The appalling actions of the president of Spain’s football body, Louis Rubiales, after the team won the women’s football World Cup, have highlighted aspects of women’s oppression.
It was not a kiss. Rubiales sexually assaulted Jenni Hermoso by grabbing her head and forcing his mouth onto her lips.
What’s more, the Spanish Football Federation has outrageously threatened to take legal action against her. But millions of football fans witnessed this attack, and are outraged.
And people are fighting back. Hermoso has been backed by Futpro, the players’ union.
81 women players, so far, have said they will not play for Spain until Rubiales is sacked and action is taken. This includes every single member of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad.
Players from the men’s game have protested against Rubiales’s actions and in support of Hermoso too, like veteran goalkeepers Iker Casillas and David de Gea.
Borja Iglesias has refused to play for Spain’s men’s team until action is taken. And every coach from Spain’s women’s team has resigned in protest too, except head coach Jorge Vilda.
15 players from Spain’s women’s team had already refused to play in 2022, because of unacceptable behaviour and bizarre rules imposed on them by Vilda. Rubiales responded by calling the players “brats”.
In 2015, a previous Spain coach was forced to resign after an open letter by players accusing him of pinching their bottoms, and making remarks like “you need a macho man” and “you need a chilli up your ass”.
Mass mobilisation and solidarity is needed to turn the potential power of players, staff and the fans in football into action. Football’s governing bodies need to be run democratically for the working class to start to reclaim this beautiful game.
Big business and the drive for profit has corrupted football. Club boards should be democratically elected, with clubs being owned by the players, staff, fans and the wider community.
We must campaign against sexual harassment. And adequate procedures to deal with these issues should be democratically agreed and enforced.
Racism in football also has a long and inglorious history, which is now massively rejected by the vast majority of football fans. And there have been some steps in tackling homophobia.
But, within capitalism, these ideas can reemerge.
Football cannot escape the dominant capitalist ideology in society. We need to unite and oppose all forms of oppression.
Rubiales’s outrageous behaviour is not an isolated case. Women in the workplace and elsewhere face sexism and misogyny regularly. The trade union movement must defend members against bullying and sexual misconduct.
All allegations of violence against women should be taken extremely seriously, and investigated thoroughly – in a way that is sympathetic towards those making the accusation.
But there is a bigger battle to be won. Capitalism is incapable of overcoming the sexism, and other forms of oppression, that’s built into its foundations. Centuries-old ideas about gender dominance, subordination, power and control, feeds sexual abuse and violence against women, and perpetuates inequalities.
We need to fight for an end to capitalism. And struggle to build a socialist world, based on equality and solidarity, that could democratically organise public services to help free women from their double oppression.
The media are saying this is a ‘MeToo’ moment – when famous actors spoke publicly about rape and sexual harassment committed by powerful, rich men in the film industry – with the hashtag Se Acabo (it’s over).
It may be a transformational moment. But it isn’t over until we overthrow the economic system that survives on creating divisions and propagates sexism.
We can do that by uniting our opposition to capitalism, with the working class rising as a class to overthrow this cruel and exploitative system.