BANYANA PAY A PRIME EXAMPLE OF DISPARITY
“WILL the women’s protest be over in time for them to cook dinner?”
This joke was posted on Facebook earlier this year by New Jersey Republican John Carman, remarking about an upcoming Women’s March in Washington.
Carman then did more than eat his words. He lost his seat, replaced by local constituent Ashley Bennett. A woman. How funny is that? Is it possible to laugh at Carman’s joke and not be faintly misogynistic? It’s a tricky question, and one I’m not qualified to answer – my wife and daughters are.
At best, you could be labelled an idiot; at worst, like Carman, you could end up in the unemployment queue. And so, to Paris, where Ada Hegerberg, Norway’s superstar soccer player, collected the Ballon D’OR as the world’s best female player this week.
Hegerberg, who had just made a speech about her hopes of inspiring girls to believe in themselves, was asked by the co-host – a man, naturally – whether she could twerk.
“No,” said Hederberg, who turned on her heels.
It was an awkward moment badly out of step with the Martin Solveig’s gauche attempt at humour fell flat and the DJ was forced to backpedal faster than a Luka Modric back heel. But the damage was done and, even as he spun a line about his poor attempt at English, social media took flame.
Hederberg herself said it wasn’t sexual harassment, and she graciously accepted his apology. But it was casual sexism. No one would have dared ask Modric, the men’s winner, a similar question.
Even if they did, it wouldn’t have had the same sting given how women routinely run the gauntlet.
Happily, no such nonsense played out in South Africa, where women’s sport enjoyed rare prominence this week thanks to the exploits of Banyana at the African Women’s Cup of Nations.
South Africans have tended to have an indifferent or ambiguous relationship with the women’s national team, partly, one suspects, because they play on the margins, partly because their profile is so low by comparison to the men.
Ironically, in getting to the final, they have far outstripped Bafana Bafana for achievement and have shot up in the public consciousness. Little wonder the airport was packed with cheering supporters on their return from Ghana. Yet if they have risen in our affections, they remain, to a large extent, on the outer.
“Just over two years ago, we heard in Parliament that Banyana players were earning between R2 000 to R5 000 per game while their male counterparts were earning R30 000 for a draw and R60 000 for a win,” said one female minister this week.
“In all areas of social, political and economic life, women still have to work twice harder, and often longer, than men. Yet men often are rewarded more, even when they do less.”
It speaks to the iniquities that abound. The relationship between the players and Safa is fractious and unhappy. Often, players are forced to return their kit after training camps.
Banyana’s success should be a watershed for women in other codes like cricket and rugby. It may be a long time before they have parity across the board, but for now they’re winning the battle for hearts and minds.