Keep digging, Martin: DJ’s Ballon d’Or comment shows how far there is to go
Twerking question put to Ada Hegerberg was followed by a boilerplate non-apology
French DJ Martin Solveig with Kylian Mbappe. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty
Enormous commiserations to French DJ Martin Solveig, the latest person to be filmed doing something in public that apparently doesn’t reflect who he is. The this-is-not-who-I-am defence gets a lot of run-outs these days, as cameraphones catch non-racist people being racist on buses, non-homophobic people screaming abuse at gay people outside a nightclub, or any of the other variants that increasingly adorn the age. The point is: this is not who they are.
Very occasionally, the person saying the thing is saying it on a stage, in front of a large audience and multiple television cameras, and is deploying remarks they have worked out in advance. But this, too, is not who those people are.
By way of a recap, let’s journey to Monday night’s Ballon d’Or award ceremony in Paris. As presenter, Solveig was on stage when Lyon and Norway’s Ada Hegerberg won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or. (Luka Modric picked up the men’s award, while Kylian Mbappé was honoured with a new under-21s prize, the Kopa Trophy.) Alas, no sooner had Hegerberg picked up the trophy than Solveig asked her if she could twerk. When she replied “no” and turned away from the podium, Solveig was shown laughing.
I would say that he engaged in this skit for reasons best known to himself – except it seems Martin doesn’t actually know the reasons why he did this. Indeed, they are not even dimly grasped by him.
The aforementioned reasons did appear known to Mbappé, who was shown in a cutaway shot wearing an expression we’ll call straight-to-GIF. And they were certainly known to Andy Murray, who promptly took to social media to declare: “Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport. Why do women still have to put up with that shit? ... And 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.”
For her part, Hegerberg got through it graciously, though wearing the unmistakable expression of a woman realising that it is somehow going to be on her to manage the situation in a way that causes as few ripples as possible. It won’t have been pleasant having to do this even at one of the very highest points of her professional career so far, but it certainly won’t have been unfamiliar. Not making dickheads feel like dickheads is one of the earliest ingrained lessons.
As for Solveig, he has apologised “to anyone who may have been offended”, which as everyone knows is the boilerplate non-apology. He went on to say: “People who have followed me for 20 years know how respectful I am especially with women.”
That “especially” is a bit of a tell. Why would you be any more respectful with women than with men, unless you thought there was something patronisably different about them? There was a classic Tom Cruise interview where the star was banging on about how he really respected women, and when the interviewer asked him what in particular he respected about them, he replied: “They smell good. They look pretty. I love them. I do.”
Yup, “I especially respect women” is a close relative of “I love women” – that weirdo blanket statement embraced by men who prefer to homogenise everyone who shares the same pronoun. Guys, how can you love the entire classification “women”? Loads of women are horrendous, same as loads of men are. If you Google celebrities saying “I love women”, you always get some Mel Gibson interview from a couple of years after he called a female cop “sugartits”, or a Chris Brown interview from a few months after he was arrested for beating up his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. Or a Silvio Berlusconi interview from basically any time. Pro tip: guys in or out of the public eye who say: “I love women,” always turn out bad, or, more usually, have already done so.
As for the organisers, they suggested a landmark had been reached with the first ever Ballon d’Or Féminin. But with a sexism controversy breaking out at the very moment of presentation, perhaps the real takeout is how far there is left to go.