ONE OF MY BUGBEARS IS PEOPLE IN POWER ACTING WITH IMPUNITY WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME ANYONE IN POWER RESIGNED AFTER BEING EXPOSED IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD?
To lighten the hearts of those of a certain age and musical persuasion I will start this month’s column with a quote from the legendary English 70s pop group Hot Chocolate, “It started with a kiss”. However, this kiss was not some innocent peck stolen by two youngsters at school, but rather a very public kiss on the lips of a sportswoman who had just reached the pinnacle of sporting achievement: becoming a world champion. The scandal that followed was not so much about the kiss itself, or even the fact that a married man would make such an intimate gesture in front of millions, including, presumably, his own wife and family – did Rubiales´ wife think this behaviour was OK? Or had she become accustomed to it, just as patriarchal western society has conditioned us all to during our lifetimes? – no, the scandal lay in the reaction to the kiss.
That is, Rubiales’ own incredulity at there being anything wrong with what he’d done, and then the support he received from certain members of the Spanish Football Federation, including applause at his adamant refusal to resign. What strength! What a show of male dominance! How proud his wife and daughters, whom he has mentioned as the main reason for his eventual resignation, must be of their macho husband/father, telling the world where to stick it when accused of wrongdoing.
One of my bugbears is and always has been people in power acting with impunity and a lack of accountability. From a school teacher to a parent to a football coach to a politician to a member of a royal family… It’s sickening to watch people act with complete disregard for the consequences of their actions on others. Recently, for example, I think of the role Trump played in the Capitol riot or the numerous examples of his revolting sexism caught on camera or his mishandling of top secret documents and his unfaltering belief that as president he was above all laws. Rubiales’ and Trump’s attitude towards power is actually the opposite of what one would reasonably expect of anyone in such a position.
Fortunately, western society in general tolerates such abuses of power less and less, and it’s good to see that Rubiales’ actions ultimately led to a huge social backlash over his behaviour, including street demonstrations and the creation of a new slogan aimed at the rampant sexism that the President of the Spanish Football Federation had come to embody: #SeAcabó (It’s Over), now generally viewed as the #metoo moment in Spain. Hopefully the criminal investigation looking into whether the incident amounts to a crime of sexual assault will bear fruit, although I’m not holding my breath...
Sadly, Rubiales’ own reasons for resigning appear to have had nothing to do with admitting wrong, but rather realising the effects the affair was having on his family. And so I’m left with the feeling that, far from being conquered, sexism and impunity remain a stubborn stain on our society, and that if all of this had actually taken place in Spain rather in the context of a World Cup held on the other side of the world and viewed by millions, then nothing would have happened. After all, when was the last time anyone in power resigned after being exposed in this part of the world ? Cristina Cifuentes anyone?