It’s almost 2019, and thankfully we’re seeing progress in women’s movements, as some institutions are rectifying their patriarchal culture. For instance, the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, which existed since 1956 to honor the best male football player of the year from around the globe, now established a separate women’s award: the Ballon d’Or Féminin. This year marks the first of its kind. And while we would have loved it more if the award was genderless, this is a progress we celebrate. The important thing is, women are finally getting recognition in this field.
For this year, Real Madrid’s Croatia midfielder Luka Modric won the Ballon d’Or award, while Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg who plays for French side Olympic Lyonnais, had the honor of being awarded the first ever inaugural women’s trophy. But what would have been a great day for women in sports took a step back when the host DJ, Martin Solveig asked her live onstage if she “knew how to twerk,” to which she replied “no” looking embarrassed and then seeming to attempt to leave the stage. Yes, it’s every bit as cringe-y as you think.
Martin apologized to Ada shortly after the incident. “I explained to her and she told me she understood it was a joke,” he tweeted. “Nevertheless, my apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Most importantly, congratulations to Ada.”
Sincere apologies to the one I may have offended. My point was : I don’t invite women to twerk but dance on a Sinatra song. Watch the full sequence People who have followed me for 20 years know how respectful I am especially with women pic.twitter.com/pnZX8qvl4R
— Martin Solveig (@martinsolveig) December 3, 2018
“He came to me afterwards and was really sad that it went that way. I didn’t really consider it sexual harassment or anything in the moment. I was just happy to do the dance and win the Ballon d’Or.” Ada told BBC. But while she downplayed the incident, the public was visibly outraged.
Bullshitery at its finest.
I live in France and toxic masculinity here is PART OF THE CULTURE.
It’s not “English” culture he doesn’t understand, it’s respect.
Feminism=equality. Would he have asked a male player to twerk??
— tatina monique (@bittervagabond) December 4, 2018
First female ballon d'or winner for best women's footballer asked if she can twerk on stage while collecting the reward. Absolute disgrace that. No place for blatant sexism in the sport I love.
— Paddy Galloway (@PaddyG96) December 3, 2018
— Joanne Tyrrell (@joannetyrrrell) December 4, 2018
Absolute trash: French DJ Martin Solveig asks Ada Hegerberg to twerk after receiving the first women's Ballon d'Or award. (Love her response, though.) This is the crap female athletes deal with on a daily basis around the world.pic.twitter.com/y2TLe3v4u9
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) December 3, 2018
Netizens aren’t the only one who got upset over this. Other athletes are speaking up about the sexist nature of the remark, too. Tennis player Andy Murray was among those who criticized the comment. “What questions did they ask Mbappé and Modric? I’d imagine something to do with football.” he wrote on Instagram, to cite “the ridiculous sexism in sport.” Adding that, “To everyone who thinks I’m overreacting and it was just a joke … it wasn’t. I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”
Andy Murray on women's Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg being asked to twerk on stage tonight… pic.twitter.com/XWhchKnWvW
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) December 3, 2018
Others who say we should move on and that we’re making a big deal out of this, when Ada has already accepted Martin’s apology, are missing the point. “I’m a little bit amazed as to what I’m reading on the internet,” Martin said after the outpour of criticisms. He asserted that he didn’t intend to offend anyone and “This was a joke, probably a bad one, and I want to apologise for the ones I may have offended. Sorry about that.”
While we appreciate his apology, it is important to say that that kind of behavior by men towards women have become so trivialized enough to be treated as a mere joke, a laughing matter, when it shouldn’t be. Sexism exists precisely because it was and is being normalized, and what we’re doing here is saying, no, it’s not okay. While it is sad because it managed to overshadow a victory for women in sports, we just can’t let it pass. Calling out men for “unconscious” sexist remarks is necessary if we want to start a conversation to stop sexism across different fields.
This video of Ada Hegerberg is worth your time. This is why she is the first female winner of the Ballon D'Or. Sadly the video of the goon asking her to twerk will be watched more than this. pic.twitter.com/HxNTDrivrz
— Darren Cleary (@RadioCleary) December 3, 2018
— Laika Nelyubova (@sebastienne) December 4, 2018
That said, I want to end this by congratulating Ada for a great feat. “Being historical and the first woman to win the Ballon d’Or is a huge moment in my life,” she said while accepting the award. She acknowledged that “It’s a huge step for women’s football,” adding that “it is important to show young girls that they can believe in themselves and I hope they are inspired by this. They are the future.” She ended her speech with a great message for young girls who want to follow her steps: “This is a great motivation to continue working hard and we will continue to work together to win more titles. I wanted to end with some words for young girls around the world: believe in yourselves.”
Art by Marian Hukom
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