Emma Keeling: One step forward, two twerks back for women's sport

Ada Hegerberg was asked to twerk by French DJ Martin Solveig after becoming the first woman to win the Ballon d'Or.
CHRISTOPHE ENA/APAda Hegerberg was asked to twerk by French DJ Martin Solveig after becoming the first woman to win the Ballon d’Or.

Let me set the scene. Ada Hegerberg is announced as the inaugural winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or, an annual French award voted by journalists. The 23-year-old Norwegian has won a hat-trick of Champions League trophies. This year she broke the record for the most goals in a Champions league season, equalling Ronaldo’s 15, and scored 33 goals in 21 games for her fourth league title with Lyon.

As she takes the trophy, signifying a momentous step forward for women’s football, she is then asked to twerk by presenter, DJ Martin Solveig. It’s a dance move where you shake your bum around. All elite athletes do it after winning prestigious trophies. Ask all the male athletes who’ve won top awards.

Ada Hegerberg in action for Olympique Lyon during the Uefa Women's Champions League in March.
DAVID RAMOS/ GETTY IMAGESAda Hegerberg in action for Olympique Lyon during the Uefa Women’s Champions League in March.

Yeah, nah. No male athlete would be asked such a ridiculous question because it would be demeaning and disrespectful. Even Beyoncé would not be asked to twerk after accepting a Grammy Award. I would use the word sexist here but I know it can cause some people to spontaneously combust.

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Instead, let’s hear from tennis player Andy Murray who called it “another example of the ridiculous sexism in sport.” Solveig did apologise and said it was a joke. Murray had this to add; “And 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.”

Olympique Lyonnais' Ada Hegerberg with the Women's Ballon d'Or poses with Real Madrid's Luka Modric, with the Ballon d'Or, left, and Paris St Germain's Kylian Mbappe with the Kopa Trophy.
CHRISTOPHE ENA/ APOlympique Lyonnais’ Ada Hegerberg with the Women’s Ballon d’Or poses with Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, with the Ballon d’Or, left, and Paris St Germain’s Kylian Mbappe with the Kopa Trophy.

It was an historic moment for women’s sport, sullied by a stupid comment. Any question that related to her achievement would’ve been better. I’d have even accepted the ubiquitous, “How do you feel?” Instead we watched the poor woman do what many of us have done when faced with an awkward situation which is try and manage everyone’s feelings without causing a fuss.

For those of you confused by this situation who are now unsure of how to conduct yourself when talking to women, ask yourself this question; would I ask a man to do the same? If you answer, no, that would be weird and inappropriate then you are on the right track.

And if you still think this is an over-reaction, at the end of the awards French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann congratulated men’s winner Luka Modric and “that girl from Lyon”, in an interview.

But this is nothing new. It often feels like one step forward, two back in women’s sport. This week Hegerberg reiterated she would boycott playing for Norway at the Women’s World Cup next year because of the disrespect she believes female players face in her country. On a landmark night for women, Solveig did a great job of highlighting that Norway isn’t the only country with a long way to go.

But the last words belong to Hegerberg who, in her speech had a message for young girls, ‘believe in yourselves.’ I’d like to add that you also have every right to point out these sexist moments. Other female athletes will support you. It’s time for someone else to learn how to deal with these awkward situations.

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