Prior to Spain’s match against England in the women’s World Cup final, people were saying, both in Spain and elsewhere, about how winning the World Cup would put Spain on higher footing, if not an equal one, in relation to the men’s game.
These comments, especially in Spain, were made on the back of a strong movement for change in Spain, by women in the main, but also by some men to both advance and protect women’s rights, and fight against machismo.
In the moments following the final whistle, Spanish women footballers, unlike the male ones, became the momentary focus of the world’s footballing audience. For those seconds, if you were thinking about football, and football and Spain, you’d be thinking about women.
This is perhaps the very first time in footballing history that the world has thought about women (and not men) when it thinks about Spain and football.
It was then, truly historic.
At this point the Spanish women’s football team were on a pedestal, and everyone, including every single football loving Spanish male, were below them.
But moments prior to Spain lifting the trophy, at the point at which the Spanish players were receiving their medals, the Spanish president decided to reassert male power.
His male power over the Spanish women’s squad.
For men over women, with regards to football and in Spain generally.
And for men over women, in the world, in particular.
He took one of the players receiving a medal, hugged her, grabbed her head and the planted a ‘cheeky’ kiss straight on to her lips before letting her go.
The kiss was a glance of a kiss.
It was just a tap.
It could even be construed as a misplaced kiss.
It was sexual assault.
It sent a message to all the women in the squad.
You are mine.
You are fucking mine. Later on, in the changing room Rubiales said that he would be getting married to the player he kissed, and invited the whole squad to the wedding.
You are my little bitches. You are my joy division. He grabbed his crotch and shook his genitals twice in an ostentatious display of celebration when the final whistle went. In 2020, he was accused by his own uncle of using football federation funds for organising sex parties for colleagues and himself.
Don’t get above your fucking station love. This game is all about me and the boys.
You do this for me remember? (The Spanish Football Association later passed a statement to the press that Rubiales had planted a kiss on the player’s lips to show his gratitude – presumably, in his mind, to the player for winning him the World Cup.)
Rubiales’ kiss, his power play, was a continuation of the male control that his clique has long exercised over the women’s team.
Over the last year or so the male-controlled management of Spain’s women’s football has involved men treating the women like something between children and prisoners.
Last year, in September 2022, fifteen players withdrew from the Spanish squad, in protest at Jorge Vilda’s behaviour and how they were being treated.
Their training facilities weren’t as good as the men’s.
There were ‘vague reports’ of players’ having to leave their hotel doors unlocked at night time so he could inspect their rooms! Fucking hell, isn’t this the kind of thing that should lead to a national enquiry!?
Jorge Vilda is the son of the head of women’s football, who is also a man. Jobs for the boys eh!?
One of the coaches of the women’s team in Spain, who was in post for 27 years, would call them ‘chavalitas’ which means immature girls.
The incredible levels of passive-aggression shown by the Spanish women footballers towards the male coach Jorge Vilda speak volumes about the impact of his and others’ behaviour.
The players rarely went to celebrate a goal or a victory with Jorge Vilda. One refused to shake hands with Vilda after coming off as a substitute.
Desperate to play for and represent their country, they have used these passive-aggressive techniques to cope with and survive what Vilda and others have done to them.
The suppressed anger and rage must be great.
What Rubiales did was also a continuation of the male control of women’s ability to play the game
Spain didn’t allow women to form a national women’s football team until 1980.
But the kiss, also, was something that was enabled by an ever longer-standing tradition, in Spain, that has not been mentioned or challenged during the discussions.
The two kisses.
When men meet women, both are expected to give two kisses.
When women meet women, the same.
But when men meet men, no. It does happen on vary rare occasions between two men who know each other very well.
The two kisses are about women showing affection towards men, and men having an expectation of affection from women.
Rubiales took advantage of this unquestioned cultural practice in every exchange with the women he congratulated.
In some way, it was the smallest of steps to then kissing the one player he targeted, for a kiss on the lips.
Spanish society, I doubt, will be ready to let this one drop.
It is likely to become a hot political potato.
There’s a big movement for the protection and forwarding of women’s rights in Spain.
But there’s a more powerful movement to uphold the dignity of the royal family, when Rubiales grabbed his crotch at full-time, he did it standing next to the Queen of Spain and her daughter. The royalists may well have him if the feminists can’t.
This article was written 20th August 2023.
Lets rewind to Sunday 20th August.
In the same game, before Rubielas had kissed Hermoso, when Spain’s goal went in, Jorge Vilda celebrating with his staff grabbed the breast of one of his female colleagues and held on to it.
Hermoso was said to have released a statement shortly after the first reactions to the kiss. ‘Ha sido un gesto mutuo, totalmente espontáneo por la alegría inmensa que da ganar un Mundial. El presi y yo tenemos una gran relación, su comportamiento con todas nosotras ha sido de diez y fue un gesto natural de cariño y agradecimiento’, manifestó Jenni en unas declaraciones facilitadas por la RFEF a EFE. ‘Ha sido un gesto mutuo, totalmente espontáneo por la alegría inmensa que da ganar un Mundial. El presi y yo tenemos una gran relación, su comportamiento con todas nosotras ha sido de diez y fue un gesto natural de cariño y agradecimiento’, manifestó Jenni en unas declaraciones facilitadas por la RFEF a EFE. Did she really say this? It sounds like something that a communications manager would write, not the kind of thing that a normal person would say. revelo.com has apparently said she was coerced into making the statement. She says, and its reported in El Mundo, that she was put under pressure to release this statement, not just her but her friends and family.
On Monday the 21st Rubiales offers what appears to be an apology, but which is in actual fact not. He says he is sorry if people were offended, but he does not say that what he did was wrong.
By Wednesday, the 23rd August, Rubiales had been accused by Tamara Ramos of abusing her in the work place, some ten years ago, when the two of them used to work at the Association of Footballers in Spain. Rubiales was said by Ramos to have humiliated her by suggesting that she was at work to deliver him sexual favours, in front of lots of other people (most of whom would have been men). And to have intimidated her sexually by asking her what the colour of her underwear was.
Rubiales was alleged to have intimidated Tamara Ramos in front of a group of colleagues. Ramos did not report any colleague jumping to her defence. When a man sexually humiliates anyone in front of a group, it is a power play, not just in respect of the person humiliated, but in respect to everyone else in the room. Because the silence of the room in the face of the event tells everyone else that there is no-one in that room who is prepared to challenge the power and freedom of the man to behave in that way. And no-one in the room who is prepared to support anyone who might challenge it. This is how the bully works, the bully works to intimidate not just the individual, but the group as a whole, to get them ‘on side’, to ensure that they are ‘team players’. And in this way victims and onlookers feel powerless and hopeless. Onlookers in fear of the boss and the group, can relieve their fear by choosing to be on-side and to play a role or derive enjoyment in the abuse of the victim, either by playing some role in the abuse (laughing along at the joke, repeating it at some point in the future) or by simply enjoying the fact that they are above the victim in the pecking order.
The same day the Spanish Football Association call Tamara’s claims false.
On Thursday FIFA were said to have opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales.
Hermoso called for “exemplary measures” to be taken against Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) President Luis Rubiales. “My union FUTPRO, in coordination with my agency TMJ, are taking care of defending my interests and have taken over as my interlocutors on this matter,” Hermoso said in a joint statement released by the union and her agency. “We are working to ensure that acts such as those we have seen never go unpunished, that they are sanctioned and that the exemplary measures are adopted to protect women footballers from actions that we believe are unacceptable.”
Two days later, on Friday 25th August, Rubiales staged his Empire Strikes Back moment. Herman points out that faced with the prospect of accountability, perpetrators often become extremely aggressive. To resist being bought to justice, they will marshal the same methods of intimidation and deceit that they once used to dominate their victims. On the 25th August, Rubiales convened an extraordinary meeting of the Spanish Football Association, and gathered all the regional heads.
He obliged female staff who were involved in the coaching and preparation of the Women’s World Cup team to sit in the front rows of the audience, watching his speech, in an attempt to affect a false consensus with his views and ideas and position and behaviour [ref]. [ref]
In advance of the meeting most of the national and international media had been briefed and were reporting that Rubiales would announce his resignation. Rubiales gave a stunning Hollywood style dramatic account of his own personal view of what had happened and what was going on. He denounced the left-wing politicians who had denounced him and criticised what he referred to as ‘false-feminism’. It was a fantastically well crafted right wing political attack that Partido Popular or Vox would have been proud of. And it drew great applause from the audience.
And to cap it off, midway through, and after giving much of his view on the situation he shouted that he would not resign, he would not resign! Wow, that shocked the media who were all expecting the opposite. Not only that but Rubiales announced that he would extend the contract of Jorge Vilda, the coach whose controlling techniques many of the Spanish players objected to and left the squad, in opposition to. Not only extend the contract but raise his wages to half a million a year.
Herman explains that to hold traumatic reality in consciousness requires a social context and a political movement that affirms and protects the victim and that joins victim and witness in a common alliance. Look at how, in the moments after which Rubiales assaulted his victim, the victim, in discussion with her team mates wanted to forget about it (understandably) and not let it get in the way of her team celebrating their World Cup victory. In the hours and days that followed a huge political movement that worked to bring what Hermoso experienced into the collective conscience. If it had not been for this then the victim’s comments, which were an attempt to bury what had happened, might reasonably have been the beginning of a process of dissociation from the event. Dissociation writes Herman is the mechanism by which intense sensory and emotional experiences are disconnected from the social (and personal, I would add) domain of language and memory. It offers people a mental escape at the moment when no other escape seems possible, but it comes at a price. Herman cites evidence to suggest that people who enter into dissociative states are more likely to self-harm and develop somatic symptoms, for which no physical cause can be found.
But in the minutes and hours that followed politicians from the left and much of Spain’s media began to define and describe that had happened, and communicate with each other on the matter, to build up a community of understanding of what had happened. This social network, this political movement, created in the collective and global conscience the notion, that the player and Rubiales had wanted to brush off, that what had happened was an assault on the individual (and on women generally) to a global TV audience. Rubiales looked like he was finished, but he dramatically and theatrically made a come back. Not only that he linked into the prevailing right wing political discourse in Spain, surrounded by his supportive colleagues, men of real power in the world of football and elsewhere, to attack the various accounts and elements of the political movement that had held up the truth of the moment to the spotlight for everyone to see.
He challenged all notions, including the victim’s, that his act was anything more than ‘consensual’ (in some ways challenge the apology that he had appeared to have given). He argued that the kiss planted on Hermoso was consensual, claiming that he had asked her if he could give her a little peck. “She said okay.”
The classic act of the abuser, with more power, is to discredit the story and experience of the victim. When a more powerful aggressor tries to re-write the victim’s experience, the fear of the repercussions of restating the truth leads the victims into accepting the aggressors account and denying their own reality, which in turn, leads the victim into a state where they can no longer feel that the trust their own experiences, which can turn into hysteria, dizziness, emotional and psychological breakdown.
The socialist feminist movement in Spain is strong though, they will fight back. They are the bystanders, we are all the bystanders. As Judith Herman says, ‘Bystanders are sometimes forced to take sides. Those who stand with the victim will inevitably have to face the perpetrator’s unmasked fury’. This is a saga that will continue. Let’s see.
The power that Rubiales has shown is behind him, shows that even if Rubiales is removed, Meduso, the beast remains.
The entire political movement in Spain has been built on the feminist movement, which has been decades in the making. Herman writes that because subordination of women and children has been so deeply embedded in our culture, the use of force against women and children has only recently been recognised as a violation of basic human rights. Widespread patters of coercive control such as battering, stalking, sexual harassment, and acquaintance rape were not even named, let alone understood to be crimes, until they were defined by the feminist movement. She notes that in a number of highly publicized trials, prominent and powerful men have been compelled to answer for crimes that they clearly felt entitled to commit against women or children. These trials have served as a kind of political theatre, in which tragedy is reenacted, and the complex moral issues of accountability are debated.
She says, faced with the possibility of a public reckoning, accused perpetrators have organised to mount a renewed assault on the credibility of victims. People who bear witness and lend support to victims have been subject to aggressive and organised attack. Herman notices that the movement against women’s rights and women’s ability to protect themselves against violence involves a concerted co-ordinated attempt to construct a notion of packs of irrational and vengeful women bent on indiscriminate slander. She notes that the press seem to be tired of hearing about victims and eager to take the side of those who insisted that they had been wrongly accused. Well in Spain there has been a mixed reception in the press, but some part of it has taken the side of the victim in this case.
The Spanish government said they would act to remove Rubiales. The Spanish government says it is beginning legal proceedings seeking to suspend Rubiales, with the Spanish secretary of sport saying he “wants this to be Spanish football’s MeToo moment”.
And on Friday, Hermoso released another statement, saying that the kiss was not consensual.
The President of Spain’s women’s football committee resigns over Luis Rubiales controversy (ref)
The saga continued the evening of Rubiales’ speech when the entire World Cup winning squad, together with 56 additional Spanish players, said they would no longer play for Spain whilst Rubiales remained in power. THey were joined by one male player who said the same.
Sevilla FC released a statement criticising Rubiales.
On 26th August, Saturday afternoon, six days after the incident Rubiales geared up the Spanish Football Federation to attack the victim. It said in a statement provided on its website, “We have to state that Ms Jennifer Hermoso lies in every statement she makes against the president…. The peck [kiss] was consensual. The consent was given in the moment with the conditions of the moment. Later you can think that you have made a mistake, but you cannot change reality.”
Not just that but that the Spanish football federation says it will take legal action against Hermoso over her “lies” about the kiss.
They created a series of ‘fake news’ photograph items trying to create a narrative that demonstrated the falsity of Hermoso’s claims. ‘Los pies del Sr. presidente están claramente y manifiestamente levantados del suelo como consecuencia de la acción de fuerza realizada por la jugadora.’
And then FIFA acted too. They suspended him. They said they would be undertaking disciplinary proceedings. And they said he should not contact the victim.
And then 11 coaches who were involved with the Women’s World Cup team resigned, but not the manager.
And the manager of the men’s Spanish team Luis de la Fuente, after applauding the speech of Rubiales the day before, entrenador de la selección masculina, censuró este sábado “sin paliativos el comportamiento equivocado y fuera de lugar del presidente”. El técnico, que el próximo 1 de septiembre dará a conocer la lista para los partidos de la selección absoluta ante Georgia y Chipre, se desmarca. “Los hechos protagonizados por Luis Rubiales no respetaron el mínimo protocolo que debe seguirse en estos actos de celebración, y no son edificantes ni apropiados para una persona que estaba representando a todo el fútbol español”, expuso De la Fuente.
Jorge Vilda, after taking a week to see the dust settle, and one day after he applauded Rubiales defiant speech, and six days after he had grabbed one of his own coaching staff’s breasts during a celebration (it was like Rubiales kiss, a subtle gesture/assault) condemned Rubiales for his behaviour.
- Chronolog: https://www.elmundo.es/television/medios/2023/08/27/64e87ca6e4d4d81c128b4598.html
On 28th August
- Spanish football federation leaders demand resignation of Luis Rubiales The demand was a seeming reversal from the scene that had played out at the federation’s meeting on Friday, where Rubiales, 46, repeated “I will not resign” five times to vigorous applause from the members in attendance. (and
- El Confidencial link
- Link to RFEF announcement
- On Monday, prosecutors at Spain’s top criminal court said they had launched a preliminary investigation into whether Rubiales’ unsolicited kiss of Hermoso could constitute sexual assault.
- On Monday, news agency Efe reported that Rubiales’s mother had shut herself into the Divina Pastora church in the city of Motril, deciding to remain there with her sister after the parish priest left.
- Good analysis of the psychology and networks at play
- Something to do with the TAD
- Manifestation in Madrid
On Tuesday, 29th August
- People begin to gather around the church where Rubiales mother is staying. Talking about the bloody hunt of Rubiales, that he is being hunted, I would imagine a reference to the idea of a witch hunt, but this time round it it is the witches doing the huntig.
- Summary of events
Friday, 1st September
- Luis De La Fuente apologises for having clapped Rubiales at his ‘Empire Strikes Back’ speech.
- Women’s football strike announced
Monday, 4th September
Tuesday, 5th September
A general theme to explore is how, in the event of an incident of harassment, and in the absence of any sense of being able to do anything about it, it is common for the victim to respond by acting towards the incident and those involved and themselves as if it wasn’t really anything, nothing important, or to laugh it off. Its fascinating that I’ve just read this research report from Kate Dawson, on how children responded to incidents of sexual harrassment by teachers at school, and they reported the same kind of thing,
Dawson, K., Healy-Cullen, S., MacNeela, P. and de Visser, R. (2023) An Exploratory Study on Teacher Perpetrated Sexual Misconduct in Irish and UK Secondary Schools.
Wednesday 6th September
10th September, 2023
21st September 2023