Sunday Tribune - - SPORT - CLIN­TON VAN DER BERG van­der­[email protected] zeit­geist.

“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.

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