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  • Writer's pictureMelanie

Battle of the Sexes (2017) : let's talk about sexism in sports !

© Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes (Johnathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, 2017) is a biopic about Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) focusing on her fight for gender equality on tennis courts. The film opens with the US tennis associations offering female tennis players 8 times less prize money than male tennis players on the idea that male players are "the draw" and "biologically stronger, driven towards competition" and "with families to support" - because women don't have families to support or bills to pay, right ?

Billie Jean King does not stand for that and creates the Women's Tennis Association and her own tournament to compete with the US Tennis Association and the US Open. More than a film about Billie Jean King, this film sums up the sexist attitude dominating in sport until this day. The female athletes part of the WTA were kicked out of the USTA which shows how the powers in place (understand white middled-aged men) tried to shut down a perfect reasonable demand : if the women's final sells as much tickets as the men's, why shouldn't they have the same amount of prize money ?

Once you have seen the film and type the title in google, you will be first offered an article about the various "battle of the sexes" between male and female tennis players showing that since 1973 nothing has really changed. Billie Jean plays but even when she wins in straight sets against Bobby Riggs, it does not mean equal pay or recognition of female tennis players as the equals of the male players. Why ?

© Battle of the Sexes

The discussions ongoing in the film are the same that exist in various sports like football today. Female athletes earn way less than male athletes for playing the same sport. And in some countries like France, most of them are not full-time professionals because they are not paid well enough to commit fully to their sports career. Did someone say double standards ?

The idea of men being biologically stronger or driven towards competition is nothing more than nonsense. It is the easy way out instead of seeing that women do not have the same training opportunities, the same recognition, and did not have the opportunity to practice at high level for as long as men. It is not that they are not good enough, it is that the society makes sure to put as many entry barriers as possible. What would happen if men and women trained together ? The difference in the way they play together would probably be erased. I think it is an experiment worth trying to put an end to all the debatable speculation around biology - a discussion that can not properly be had until equal opportunities, training and acknowledgement are achieved. Without equality, there is no point drawing conclusions from biology because the data is flawed and therefore useless.

The existing difference might only be there because of gender divided competitions and trainings. It takes a while to anyone to adapt. Football players from England take a while to adapt to the way football is played in France or Germany, or even in the club down the road. It has nothing to do with gender and "men being better". When I was a kid I was playing football with my brother and his friends, all boys. There was never any assumptions that I played not as well because I was a girl. In fact, there was no difference at all. The difference was created when clubs divided boys and girls by gender creating in the children's minds a divide and convincing them of a difference that does not exist.

© Battle of the Sexes

In the interview just before the game, Billie Jean King says she never said women were better than men but that they deserved the same treatment which shuts down every man saying feminists are against men or for "women's supremacy" in the film or in real life. She also asks the man who asked her the question if he thinks his father is better than his mother because he is a man.

This is one of the best examples I have heard. Every time someone questions gender equality, they should ask themselves if they think their son is better than their daughter or if they think their brother is better than their sister. Would you say to your daughter that her brother is better than her only because he has a penis ? I bet you wouldn't. So why would you say it to athletes ?

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