Luis Rubiales no longer rules Spanish football. 17 days have passed since a cocky “I’m not going to resign!”, repeated five times before those who he believed were his faithful, to leaving office, already removed from him by FIFA, in a statement on Sunday night and resigned to some mysterious “powers that be” that would prevent him from returning to his position. These powers exist, but they are far from the dark conspiracy that Rubiales suggests. They are those of hundreds of thousands of people who were outraged by the fact that the president of the Federation kissed a player who had just won the World Cup, Jenni Hermoso, without consent. The power of those who, in a few hours, took to social media to point out what he had done and many days later to say #SeAcabó; also those of those who took days to reevaluate what they had seen: it was not an unfortunate gesture, it was an attack. That of the politicians who criticized this behavior, those of the national and international media. The power of the rejection of the rest of the players, although not all, and some in a lukewarm way, and that of the other leaders of the federation who turned their backs on him. All these forces, together, forged a new consensus beyond football and feminism, a social consensus. Those have been the powers that have made Rubiales see that the person driving in the wrong direction on the highway was himself.
Rubiales was celebrating the players’ victory in Sydney, and when he grabbed Jenni Hermoso’s face and kissed her on the mouth, he believed he was doing it in a world where he could do something like that in front of an audience of millions of people without anything happening. At most, the reaction of some “idiots in the ass” who did not know how to interpret a gesture of uncontrollable joy, as he tried to minimize hours later in an interview on the Cope network. But that impunity that surrounded him was only in his head, something that the last three weeks have shown. Regardless of whether there are criminal consequences or not, Rubiales’s gesture made it possible to verify the strength of feminism and also, as Octavio Salazar, jurist and expert in equality and masculinities, explains, “that values have matured in society that translate into a demand for responsibility and in the late resignation.” This, three or four years ago, “would have been unthinkable,” he says.
This transformation of society has emerged very strongly with the Rubiales case, it represents a “point of no return,” according to Salazar, and a red line has materialized about what the majority is not willing to tolerate. In recent years, “debates about consent, about just yes is yes beyond the legal part, have had pedagogical consequences in society,” he comments. The ability to identify that kiss as an attack has been gaining ground among citizens, and from there, illuminating the world of Rubiales has left in the open some power structures, those of football, “very masculine and masculinized that have been supporting him.” “says Salazar, who is confident that the wave will also reach “similar spaces” where men exercise their hierarchical dominance, “like the university.”
Despite the advances, and because of them, in recent years a portion of society perceives the feminist movement as a threat, as something that challenges their convictions in a radical way. It is partly explained by the greater presence of feminist issues in public debate, but also because some of them have been polarizing within the movement itself: the trans law and the processing of the only yes is yes are two clear examples. The difference with the Rubiales case is that the realities it alludes to reach all women, of all ages, everywhere: sexual violence and abuse of power. Feminism, says sociologist Rosa Cobo, “is a powerful movement in terms of mobilization that has had, on this occasion, a much greater response to the movement itself, which shows that when an idea takes hold it does so despite the own movements or the situation in which they find themselves at a given moment.”
Rubiales on August 23 at the Federation assembly in which he denied that he was going to resign.- (AFP)
Cobo highlights that “an enormously powerful critical and collective consciousness has been organized that has turned something that five or seven years ago could have been irrelevant into a social and media tsunami.” She is convinced that “in some way the idea of consent has permeated society,” and that if it has done so it is “because it has fallen on very fertile soil,” that of a feminist movement that in recent years has put “ sexual violence at the heart” of their agenda.
This violence, says Cobo, “has become an enormous concern for mothers, daughters, grandmothers, students and workers, all of them,” which is why what Rubiales did “fell at the center of that feminist political vindication” and “has “It’s possible that he has to say he’s leaving.” The pressure for her to leave has been built in an inclusive and homogeneous way in a snowball that rolled every day, adding support to Jenni Hermoso and making Rubiales’ version and her idea of ”false feminism” marginal.
The fact that the non-consensual kiss happened in public and with millions of eyes focused, with the dissemination capacity of social networks, has made it more difficult to support his version with each day that passed with Rubiales at the head of the Federation. He tried to construct a parallel story, minimize what happened and even put pressure on Hermoso and his family. It is the basic manual of sexual harassment at work, which usually occurs in private spaces, without witnesses, and where suspicions usually fall on the victim.
Day after day, Rubiales lost allies, and among them, many men “who have said in public that they have become aware,” says Salazar, who hopes that this case “will serve to make us understand that this has to do with us, that we have a special responsibility in change. That in any case we should feel challenged, not attacked.” All of this also has to do with a generational issue, in men and women. It happened in the champions’ own locker room.
“What happened is very serious”
Laia Codina, 23-year-old defender of the women’s team, explained it when recounting what happened on the bus, leaving the stadium in Sydney, after the victory. One of the team’s veterans brought up the kiss during the celebration. “He tells us: ‘Be careful girls, because what has happened is very serious, it is unacceptable and we have to condemn it because in the end it is still an abuse of power by the boss with a player, who could have been any of us.’
The veterans of that team are the few who lived together until 2015 with former coach Ignacio Quereda—accused of treating them with contempt for years—and survived his departure. Hermoso, Alexia Putellas or Irene Paredes among them. They are the ones who have not tired of fighting in the offices for their right to worry only about the ball and so that those who succeed them do not have to think except on the pitch. With a feminist consciousness that they have assimilated in these eight years. With a voice in the locker room, natural leaders.
They are the ones who did not have to explain much more to the younger ones, members of Generation Z, footballers without complexes, intolerant of certain behaviors, without fear of reporting, references without renunciations for the girls, and boys, of today. The soccer players are already of a different variety. And they have led this change in sports and society in a quintessentially masculine world, football, a private preserve of theirs until they have managed to overthrow prejudices with balls, and once again breaking the silence. The #SeAcabó initiated by Putellas It started after Rubiales’ speech at the Federation on Friday, August 25.
Because beyond the non-consensual kiss, grabbing his testicles in the box, or grabbing Queen Letizia by the shoulder, in the dissection of Rubiales’s fall it is important how he reacted to the criticism. “He has raised many blisters that he has not understood it as something that is wrong,” alleges Rosa Cobo. He has never apologized, he has not acknowledged. For Cobo, all of the above “has generated deep discomfort,” and, “although at the same time there was also the ‘it wasn’t a big deal’ thing, the ‘yes it was a big deal’ has been much more powerful.” In this, society, and also “the media, have played a very positive role, because no matter how much there is discomfort in society, if the media, like the networks, do not echo it, it would not have reached where it has reached. ”.
And the role of institutions and those with decision-making capacity has also been important. If Rubiales has decided to stop entrenching himself, “high-level pressures” have also had to do with it: the Government, FIFA, the Spanish federation itself. Of all of them, says Cobo, “the politician is the most democratic power because it is the one that is born from direct election, and it is the one that has the greatest legitimacy, therefore, when he takes a stand for a right in the face of an outrage or a privilege, it is fundamental. It has the capacity to weaken or strengthen, to give legitimacy or to take it away, and in this sense political power has been unequivocal.” He explains that, for a movement or a specific issue to move forward, there is support without which it cannot do so: that of the markets, that of culture and the media, the academic and the political. “There has been unanimity here. It was evident, it was becoming unsustainable for Rubiales to continue there. And feminism was the one that delivered the unstoppable blow.”
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