7 September, 2018 7 September, 2018

A Say on Equal Pay

“When I was told there was going to be equal pay for men and women, I pretty much cried,” said current World No. 1 Stephanie Gilmore, on the WSL website.

This week the WSL announced that from 2019 women would receive the same prize money as men. This is the right thing to do, and a good turnaround from what many felt was an indefensible position on the matter, earlier this year:

“Men get double the prize money only because there are double the competitors,” said Will Hayden-Smith, explaining that the old ratio system the WSL applied that was based on the number of entrants in contests.”

Surfer: Lakey Peterson/ Photographer: Greg Chapman

But the WSL saw the light ad made history on Wednesday by scrapping this ratio system from 2019. Why is this the right thing to do even though there are fewer women entering surf contests? Well, it’s important to consider why fewer women enter.

In a 2017 article in The Guardian, Layne Beachley says that when she first started surfing, first as a young girl at Manly Beach and then on the ASP World Tour, there was a “steadfast belief that women didn’t have the right to be in the water, and nor did they have the power or strength to deal with the unpredictable nature of the ocean.”

Beachley continues, “I felt alone, one of one, the lone female figure playing in a male-dominated environment that lacked the support, encouragement, and acceptance we all need to survive and thrive. I was teased, cut off, told to get out of the water because I was a girl, advised that girls don’t surf, and to go mind the towel on the beach.”

Coco Ho 

It is widely acknowledged, both by anecdotal accounts and academic papers, that Beachley’s experience is not isolated. Surfing is historically a gendered space.

In an interview on Magic Seaweed, big wave surfer, Bianca Valenti describes her experience.

”I was surfing at Fort Point one morning and a guy said, “this is a man’s playground, I don’t want to see you unless I’m going on a date with you because you’re kinda cute.”

Surf breaks around the world used to be dominated by men, either through aggression or by sheer numbers. The surf media reinforced the male sense of ownership of the space, by depicting men as athletes in the water and women as sexualized objects on the beach. Admittedly a lot of that has changed, but the opportunity for many women to learn to surf, to progress and to have access to quality waves has been limited by the historical gender inequality of the sport.

Because of this legacy of disadvantage, it was never reasonable to suggest that women should be paid less because there were fewer of them entering contests. Some individuals still seem resistant to equal prize money for women. This is borne out by comments made in the public domain and on social media on the issue of equal prize money.

The WSL obviously recognizes the historical barriers to entry for women, and the fact that there are fewer competitors should not play a role in what they get paid.

Surfer: Tyler Wright/ Photographer: WSL Cestari

Kelly Slater, in his statement on the player’s tribune, explains how this issue touched him personally:

“This is an important moment for surfing, but it’s also deeply personal for me because I was raised by a single mom. My dad was out of the house by the time I was 10 or 11, and my mom basically raised three boys on a single paycheck. She was a firefighter — the only female firefighter in our county. This was in the late ’70s, early ’80s, so it was a different time. She faced a lot of equality issues at her job. And I still think about my mom and what it must have been like for her to work as hard as she did to do the exact same job as the men next to her, and then go home and raise three young men of her own — and to be underpaid and underappreciated for it.

My mom and women like her deserved better then, and our women — all women — deserve better. Now.”

Article complied with reference to:

The Guardian


Magic Seaweed

Players Tribune


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