Equality: A vision of? Part 2

In previous posts I discussed the need for women to achieve equality in sport. This contention was underpinned by research and charters from both the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations Sports for Development and Peace, both of which contend that social development needs women’s involvement and success to achieve intended development goals.

The next questions I want to consider are how the development of women’s sport is funded and whether female performance will ever equal male performance.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation:

Paying men more for the same sport gives women in the sport less incentive to push themselves and discourages future female participation in the sport

This pay inequity is important when considering the impact of lesser prize money and status of the ASP women’s tour. Put simply, by consistently paying the women less, the ASP gives the message that it doesn’t value women’s participation as highly, and expects less. This is reflected in the way many female athletes try to capitalise on their surfing profile through other avenues like modelling. There simply isn’t sufficient compensation for surfing in the current arena.

I checked out what action or solution the Women’s Sports Foundation had to counter this disparity:

  • Attend women’s sporting events
  • Support companies that advocate for women’s athletics
  • Encourage television stations and newspapers to cover women’s sports
  • Sign up to coach a girls’ sports team, whether at the recreational or high school level
  • Encourage young women to participate in sports
  • Become an advocate: if you are or know a female athlete that is being discriminated against – advocate for her rights.

Well, I guess I’ll try being an advocate for women’s equality in surfing. May I have permission to advocate for the rights of female professionals in surfing? It appears that is part of the solution. I might start by being rather outspoken on Twitter. I hope nobody approaches my opinions with disrespect and insists I don’t advocate equality, because according to my recent research, the support of men in fighting inequality is vital for the empowerment of women.

In terms of funding, I’ve stated earlier that I believe there is money available if sport is being used to develop human rights. This may not be directly in line with the values of the ASP however, I have found an entire page of funding opportunities through the UN Sports for Development and Peace: Funding Opportunities. There are a variety of funding databases for both global and regional organisations. The ASP or an organisation affiliated with the ASP would need to develop programmes that worked for equality and peace. I haven’t found anything like this on the ASP website yet, unfortunately. I also haven’t found any reference to plans for equality and am not sure I would be likely to find them publicly.

While it is acknowledged that decreased funding affects performance of female athletes, many arguments about funding for the Women’s Tour focus on female performance in comparison to men. In my research I read various papers on how female performance does vary. Put simply, women are not small men. Research on performance has focused on men because of hormonal fluctuations in women’s cycles, and then results of research on men have been generalised to include women. However, research shows that in fact cycle phases do have an impact on fueling and performance. Research from the UN also shows that perceptions of women also affect performance. This has been covered by Cori Shumacher and Janet Fink already so suffice to say that performance in women’s surfing is suffering not just because women are different, but because of perceptions of them that work against women entering the sport, achieving profile, or fuelling themselves efficiently to compete.

One paper, WOMEN AND MEN IN SPORT PERFORMANCE: THE GENDER GAP HAS NOT EVOLVED SINCE 1983 says that female gender performance gap is permanent and women are unlikely to ever compete to the same level as men. This is one reason why women might always compete in separate events. There is then an ethical dilemma in that expecting women to achieve the same performance as men is unreasonable and unfair. The best female athletes competing to the best of female ability are being discriminated against for being female. They are physiologically different but still competing at their peak.

One of the main arguments against women receiving equal prize money has been that there would be insufficient audience to justify women being given equality, primarily because men saw women’s sport as inferior to men’s. However, this perception insists that women don’t watch sport. Women lack access to sport in mainstream media, and often find their events scheduled outside of prime time and given a lesser status with the assumption that other women don’t watch sport. The ASP itself believes its audience is equally men and women. Given that women don’t perform at the same level it is logical to conclude that women do want to watch the best women compete, but that the trivialisation of the women’s tour, the inadequate marketing that relies on sexualisation, and the refusal to grant equal rights are all working against developing performance, pay and a strong audience.

The ASP defines itself as:

dedicated to showcasing the world’s best surfers in the world’s best waves

The women’s tour has less participation, less money, less tours, and inferior locations. All of these factors disadvantage women’s surfing. Furthermore, the ASP probably does not meet the KPIs for NOCs/IFs Gender Equity in Female Access to Executive Decision Making Roles as indicated in GENDER EQUALITY AND LEADERSHIP IN OLYMPIC BODIES, although again I cannot necessarily say that I would find information online to prove that it did.

In conclusion:

1. Funding for international development that promotes equality is available but the ASP may not fit criteria
2. Paying women less decreases the motivation to improve performance
3. Female performance may always be different to male performance because of physiological difference.
4. While there is a lack of information from the ASP itself, there does not seem to be a clear direction that indicates a sincere commitment to equality/equity.

It is my sincere belief that sport and leisure is a basic human right. While not all of us are necessarily intent on becoming professional athletes, the ASP is positioning itself as a representative of our past time. In doing so, the ASP is taking global prominence and placing itself as a role model for surfers worldwide. Its impact on female surfing can only be seen as negative if it continues to progress the sport without first considering the plight of the women already in its grip.



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