Battle of The Sexes Rages On


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As part of International Women’s Day celebrations, I decided to attend a number of events this year – one of which involved an IWD rally, another, a movie. Regarding the first, I was mightily impressed. This year, in Melbourne, the heartwarming presence of men walking in support of IWD, was indeed a refreshing change.

Now, moving on to the second – I decided to watch Battle of the Sexes. It is a 2017-American-biographical sports drama. The film dramatises the events leading up to the 1973 match between world’s #1 Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and former men’s-champion and serial hustler Robert Larimore Riggs (Steve Carell), and their personal lives.

Billie Jean King has been the first sportswoman to raise the issue of equal pay and has been a strong supporter of women’s rights in sports. Women players received as much as 12 times less pay than men players, with similar viewership for both matches.

It proved to be an extremely relevant film, compelling me to look into the equal pay status over the years. And what was I to find? Not much has changed, unfortunately.

Even four decades after Billie Jean King’s triumph, women are fighting for equal billing in sports. Even in Indian sports, there’s not much difference. And as if to drive home a point, the BCCI announced a new (and separate) pay structure for the men and women in Indian cricket on the very occasion of International Women’s Day this year.

The board has introduced a new A+ category that includes some ace players, like skipper Virat Kohli, who are to receive the new whopping salary of Rs 7 crore per year; there’s also Grade A and Grade B comprising players who are to earn Rs 5 crore and Rs 3 crore per annum respectively. Male players in Grade C category however, are to earn Rs 1 crore yearly. Now comes the interesting part – the female players – even those who are in Grade A – are restricted to just Rs 50 lakhs. So much for parity! It is perhaps because of such blatant discrimination that gender equality is far from being a reality. Until we get equal opportunity, exposure and respect, and of course, equal pay, there is much work to be done. There have been gains, but attitudes still haven’t changed enough to make sport a welcome place for women. We need to think globally and act locally! Forty-four years after King’s victory, the battle still continues.

And to think of it, the IWD campaign theme this year was #PressforProgress. Musing over that, I stumbled upon the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings and was astounded to read that that gender parity is over 200 years away.

The report measures the equality between men and women in four key areas: health, education, economics and politics. According to the report, it will take 100 years to close the overall gender gap. And, the picture of the economic gap between men and women is bleaker. This won’t be closed for another 217 years!

There has never been a more important time to #PressforProgress and strive for gender parity. And while we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, there is a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and communities to think, act and be gender inclusive and to be tenacious in accelerating gender parity.

Manasi Wagh-Nikam
Health Educator @Multicultural Centre For Women’s Health

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