Tennis superstar and all round rugged national treasure Andy Murray has spoken out on gender equality within sport in an article to the BBC and the fact that female tennis players make the same sacrifices as their male counterparts.
By using his position as world number three and generally ‘guy who people take seriously’ he has politely condemned the assumption that male tennis players are more dedicated, more hard-working and more successful. The tennis world already seems to be leading the pack when it comes to gender equality in sport with both men and women receiving equal prize money at major tournaments, but luckily the conversation didn’t stop there. Andy Murray’s comments remind us that just because progress has been made, it doesn’t mean the war is won.
The question of how involved and vocal men should be in the equality conversation is one which divides opinion. Surely the act of attempting to overthrow the patriarchy is contradicted if the conversation is led by men, right? I fundamentally disagree. By excluding men from the debate altogether or creating an environment so hostile that they don’t feel able to voice their support we are effectively trying to tightrope walk with one leg… Although I’m sure possible, definitely ill-advised if it can be at all avoided.
If we had more male spokespeople within the workplace around issues such as pay, discrimination and inappropriate behaviour perhaps these day-to-day issues wouldn’t feel like such a giant struggle and the volume would be turned up on the problem as a whole, which would end up benefitting everyone.
I had dinner with some teacher friends last week who brought up a recent classroom moment where a young lad had condemned discrimination against transgender people. An undoubtedly great moment that unfortunately came with the bolt-on of ‘and this kid is a real lad’s lad, big into his sport’. Why is it that we only expect opinions on certain issues from certain ‘types’ of people? What if more teenage boys had the confidence to join the conversation both because they had been included in it and educated enough by both their families and their teachers to form a solid opinion?
I have had countless conversations with men I respect and admire who have recounted their experiences with witnessing sexism within the workplace and actually doing something about it. Men who are raising daughters and can’t stomach the idea that someone will one day make sexually inappropriate comments towards them, or that they won’t be as successful as they could be because of a stupid glass ceiling. These moments are less documented in the media, although with the piece from Mr Murray this will hopefully begin to change.
Maybe in a world where comments about gender equality don’t raise eyebrows when they come from the mouths of traditionally ‘masculine’ men, we won’t still be having this conversation. And perhaps if more men used their position of privilege within the working world to speak out, everyone could start to reap the rewards of a level playing field.