Infamous Kiss in Spain Has Gone Way Beyond Soccer

Backlash against Luis Rubiales seen as an 'epochal moment' for nation's culture of machismo
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2023 1:56 PM CDT
Infamous Kiss in Spain Has Gone Way Beyond Soccer
A woman holds a placard as demonstrators gather in the center of Madrid, Spain, Monday, Aug. 28, 2023.   (AP Photo/ Alicia Leon)

As of Tuesday afternoon, Luis Rubiales remained president of the Spanish Football Federation. However, his ability to keep that post looks more uncertain by the hour because of the infamous kiss he planted on the lips of soccer player Jennifer Hermoso following Spain's World Cup championship. At this point, the kiss—which the 46-year-old Rubiales called consensual but the 33-year-old Hermoso insists was not—has gone far beyond soccer, particularly in Spain.

  • Resonating: The kiss "laid bare the toxic masculinity that still pervades the euro's fourth-biggest economy more than 40 years after the end of Franco's dictatorship—a period when the country went through radical social change that saw it become one of the world's most progressive nations," per Bloomberg. The BBC goes further, exploring how the controversy has resonated with women around the world. "We are being asked to ignore what you can see on film, and to dismiss a woman when she says she didn't consent," says Teresa Parker of the group Women's Aid. "It is an outrageous situation."
  • Machismo: Mariam Martinez-Bascunan, a professor of political sciences at the Autonomous University of Madrid, tells the New York Times that the kiss is "an epochal moment that will have important repercussions." The piece notes that politicians from the left and right in Spain have rallied behind Hermoso over the kiss, which the newspaper describes as a "generational and cultural fault line between deep traditions of machismo and the more recent progressivism that has put Spain in the European vanguard on issues of feminism and equality." It's being called the nation's own #MeToo Movement.

  • Criminal: On Monday, Spanish prosecutors opened an investigation into whether the kiss might be considered a sexual assault, reports the BBC.
  • Piling on: Rubiales has not spoken publicly since defiantly refusing to resign on Friday and blaming "false feminists" for his plight, but his critics are multiplying. Regional leaders of the federation he leads called for him to resign on Monday, per CNN. (Soccer's world body, FIFA, already has suspended him.)
  • His mother: Perhaps Rubiales' most public defender is his mother, who began a hunger strike on Monday, reports the AP. Angeles Bejar vowed to continue the strike inside a church in Spain until the "inhumane hounding" of her son ends. Supporters outside the church held signs demanding that Hermoso "tell the truth" about the kiss.
  • Machismo, II: Louisa Thomas digs into all the above at the New Yorker, calling attention also to Rubiales' celebratory grabbing of his crotch immediately after the win. "Attitudes are changing," she writes. "You could see it in the course of the week—how standing ovations (for Rubiales) turned into critical statements, how Hermoso herself at first uncomfortably laughed the kiss off, before acknowledging that it was demeaning and disrespectful, at the very moment the women should have been celebrated for their triumph." Rubiales isn't long for his job, and the same likely applies to coach Jorge Vilad, she writes. "But the danger is that they become mere scapegoats, that they let people congratulate themselves for fixing the problem, forget their own parts, and move on."
(More Spain stories.)

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