Monday, August 22, 2005

Some thoughts on prize money

I caught some of the beach volleyball finals at Manhattan Beach this weekend. I saw the amount of money that women's winners May and Walsh won (around $28,000 which they have to split) but didn't watch the men's award ceremony. So I went looking around to see if beach volleyball has the same sometimes problem that professional tennis has: unequal prize money in some tournaments. It was a difficult search (which blows my theory that google can solve any problem) but I finally found an article specific to the Manhattan Beach tournament which stated that the founder believed in equality between men and women. Good news of course. But I am still not sure that it is a universal standard.
Anyway this got me thinking about the reasoning behind differential prize money. In tennis the argument has been that 1) men play longer (3 out of 5 sets vs. 2 of 3 for women) and 2) that more people want to watch men. The problem with the first reason is that only in the grand slams do men play 3 of 5. And secondly if those who want to hold onto the belief that females are physically unable to play 3 of 5 then they should also not be penalizing women--because after all, it's women's fault, right??
But the second reason is more interesting to me. In recent years women's tennis has increased dramatically in popularity. If prize money was based on popularity women might be paid more. Of course I am not really a proponent of this plan because leaving "equality" up to society-at-large is never a good idea, but it's interesting to think about what some paradigm shifts in our thinking about women and prize money might entail.

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