This week a female player was awarded the Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious individual prize in football, for the first time; but the historic victory for women’s football was overshadowed by sexism, when French DJ Martin Solveig asked winner Ada Hegerberg to “twerk” on stage.
“You’ve seen that I prepared a little celebration for (France forward) Kylian (Mbappe) so we said we’re going to do something similar. Do you know how to twerk?” Solveig asked the Norwegian player as she accepted the prize. Twerking is a sexually suggestive dance move.
Following a backlash on social media, Solveig apologised in a Twitter video for his comments, which he described as “a joke, probably a bad one.”
Among the critics was former tennis world number one Andy Murray.
“To everyone who thinks people are 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,” he wrote on Twitter.
The ‘twerk’ request is not the first time this year that a sporting event has been tarnished by sexism. Here are five other examples.
Women expelled from sumo wrestling ring in Japan
In April, a referee ordered female medics to leave a sumo wrestling ring in Maizuru, a city in southern Japan, after they rushed to perform first aid on the mayor, who had collapsed. The women’s expulsion from the ring reignited a debate about the sexist traditions of Japan’s ancient sport. Women are traditionally banned from entering the ring on the grounds that it is sacred and their presence, considered “unclean,” would pollute it.
The Japan Sumo Association does not allow female wrestlers to compete professionally. The rule has also prevented female politicians from handing out awards inside the ring.
French tennis player’s violation for outfit swap
At the US Open in August, French tennis player Alizã Cornet received a code violation for changing her top on court after the umpire branded her outfit swap “unsportsmanlike.” Umpire Christian Rask’s decision lead to a volley of complaints about sexist double standards in tennis. Judy Murray, mother of tennis star Andy Murray, said on Twitter that male players often changed their shirts on court without receiving a violation.
Serena Williams’ catsuit ban
In May, tennis star Serena Williams won the French Open, her first Grand Slam victory since having a baby, wearing a ‘Black Panther’ style catsuit. Williams told Reuters that her decision to wear the skin-tight bodysuit was partly to do with health concerns about blood clots she has suffered from since giving birth last year.
In August, the president of the French Tennis Federation Bernard Giudicelli said that Williams would be banned from wearing her catsuit at the tournament in future, as he announced a stricter dress code for players.
“I believe we have sometimes gone too far. Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.”
The decision lead to a volley of complaints, with fans accusing tournament officials of sexism, racism and ignorance of health concerns.
Football Association’s ‘sexist’ tweet about England women
Britain’s Football Association (FA) was accused of sexism in October after sharing a picture of the England women’s team with the caption: “Scrub up well, don’t they?” The comment sparked outrage on social media, with many criticising the FA for focusing on the women’s appearance instead of their athletic prowess.
“Would that comment be made though if it was the men’s team?” one person wrote on Twitter.
“‘Scrub up well’ really @Lionesses? It’s 2018, not 1960,”another person commented.
UK soccer league slashes injury pay for female players
Several of England’s football teams have cut injury and sick pay for women players, providing them with less benefits than male footballers, Reuters reported last in November after reviewing player contracts.
Women players’ contracts were amended to allow clubs to sack athletes who have been unable to play due to injury for three months, compared with the 18-month injury pay stipulated in the contracts of men in the top English league.
Mads Oland, director of the Danish Players’ Union, which includes players at England clubs, said the difference in injury and sick pay revealed a “clear imbalance” between men’s and women’s football.