I recently came across a YouTube short of Spanish tennis pro Rafael Nadal being asked by a female reporter why the best women tennis players are paid less than the best men in tennis. His answer both amuses and intrigues me, including the refreshing admission that he doesn’t know, but also expanding the discovery to other sports, and even the fashion industry, where everyone knows the top female models make more than the top male models.
Let’s take this question a bit further, though. Let’s talk about why top athletes of either of the two sexes make so much money for playing sports, and how this has to do with the selling of tickets and merchandise, as well as advertising and sponsorships.
Why would male athletes make more money from sponsorships than female athletes? Of course, part of the answer to this question comes back again to ticket sales and merchandising, which is directly the result of popular interest in watching men or women play sports. But why would that make such a difference?
If you’re asking me, I will say I think it’s largely due to the traditional, historical, and biological role men in functional societies are supposed to play, as providers and protectors, even as the role of women is typically keeping the home, and both having and caring for children.
This is not all just a factor of who can or cannot naturally have babies. It’s also about the effect of testosterone on bone and muscle mass, stature, and default aggressiveness, as well as risk tolerance. That is, testosterone makes men not just physically different, but also psychologically and socially different. And this, though always threatened and tainted and questioned by sin and folly, by design, is inherently good in and of itself.
In other words, the strongest, fastest, hardiest, most skilled, and clever men are perceived, or assumed, or hoped, to be more likely to filter out sponsorships they believe present unnecessary risks, to the health and safety of women and children especially, who they feel, and should feel, naturally protective of, but also the general public in their community, which they should also believe they have a certain responsibility to lead and protect.
Besides this, men are perceived, or assumed, to be more likely to filter out those sponsorships and endorsements they believe to be of poor quality, and thus representing a low return on investment, where value added is concerned, as one dimension of what it means for them to be good providers.
Men are more naturally disposed to, and set up for, asking the challenge question of “What are you doing here?” And this is because they are more capable of taking action to neutralize threats, to themselves and others under their care, as well as being more likely to push through less ideal opportunities for provision in favor of what they believe to be the best option, all things considered. That is to say, men are instinctively expected to serve and act as providers and protectors at the macro level, just as they are at the micro level. And this is really what they are being paid so much for – to give the nod that this or that product or service is safe and effective and beneficial, or conducive to life.
This factored in, but more or less unspoken, to our individual and collective psychology, common sense would tell us we are more drawn to men as sponsors, particularly for many of the things which have to do with the core, traditional function of men, where concerns about provision and protection come into play, especially relative product safety and effectiveness concerns, not least because men are still, by God’s design, the leaders of their homes and communities, even when such leadership is accompanied by much complaining and renegotiation, always sure to be a feature in proportion to the mean and median level of trust and reverence in society due to the ongoing effects of sin, and our need for grace, redemption, and restoration.
In other words, there’s probably no getting around the pay gap between men and women, for this and many other reasons, without the wholesale rejection of God’s distinct purpose for our maleness and femaleness. It’s hardwired and hard-coded into us by God Himself.
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