It has been a while since I have been inspired to write with anything resembling an axe to grind, and well here I am.
The last little while I have enjoyed watching Canada's Jeff Smith make an exciting, if ultimately unsuccessful
run at the title. Rest assured Jeff will be back and I would expect him to be better than ever.
It was enjoyable and although he lost, the winner Scott Waites seems like a perfectly decent guy, so can't feel too bad, right?
What did seem off though was that while the Men's matches got longer as the importance of the games increased, the Women's matches remain a virtual 'coin toss' at a best of three??
if you think that is OK, then keep in mind that in a best of three Jeff Smith would have been knocked out by
Dennis Harbour! (not a knock on Harbour, just illustrating that a best of three is not enough).
To make matters worse, it turns out that the Women's champ makes less than half what the men's runner up makes. Not just 'less' but less than half.
So I took up the cause and quickly whipped up a petition.
Now the positive responses I did get were indeed quite encouraging, but sadly so far only 25 people have signed. Most of them men. (now over 30 people and growing!!)
If I am disappointed by the sexist comments and truisms that are at least to be expected, I am almost more disappointed by a seeming lack of interest and/or engagement from the dozens and dozens of my friends on Facebook (where the petition has been posted) who self identify as feminists.
Does equality only matter on the big issues? Is sport too icky to support women in sport? Does it matter if it is darts and whether you personally like darts?
Isn't the principle of the matter, the principle of equality?
To be clear here, by 'equality' I am talking 'equal opportunity' not 'equal results'.
Now you may be like many and think that the women in the BDO (British Darts Organization) don't deserve any more money, support or longer matches, and that they are maybe lucky that the BDO has a women's division in the first place.
This in fact, is the opinion of many, and I find it frustrating as these truisms are more often excuses and/or ignore crucial and critical factors that face women in darts (and sports in general).
So let's look at some of the more common arguments,shall we?
If Women Want To Be paid More They Should Bring There Averages Up!!
There is usually a rejoined to this that "That's the way it works, not the other way around" that is added, and while within a limited scope is true, it is only true when examining within a level playing field, where say the highest scoring hockey player gets paid more than the lowest scoring, but in which the top salary, at least in theory is up for grabs by all players.
The situation in darts however, is I think a little closer to American vs Canadian Football. The CFL has a long and noble history, but compared to the NFL they get peanuts.
So where do you think the talent goes?
That's right, to the NFL, with it's higher pay, and higher exposure.
You see, pride and desire go a long way into becoming a top level athlete, but once you start talking professional athelete, and the BDO is at least semi-pro, then money has to be a factor, and that money has to
be worth the amount of training and qualifying games and so on and so forth. It also has to be worth the effort to get there and it has to be worthwhile to attract people to compete for it.
There are other issues, as we will look at, but a proper incentive is one step that is needed to bring up the competitive levels of women's darts.
Where Do They Expect All This Extra Money To Come From?
Well, to be fair, I find it hard to believe that of all the companies out there, that support women and women's issues as part of their corporate social responsibility policies don't have a dime to spend on sponsoring women's darts, and not knowing any better would accuse the BDO of a lack of creativity in not going beyond betting sites and similar for their sponsors.
Let's assume though, that the BDO has the prize fund it has, so what then?
Well, let's say the men still get paid more than the women, could we not seriously make the divide just a little less grotesque?
I think the top men's winner gets 100k GBP (please let me know if my numbers are wrong!) and the runner up 35k. Surely a pittance compared to what they are making in the PDC, but somewhat worthwhile, right?
Then there is the women's champ (MBE recipient Trina Gulliver) who got 12k. yes, that's right, almost two thirds less than the men's runner up!!
Would even 90k and 30K prizes for the men be so bad? That would at least push the Women's championship winnings over the 20k mark!
No Body Wants To Watch Women's Darts Anyway!
Well, to be honest, who would want to watch what amounts to a coin toss, by people who must clearly know that they are relegated to second class status based on their gender.
You may even argue that it is the poor quality of the darts, (and we will get to that in a bit!) but you know what, as far as the BDO goes, at least the women ARE the best in the world.
The top men would be happy to break the top 20 of the PDC, and routinely lose good players to them.
I would think that they would maybe want to focus on and expand what they DO have.
In Trina they have an MBE recipient who is also a 10 time champion. Yes, that is right, the only player who has won more championships than anyone not named Phil Taylor, and really the BDO can't create a little buzz around her?
Now don't get me wrong, I understand pre-existing public perception is at work here, but the BDO does need SOMETHING.
In the long run that 'something' might be youth development, but no reason women can't be a part of that development, and in the meantime they have a roster of veteran women players with high name recognition.
They might not have the best averages, but remember Dobromoslova was within a leg of defeating Wayne Mardle so there is some 'compete' going on here, in spite of everything working as a drag against their success.
If the women's side was developed properly in the first place, it would help as the standard of play would be up, but also simply the manner in which the women's matches are presented engenders a lack of interest.
A little hype and a proper (c'mon at least 5 sets!) length match could go a long way!
Women Just Aren't All That Good At Darts/Not That Interested, Look At Their Averages.!
In a word, Rubbish!!
There is no rational, physiological reason that women can not compete on the same level as men.
They do it in target shooting (in instances where men and women are allowed to compete) and to a lesser degree in Soft Tip darts.
No, what is at work here, is not the relative lack of talent of women, it is social and historical factors at work.
One person I was engaged in debate with said that they would support the women if they made a better effort or got better results, and then wen ton to describe the negative response a woman player would get walking into many pubs.
You see, a player like a Phil Taylor, or for that matter a Wayne Gretzky or a Micheal Jordan are a one in a million. Know what you need to get a 'one in a million'? Yup, that's right, you got it, the million!!
Do you think that women players are really going to be flocking to the oches when the men that dominate the game don't even want them there.
Then just think, those who do tough it out and have the same travel, and same expenses as the men, have a whopping 12k to motivate them to become the world's best?
The way women are socialized affects their relationship with sports above and beyond darts (but certainly including darts).
To get a better grip on some of these issues than I could explain to you, here are two excellent articles on gender and sport by sports psychologist Dr. Alan Goldberg.
I hope you will take the time to read them.
WHY YOUR DAUGHTERS SHOULD PLAY COMPETITIVE SPORTS
“STRONG WOMEN IN SPORTS AND IN LIFE” – A STORY OF SEXISM, IGNORANCE AND FEAR
I am sorry to rely on the work of others, but these articles do such a nice job of illuminating some of the issues regarding women and sport, and maybe just a little once again smashes the myth of the 'self made man' as everyone in some way or at some time relies on support to get to thing done, to get to the top.
You may, at this point want to call me politically correct, and I would have to ask you to stop being so lazy and take a real look at what is going on.
If men were discouraged and undermined in sports the way women are, there would be a massive sh*t storm and you know it!
Look I know that 'F' word is a turn of to many, and well, sometimes people who pursue feminism can be/seem judgmental/etc. then maybe also consider an other F word 'Fairness'.
Does it make me some sort of politically correct pedant to want people of equal potential to have an equal chance, and equal opportunity?
If at this point you still disagree with me, then I hope that at the very least I have made you think a little bit about the world we live in and how it treats our mothers and sisters and friends and spouses and daughters, in general and specifically in regards to sports and competition.
I also hope that you might take a look at my petition and might consider signing it. I don't know if in the end it will make a difference, but I would truly appreciate you joining me in trying.
Darts, should include everyone.
In the long run, I believe that women and men should compete against each other, but for that to happen the women's game is going to need a lot of support and development.
Tell The British Darts Organization To Show Same Respect To Their Women Stars As The Men
Thank you very much, and thank you as always for taking the time to read!
Dave "The Abominable Throw Man" Sproull