Hard Bat­tle Against Sex­ist Prej­u­dice

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas -

At Paris’ Grand Palais on De­cem­ber 3, Croa­tia’s Luka Mo­dric was hon­oured as the best foot­ball player of the planet in 2018. He led his side to the World Cup fi­nals of the World Cup this year. More sig­nif­i­cantly, this year saw the first Bal­lon d’Or award for the world’s top women’s foot­baller: the win­ner, Nor­way’s Ada Hegerberg, who plays for the French pro­fes­sional club Olympique Ly­on­nais. At 23, Hegerberg’s achieve­ments with her club are al­ready stun­ning, win­ning France’s first di­vi­sion foot­ball league as well as lift­ing Europe’s club cham­pi­ons’ tro­phy for her club. In­stead of cel­e­brat­ing the (long-de­layed) recog­ni­tion of women in the world’s most pop­u­lar sport, the cer­e­mony plunged into con­tro­versy, cour­tesy one toe-curl­ing com­ment by its French host, DJ Mar­tin Solveig. Mo­ments af­ter Hegerberg ac­cepted her award, Solveig asked her whether she could ‘twerk’ — per­form a sex­u­ally sug­ges­tive dance pop­u­larised by hip-hop artistes.

Solveig seemed to have for­got­ten that Hegerberg was be­ing re­warded for her skills at a very com­pet­i­tive sport, and was not on stage to tit­il­late the au­di­ence. Of course, he apol­o­gised for the stunt, in­sist­ing it was in­tended in jest. Poor joke. It un­der­mines French pi­o­neers like Ni­co­las de Con­dorcet who wrote that women should en­joy the same rights as men in 1790, and suc­ces­sors like Si­mone de Beau­voir and Hélène Cixous, whose work forced the world to for­malise rules and leg­is­la­tion pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity.

With the ex­cep­tion of pro ten­nis and bits of ath­let­ics, much sport­ing ac­tiv­ity is still dom­i­nated by men, as play­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors and fans. Fifa, which runs world foot­ball, took a great leap for­ward by hon­our­ing women who play the game. De­spite Solveig, this should em­power women ath­letes ev­ery­where.

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