steeper hill.

So let’s go for on par with, and fairness, based on facts, numbers and real percentages that are meaningful and add value for people racing. It will take support from promoters and organisers, sponsors, sports administrators. It’s about an attitude shift and a cultural shift (always hard, always painful, often rewarding). It’s about breaking down barriers for men and women, to race. It’s about opening up the sport to more competitors, more opportunities to race.

There is a deep-seated fear that equality means control. It’s a very common counter to feminist argument about glass ceilings and equal pay in the work place. Women don’t really want equality, they want to be in charge. That argument is based in fear of loss of position, and status. Glass ceilings prevent dead wood from being pruned, and protect many positions that would be better off with change, either total change of the position itself, or of the incumbent who may be tired, jaded, bitter, uncaring or simply incompetent for that role. From what I’ve heard and read over the last 30 odd years of my awareness of the feminist movement, women really just want fair and equitable recognition of their work, their time, their competencies, abilities and capacities, and to feel valued in those areas, and justly recompensed for those. It’s the same with racing. There is no difference.

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