Today I can not help but think of the awards that I have received in my life — the blue ribbons for science projects, participation trophies for sports, letters for marching band, along with applause and praise for a job well done. Something is satisfying about getting that recognition. At some point, we have all received an award for something. Someone has taken notice of us and celebrated us for something that we have accomplished. It is human. It is part of life experience. It is part of why we work hard. I was driven to receive awards. I appreciated the praise. But, what if what is heaped on us is not praise for winning a prize? What if at that moment, we are gifted something else?
Does the name Ada Hegerberg mean anything to you? Ada Hegerberg is a soccer star from Norway. She plays with speed, skill, strength, passion, and composure. Ada has an excellent first touch, field vision, and is a precise passer. She is so good at what she does, her presence puts consistent pressure on an opposing team to not make mistakes. Ada Hegerberg is a classic striker. For those not familiar with soccer, strikers are the goal scorers. They are relentless. They crave scoring goals like Sesame Street's Cookie Monster craves chocolate chip treats.
The Ballon d'Or is an award given out to the best player in the world as voted on by the media. It's been given out since 1956 and it a prestigious distinction. Many famous players in the game have received it. David Beckham has won the Ballon d'Or before. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, regarded as the best players in the world have each won it five times. With my four years of French in high school, I can somewhat confidently tell you that Ballon d'Or translates to Ball of Gold. And, the trophy is literally a Golden Ball. To be more inclusive, the same institution also decided to start awarding a Ballon d'Or Féminin in 2018 to be awarded to the best female player in the world.
Ada Hegerberg was the inaugural recipient. She plays for Olympique Lyon which is in Lyon, France. Olympique Lyon is the most successful team in their league winning sixteen league titles. And, this year Hegerberg was their best player. So, you have this history-making moment. In the interest of equality, the Ballon d'Or Féminin is created recognizing that women can accomplish just as much in professional sports as a man. And, at that moment, when a 23-year-old woman at the top of her profession, the host giving her the award doesn't ask her about how it felt to hold the Ballon d'Or, what's her favorite skill as a player, or if she hopes the award inspires young girls trying to break into soccer. Instead of those questions, Martin Solveig, the French DJ asked Ada Hegerberg if she knew ”how to twerk."
Think about that. A woman just achieved something, and she was asked to perform a sexually provocative dance to celebrate it? It is not funny. I can not imagine Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, or David Beckham being asked to perform a sexually provocative dance in celebration of being named the best player in the world. It is nonsensical. It is also sexist. The sad part of all of this is a woman who is at the top of her profession will be known for something other than her profession because someone asked her something idiotic in an attempt to tell a joke. That's why I asked if you knew the name Ada Hegerberg.
I had not. I am new to soccer, but I would imagine most of us heard about the incident over the actual player it involved. That is a problem. She was rendered invisible in the midst of an incredible accomplishment. Martin Solveig's question was not funny. It was disrespectful and disheartening. It shows us that no matter what a woman achieves, some men will see her as a sexual object instead of an elite athlete. It is as if she is mainly there to titillate. Solveig sabotaged an attempt to do the right thing by implying that women playing soccer are not worthy of the same respect as men. So, what does this mean for all women? How do these beliefs and attitudes impact the average woman? As a society, we must teach men that women do not exist to dance for men. Women's existence is not about fulfilling male fantasies. Women are not only here to entertain, titillate, or beautify our worlds. Women have lives, goals, dreams, and ambitions that do not involve fulfilling sophomoric male fantasies. This incident is a reminder of why there is so much work to be done. And part of the work is to critically examine archaic thinking that does not make sense in our lives. I hope that you choose to do that.