Think about all the women who stood and threw their arms up as Billy Jean King launched her racquet in the air.
One of the many pleasures of ageing is being an eyewitness to history. For a moment like this I'll gladly take the extra pounds around my waist.
Growing up, the only time a tennis match was on the television in my house was fifty years ago — for the Tennis Battle of the Sexes. I was ten and a half years old on the day Billy Jean King showed Bobby Riggs all her talent. The four of us in my family were some of the ninety million people watching the match around the globe. Well, half-watching and half-playing because we were kids. We knew it was important without understanding why.
The stakes were high, but there was plenty of theatre and fun about the event. Bobby Riggs was obnoxious — an athletic Archie Bunker. "Women belong in the bedroom and kitchen, in that order," he said. Who can forget the Sugar Daddy t-shirts?
Helen Reddy sang I Am Woman. King was carried on the shoulders of men — Cleopatra-style — into the stadium. She would leave as the Queen of all our hearts. I teared up watching this tribute narrated by Venus Williams.
On September 20, 1973, Billy Jean King won a tennis match. Became a legend. And she has not squandered the privilege. She continues to work for our good.
Gender equity levelled the prize field for the U.S. Open in 1973.
Away from celebrity sports circles, women have gone from earning $0.57 in 1973 to $0.82 in 2023 for every dollar a man makes. Twenty-five cents over 50 years. Still, eighteen cents to go. Another thirty-six years.
2059. Would men call that progress? Can your daughters wait?
Wage transparency would get us there sooner. It's a good labour practice.
Have you ever dealt with a man you knew wasn't your equal?
A man dead sure of his superiority? Who knew nothing about you? But had calculated your worth? A personal Bobby Riggs?
I have. I could probably put a team together. I can't imagine for what sport. It makes me laugh thinking of the t-shirts I'd put them in. Who should I hit up for sponsorship? There are a few star players. Should I make them wear headbands?
Here's the match as we saw it. Howard Cossell was on one of the mics.
The Philadelphia Freedoms is the name of a co-ed tennis team Billy Jean King played with from 1974 to 1978. Elton John honours a friend here. Together, they have raised hundreds of millions for Equal Rights and HIV/AIDS causes. This is a lovely short read about the song and their friendship.
© Deborah Reid, 2021 - 2023. All Rights Reserved.