Tennis Film Promotes Gender Equality, Equal Pay

May 31, 2018  By Zhong Ling  Editor: Xie Wen
Tennis Film Promotes Gender Equality, Equal Pay
Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs 


The 2017 biographical film Battle of the Sexes is based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and recalls the first attempt by King to establish equal pay in sports between men and women.

King, the U.S. former World No. 1 tennis player, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.

President Barack Obama awarded King the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work advocating for the rights of women in 2009.

King, in the film, is played by American actress Emma Stone, who perfectly interpreted the free and enchanting soul of the female player, said critics.

At the start of the story, after a tennis match, King notices that even if tickets for men's and women's finals are sold in equal amounts, the prize money for men would be eight times as much.

Facing the inequality, King chose to withdraw, together with other female athletes, and set up the Women's Tennis Association voluntarily.

After leaving the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association, King and her fellow players started everything from scratch. They sometimes had to share one bedroom at the same time due to lack of financial support from the sponsors, and so started communications activities on their own, such as by distributing leaflets on the streets.

At the same time, Bobby Riggs, an outstanding retired men’s tennis player, was forced out of his house by his wife because of gambling. He began to boast that even at age 55 he could beat any woman, and challenged King. King declined.

But Margaret Court, who recently beat King in a match, accepted. Riggs easily defeated Court, which proved to the world the ability disparity between men and women to some extent.

This game made Riggs even more furious and facetious towards female athletes. The failure of Court irritated King, and so she decided to face his arrogant provocation.

Riggs's achievements in the past made him underestimate King's capacity. He did not take this game seriously, whilst King trained intensely before the match. She was aware that she was not only fighting for herself or other women athletes, but for the dignity of women.

The battle attracted worldwide attention. King won the competition in the witness of 30,492 live spectators and 50 million TV viewers in 37 countries.

After this game, the U.S. Open took the first step towards implementing equal pay for equal work for men and women.

The film was produced based on the real events of the 1973 match King fought against Riggs, which was one of the most significant competitions in King's career.

With the constant struggle of female athletes, the Australian Open awarded the same remuneration for women in 2001. The French Open followed suit in 2006. And even Wimbledon announced equal pay for men and women in 2007 as a declaration of achieving equal pay for men and women in all four Grand Slam tournaments.

In comparison with today, it is easy to observe that men enjoyed more preferential treatment than women in the fields of politics, sports and business in the U.S. in 1973. It is difficult for women to obtain the same treatment and respect, even if they devoted more and efforts than men.

The performance of King in the stadium has, to some extent, changed the prejudice people hold against women, and in history.

Before the competition, King spoke out against a reporter, saying: "I'm trying to tell people that women deserve respect, instead of proving that women are stronger than men."

More importantly, King overcame the psychological barrier and exceeded herself, and bravely pursued love and freedom.

(Source: and edited by Women of China)

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