Tennis Champ Novak Djokovic would be cautious the next time he is asked to comment on somebody else’s sexist remark. An unwitty statement on the pay checks of female colleagues has landed the otherwise composed 28-year-old Serbian in a sexist storm.
It all cascaded from former tennis professional Raymond Moore’s comment, chief executive of the Indian Wells tournament in California, that the WTA was a ‘lucky organisation’. Moore, 69, added, “If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.’
Djokovic, who had won the Indian Wells tournament, went right to a press meet after his victory, and when asked to comment on Moore’s controversy, he blurted out, that women ‘deserve respect and admiration’ for achieving equal prize money, but added: ‘We have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.’
That opened the proverbial Pandora’s box, and he was immediately attacked with scathing remarks by his colleagues and fans, for saying the “forbidden words.” Apparently, most of the male tennis players agree that they rule the court, and hence be paid more, but this was till now, done in the privacy of boy’s locker room.
Although the world champ has apologised for his remark, blaming adrenaline and his post-success euphoria, it points to a certain parity that has been prevalent, albeit behind closed doors.
Djokovic’s trying to claim that his words were forced errors by the media in his not-really-an-apology statement doesn’t help much either. Contrary to his claims, I believe, the man was blurted out the collective voice of the male players (excepting a handful) in the presser, in the unguarded moment.
If Djokovic’s logic is respected, all players would get paid in accordance to the attendance in the stadiums, and the money received by TV. If his logic is respected, he would get paid less than say Nadal or Federer, or Serena, who almost always fill the stadiums, while he doesn’t.
World number one Serena Williams said Moore’s statement was “offensive”, calling it “mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate”. Serena, known for her outspokenness, lashed at her colleague: “There’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which are offensive enough, and thank a man,” added 21-time major winner Williams, 34.
I am a woman and always for equality in our society but in this case I have to say I agree with Novak. Unless women play five sets they are not on an equal playing field and do not have the right to the same prize money. Sure if they change to five sets though.
Back home, the scenario is pretty much the same in our film industry. Directors make great women-oriented movies that rakes in the moolah, and the heroines go on to win the coveted national awards. But when it comes to paying the women, they are just relegated to the sidekick category.
Last year, actress Kangana Ranaut was in the news, for the feisty lady became the highest paid actress in Bollywood when she signed a movie for Rs 11 crores. But the amount was just peanuts when compared to the leading men in the film industry. Salman Khan, the highest-paid actor in Bollywood takes home a fat packet of Rs 60 crore, followed by Aamir Khan (Rs 45 crore), Akshay Kumar (Rs 40 crore), and Shah Rukh Khan (Rs 35 crore).
The shocking thing is, Kangana’s remuneration was lesser than B-listers Arjun Rampal (Rs 14.5 crore) and John Abraham (Rs 15 crore), who are not exactly known for their acting skills. The parity can be attributed to the highly male-chauvinistic attitude of the industry, where female co-workers just appear as pretty wallflowers.
But even if there’s a heroine who can carry the weight of a well-made movie on her delicate shoulders, and deliver a super-duper hit, she can never aspire to make it big in terms of money. That is reserved for the sacrosanct boys’ club, and no one challenges that!