By Rishvik Chanda:
Women’s work isn’t valued as much as men’s work is – that is the conclusion to be reached if we look at the current scenario of women working in the public sphere. Equal pay for equal work between the genders is one of the primary objectives of feminism today. This issue was highlighted yet again when Dipika Pallikal, India’s top-ranked Squash player, opted out of the ongoing National Squash Championships in a strong mark of protest against discriminatory rewards for men and women in sports.
Women, on average, earn less than men across all careers. An important hurdle to overcome for feminism today is this under-paid status of women. And this isn’t just about India, according to statistics released by the White House, full-time working American women earn 77% of what their male counterparts do. Also, it has been documented that working women do more housework and child care than working men.
Sports is seen as a traditionally male dominated activity. Women generally aren’t encouraged to take up sports seriously. And the few women who do become successful sportswomen by overcoming gender roles, continue to face discrimination. Offering lower rewards to female athletes is only reinforcing the idea that women belong in domestic settings and telling the women, who train just as hard, that their achievements aren’t worth as much as that of male athletes’.
Recently, Dipika Pallikal decided to skip the ongoing National Squash Championships until equal prize money was offered for male and female athletes. The men’s champion will pocket Rs. 1,20,000 and women Rs. 50,000, less than half of what is offered to the men. Discrimination such as this implies that men deserve bigger rewards for winning sports tournaments, suggesting that men put in more effort than women. These unfair, untrue notions need to be pointed out to the wider public.
Patricia Arquette, the Boyhood actress, brought attention to the gender wage gap in Hollywood in her acceptance speech at the 87th Academy Awards. But the situation is worse closer home. In Bollywood, top female actors make only 1/10th of what top male actors make per film. “I don’t really understand why we are paid less than the male actors because we put equal efforts and recent past has shown that actresses can deliver a hit film. We deserve better pay, equal to what actors get”, says Aditi Rao Hydari, an upcoming actor.
Those women who accept lower pay for equal work are making the situation worse for others by encouraging a discriminatory system. It’s extremely unfortunate and unfair that an athlete who is ranked 18th on the World Squash Association rankings has to abstain from participation in the national tournament for the fourth year in a row to make a point, but a strong stance such as Dipika’s is what is needed to bring attention to discriminatory remuneration based on gender.