‘Apologies to anyone who may have been offended,’ is not an apology. It’s not saying ‘I’m sorry for what I said’. It’s not saying ‘What I said was wrong, insensitive and thoughtless’. It’s saying, ‘It’s not my problem that you choose to be offended’. 'It’s not my problem that your feelings got hurt'. It’s refusing to take ownership for being wrong.
The non-apology came from Martin Solveig after asking the first female Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg if she could ‘twerk’ on stage.
What should have been the highlight of her career was ruined by one man’s comment. What should have been a historical moment for women in sport was overshadowed by, you guessed it, a man. Hegerberg, 23, was the first women ever to be honoured with the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, recognising her as the world’s top female footballer (only 62 years after the traditional men’s awards were first handed out in 1956). After delivering a powerful acceptance speech, encouraging girls to believe in themselves, guest host DJ Martin Solveig, asked Hegerberg whether she knew how to ‘twerk’.
‘Can you twerk?’ Is it offensive? Would you be offended? Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘dancing to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance’. Would this have happened to Hegerberg’s male peers? No it would not. Was Luka Modric asked if he could twerk? No. Because this is very much a female thing. Reducing female athletes to their bodies. And the three-time women's Champions League winner looked far from impressed, responding with a firm ‘no’ before walking away.
And the world went mad. Why? Because Solveig’s comment proved that sexism still very much exists. And it’s not the first time it’s happened either. In 2015, tennis player Eugenie Bouchard, ranked #7 in the world for women’s tennis, was asked by a male interviewer if she could ‘give us a whirl’ post win at the Australia Open. 17 year old Chloe King was called a ‘little hot piece of ass’ by a male radio host after her gold performance at the Winter Olympics. Articles ranking female athletes by attractiveness are everywhere. And there’s more, many more situations where the female athlete’s skill, performance, hard work and dedication is reduced to their bodies and physical appearance. The role of the woman first and foremost is to satisfy the male gaze over and above their position as an athlete.
And I am part of the problem. I add to this narrative. I, a female fitness professional, am still fighting to be taken seriously in 2018. The decisions I make everyday reflect my position as a woman. I think about what I’m wearing. I consider what clothes will make me look more ‘professional’. Do my breasts look good in this? OK, I’d better wear something else. GOD FORBID MY BREASTS LOOK AMAZING WHAT WILL THE MEN BE THINKING?! Is that the reason why they came to my class? Is that the reason why the class sold out? I’d better wear a bag over my head just to be sure my success as a trainer is based on my skills rather than my physical appearance. And my thought process makes me sick. It’s problematic. The conversations I have with myself don't make me a good feminist. But they are a consequence of the world we live in. I have been conditioned to feel this way.
I should be able to wear whatever the hell I want. Solveig should be able to ask ‘Can you twerk?’ without it causing a twitter uproar. ‘Twerking’ shouldn’t be seen as degrading. It shouldn't cause offence. If we’re offended surely we’re saying that women who ‘twerk’ are less worthy than women in sport? Can a woman be sexual, provocative, aesthetically pleasing AND be an athlete? It’s 2018, can’t we do both?
We should be able to do both. But we can’t. We don't feel comfortable enough. Because we are constantly belittled. We are publicly and privately ridiculed. We are reduced to nothing more than our bodies. We are merely objects. And this is the reason why we’re offended. We’re not overreacting. We are not making a fuss. Martin Solveig’s comment is offensive because we should have moved on from this. We should be past this.
And maybe we should stop giving these men so much airtime. Let’s face it, Ada Hegerberg’s performance has been completely overshadowed. No one is talking about her incredible talent. No one’s talking about the fact that she’s scored nearly 300 goals at the age of 23. It’s the highlight of her sporting career and all we can talk about is a DJ’s misogynistic comment. And you’ve got to wonder, can women’s sport even exist on it’s own? Would we know about Ada Hegerberg if it wasn’t for Martin Solveig? No. Because women’s sport doesn’t exist on it’s own. It requires men to be valid.
Ignoring what he said doesn't solve the problem either. It doesn’t stop sexism from happening. It doesn’t stop women in sport earning less. It doesn't stop the fact that only 4% of sports media content is dedicated to women’s sport* And that’s why the narrative needs to change. The media has the power to change how women are represented in sport. The media has the power to include top female athletes and to cover more than just viral moments, moments that always, without fail, involve men.
*via Unesco https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-calls-fairer-media-coverage-sportswomen