Equal pay for wombles?

The unthinkable has happened. As last week’s news will have informed you, Wimbledon has caved. Female athletes will now be paid as much as the men. The days of Richard Krajicek, who famously said that the difference in pay was because 80% of women playing in the big league were ‘fat lazy pigs’ are over. Krajicek of course backed down from that statement saying that only 75% were fat lazy pigs, a paradigm shift that I am sure warmed the heart of many a feminist.

The issue will no doubt be used in churches and private conversations (impossible in churches) to highlight the remaining inequalities between men and women in our society. And while I’m not sure I’m with tennis dinosaur Pat Cash who last week wrote a column in the Sunday Times arguing that male players work longer hours, I feel he has a point. The opposing argument that this is a spectator sport and therefore issues of money should obey market forces and relate to television audiences is also a good one, mainly because that might do away with boring men’s tennis altogether, as well as all female players who do not look like Anna Kournikova. At least that’s how it would work in my mind.

So does that mean I will do what so many Christian columnists must do when discussing controversial (or in fact any) issues, namely plonk my buttocks upon the nearest fence, resolving to see both sides? Hell no. When asked: ‘what do you think of women getting equal pay at Wimbledon?’ my short answer is a resounding ‘I don’t care.’ The long answer is: ‘how can I rejoice for female players getting paid more at Wimbledon when I already think that they, along with their male counterparts and all professional sportspeople everywhere are paid an obscene and unjustifiably extravagant amount of money already?’ Talk to me about real people doing real jobs and perhaps I’ll care more. Do I mind they are getting paid more? No. Would I care if the female players had their winnings docked and were forced to wear clothes ‘more becoming of their sex’ (I’m torn between bikinis and Victorian dresses—equally oppressive, equally funny)? In the words of Maria Sharapova and Alexander Volkov: ‘Nyet’. But honestly, even expressing that view is treating this ‘unthinkable’ news with more seriousness than it deserves.

Other, more relevant ‘unthinkables’ were in the news last week. One that’ll be a big hit with tabloids and knee-jerk conservatives (the ‘knee’ there is optional) is the proposal to give heroin on prescription to drug addicts. The pinko liberal proposing this was, predictably, a police chief. What? Yes, Ken Jones, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, last week voiced this not entirely new idea, which will no doubt be denounced and campaigned against if it ever had a shot of being implemented. Which is a shame, really, since it might actually break the power of the criminal syndicates that supply illicit narcotics (by taking away their most regular customers, since before the ink was dry on any law allowing it Pfizer would no doubt already be producing ‘Heroagra’ by the truckload) and make the streets safer by being free of desperate junkies. Women selling their bodies for their next hit of crack could rather just go to the doctor, choosing another soul-destroying way to earn their money, like call-centre work or accountancy.

Obviously there are issues and potential problems associated with such an approach, like not being able to look down on addicts quite as easily as we currently do since they will be less likely to nick our wallets, or doctors at your local NHS no longer saying ‘Hi’ because they get tired of hearing ‘not yet’. But it’s an idea, like so many others, that should be considered rather than being consigned to the realms of the unthinkable. Perhaps it will be, if we could only teach those junkies a useful trade. Like tennis.