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Time to say ‘me too’

Nov 28,2017
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Emma Stone and Steve Carell in “Battle of the Sexes.” [2017 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION]
On a weekend morning, I watched “Battle of the Sexes,” a film about the journey of female tennis players fighting for their rights, as the top prize pot for women was far less than men when they competed in the same tournament. It is based on the 1973 match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. The title in Korean has been changed to “Battle of the Century.”

Then-29-year-old Billie Jean King was the best female tennis player. She defeated 55-year-old Bobby Riggs 3 to 0. After the match, the U.S. Open became the first major tennis tournament to eliminate the discrepancy between award prizes for men and women. Wimbledon was the last to start offering equal prize money, in 2007.

Some argue that the same prize money was actually unfair as men win a match by winning three sets while women win by winning only two sets. But unlike major golf tournaments that are held in different places for different durations, major tennis tournaments are held at the same location for the same period. So it seems reasonable for men and women to get the same prize.

The movie raises various questions on sports and sex. What’s just as controversial as the gender discrimination is sexual assault in sports. There have been noteworthy moves in Korea and other countries on the issue.

The sexual assault scandals surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein led to exposures by many other actresses in the industry. Alyssa Milano began a viral #MeToo movement, encouraging victims to come forward.

Sports is another field where many survivors spoke up with the hashtag #MeToo. Last month, gymnast McKayla Maroney exposed the sexual abuse by a former gymnastics doctor, and her teammate Aly Raisman also came forward. American soccer player Hope Solo also exposed sexual assault by former FIFA head Sepp Blatter.

In Korea, Kim, a victim of sexual assault in sports, came forward and started a similar movement. When she was 10 in the early 2000s, Kim was sexually assaulted by her tennis coach. She remained silent until she found out last year that the assaulter was still teaching children. In order to prevent further assaults, Kim sued the assaulter, who was sentenced to ten years in prison last month.

In the last five years from 2012 to 2017, more than 170 cases of sexual assault and violence have been filed with the Center for Human Rights in Sports under the Korea Sport and Olympic Committee. There could be many more that have not surfaced. When Billie Jean King wins the match, her colleague tells her that she has just changed the world. However, it took over 30 years for Wimbledon to change. Hopefully, Kim’s courageous act won’t be futile, and it won’t take as long to change the world. Now is the time to say “me too.”

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 27, Page 34

*The author is a deputy sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

CHANG HYE-SOO