Ticket pricing, gender, & “value”

“You get what you pay for.” This common saying expresses the idea that more valuable things are going to cost more money, while things of little value are going to cost less money. Clearly, women’s sports are not valued as highly as men’s sports by most people. Even those who have grown up in the “Title IX age” tend to view women’s sports as uninteresting and inferior to competitions involving men (Lebel & Danylchuk, 2009).

As far as the answer as to why this is the case, most explanations I hear involve the idea that women’s sports are less interesting because women are not as good at sports as men. This claim has never had much explanatory power for me because, for example, college sports are very interesting to many people even though college athletes are not as skilled as professional athletes. If people only found the best athletes interesting (as is the argument for why women’s sports are uninteresting), then college sports wouldn’t enjoy much popularity. Thus, rather than rely on oversimplified explanations about skill level, it is important to consider the social and historical factors leading to the devaluation of women’s sports.

Returning to the issue of money and perceived value, let’s consider the issue of tickets to women’s sporting events being priced lower than those to men’s events. Regarding this issue, I believe most people would make an argument such as, “of course tickets to women’s basketball cost less…because no one cares about women’s sports.” However, research regarding ticket price and perceived value suggests the situation is more complex. For example, a study by Hebl and colleagues (2004) found that ticket price disparity results in lower evaluations of women’s teams, even when controlling for other potential explanation for the discrepancy. Further, the researchers found, “when women’s tickets cost less than men’s tickets, the women’s team was rated lower than the men’s team. When the cost of women’s tickets was greater than the cost of men’s tickets, the women’s and men’s teams were considered equivalent in ability and fan support” (p. 233).

In other words, this research suggests that the lower price of tickets to women’s events is not merely a reflection of the lesser value assigned to women’s sports, but it also reinforces the inferior status of women’s sports. Unfortunately, the study also found the disparity between men’s and women’s ticket prices is growing, which makes me think the prospects for seeing progressive change in the near future are not good.

REFERENCES:

  • Hebl, M. R., Giuliano, T. A., King, E. B., Knight, J. L., Shapiro, J. R., Skorinko, J. L., & Wig, A. (2004). Paying the Way: The Ticket to Gender Equality in Sports. Sex Roles, 51(3/4), 227-235.
  • Lebel, K., & Danylchuk, K. (2009). Generation Y’s Perceptions of Women’s Sport in the Media. International Journal of Sport Communication, 2(2), 146-163.
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