Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tennis and gender rights.

I find tennis a really fascinating sport. But I'm also acquainted with the logical import behind that saying about one person's culinary delight causing another person numerous painful trips to the restroom, so for the benefit of that section of the public which finds tennis as interesting as your local councilor’s life history, I won't talk about match sets, double faults, deuces and hawk eye technology.

However, there is something about the Masters that leaves me heartily displeased, and I would like to voice this displeasure. And my point of origin shall be the just concluded Australian Open, which  had two obviosities;

[OK. According to MS spell-check, the word 'obviosities' doesn't exist. But since I was never under any obligation whatsoever to use words that actually exist to express myself, you can go ahead and sue me if you so wish. Otherwise, let's proceed.]

As I was saying,  the just concluded Australian Open had two obviosities. One, Roger Federer was always going to win the men singles title. Nadal is the only competition King Fed has had in a while, but Nadal is not yet back to 100% fitness after returning from a long injury layoff, and to beat Federer, even 100% is often not enough. And two, the younger of  Oracene Williams' daughters was always going to pulverize whatever opposition she would face in  the ladies final.

Both Federer and Oracene's last born took home an equal US$1.5 million prize money. And obviously, I am of the opinion that this is the most disgracefully unfair thing since Prince Edward was forced to choose between his throne and his love.

In the Gospels, there is a parable about a wealthy farmer who needed labor for a huge task that needed to be done on his field. So one morning, he made his way to the market square where young jobless men always idled from dawn to dusk. "Kazi kwa vijana." He said in the local dialect, and within a few minutes, he had hired himself some laborers.

But the labor he had hired wasn't sufficient for the task he wanted done, so at noon, he walked back to the market square where more idle young men had replaced the ones he had hired. "Kazi kwa vijana." He bellowed again, and in no time flat, he had himself an extra labor force.

However, even this doubled labor effort wasn't enough to finish the job. So in the late afternoon, the farmer made a third trip to the market square and for the third time that day, unemployment figures in that locality recorded a decrease.

This time the workforce was at par with the labor demand, and by the end of the day, the work in the fields was done, after which all the young men lined up outside the farmer's house to receive their pay.

While paying them, the farmer started with the group he had hired last, and they each received an equivalent of Ksh.250/- in the local currency, which was the set daily rate for the Kazi Kwa Vijana labor initiative. Upon seeing this, the ones who had started work earlier thought they would receive more money because they had worked longer, but to their utter horror, they also got the base Ksh. 250/- equivalent.

Naturally, these men who had been hired in the morning and at noon complained, but the farmer stood his ground. They knew the KKV terms when he hired them, and regardless of how much labor they had put in, he was under no obligation whatsoever to pay them more or the others less.

There is a spiritual lesson to be gathered somewhere in this parable, and I'm sure finding this lesson and applying it in life would earn any of my readers a point or two with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. But to be honest, spiritual considerations are quite frankly unnecessary in our present discussion, which is about fairness in the remuneration dealings at the Grand Slam tennis championships.

For starters, a vast majority of the revenue that pours into these championships is thanks more to the Nadals and the Federers than the Sharapovas and the Mauresmos. The Williams siblings are an exception, but considering the number of black players of either sex to have ever won a grand slam can be counted against two fingers of one hand, I dare anyone to challenge my assertion that their novelty is not due to their sex, but their race.

From a purely tennis perspective, it is even more grossly unfair. In all tournaments, men play more matches than women, their matches last longer because they play more sets, (Five in the Australian Open to women's three,) and generally, men's matches tend to be less lopsided because the incidence of matched talent in their pairings is always higher than in female pairings.

So with all this, does it really make sense to pay both these evidently unequal levels of effort equally? Of course it seems perfectly all right for the feminists and gender rights campaigners, but since when have such people ever offered any logical explanation to their actions and rhetoric?

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