MACHISMO, ON AND OFF THE PITCH
The kiss was not the only moment of such machismo that this team has had to contend with.
In the autumn of 2022, 15 players demanded better working conditions, because they feared for their physical and mental health. “Las 15”, as they became known, play football for first division clubs (Barcelona, both Manchester clubs, Atlético de Madrid), so they knew what can be achieved with better resources and conditions.
These legitimate concerns made in private were leaked to the press and spun as a revolt of spoilt, female brats against the head coach Jorge Vilda. Las 15 published a letter clarifying that their concerns referred to better management of the team to achieve peak performance, and a less controlling leadership style that treats players professionally.
Rubiales, unsurprisingly, gave Vilda unconditional support. And from Las 15, only three players were selected for the World Cup (Batlle, Bonmati, Caldentey), making their win against a formidable English team even more remarkable.
BACKLASH TO PROGRESS
These moments are best understood within the context of wider legal, social and cultural changes that have taken place in Spain. While there was slow but steady progress for women’s rights in the 1980s and 1990s, it was not until the administration of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (2004-2011) that progress accelerated, and the longstanding machismo culture began to face a real challenge.
Two landmark legislative changes were made to combat gender violence in 2004 and progress gender equality in 2007.
The most recent new legislation, passed in October 2022, strengthens criminal charges for sexual aggression, among other advancements for women’s rights. These changes were described as a fundamental feminist achievement by the UN.
This wording, while accurate, plays into the hands of the far right political party Vox, who all too happily spin these advancements as the making of a (too) leftwing government. Vox is vocal in its condemnation of feminism and blames women for destroying the nuclear family as the basis for society.
Most shockingly, they want to protect men from “fake feminism”, such as supposedly fake stories about gender violence. This is the exact phrasing Rubiales used in his defence, showing how this ideology can be accepted and used by powerful men.