It was an utterly joyous occasion for the Spain who won gold at the FIFA World Women Championship. A moment that would go down in history. Except it got marred by the disgusting actions of Spanish football association president Luis Rubiales. The man kissed an unsuspecting Spanish footballer, Jenni Hermosa during the medal ceremony of her team. Hermosa, was stunned and this incident left many enraged, rightfully so.
It triggered widespread criticism with Hermosa’s teammates and coaches, the Spanish Mens’s football team and people at large standing in solidarity with her.
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While it gained the due importance due to social media, this sort of behaviour on men’s part isn’t new, and perhaps that is what is most frustrating. Women in sports are faced with multiple barriers – their facilities, the pay gap, the coaches – and men like Rubiales make it worse. That women in 2023 are still having to deal with minor or major sexual assault and unwarranted physical advances has us up in arms, and it’s about time.
In her official statement, Jenni Hermosa stated “At no time did I consent to the kiss he gave me”. Rubiales stuck with the statement that the kiss was consensual.
What is perhaps even more appalling is that a Google search about the incident will reveal that everyone is more interested in knowing who Rubiales assaulted- reducing it to some sort of salacious gossip. In what can only called sexist, the RFEF – Royal Spanish Football Federation went ahead to say that Hermosa was lying and that there will consequences for the same. It was only when the public, FIFA and the rest of Hermosa’s teammates stood by her side, that Rubiales is forced to resign from his post.
That men have walked away without a dent in their reputation and worse, scot-free without facing any consequences is not just shocking. Often, these men are bullish despite their actions, after all, assaulters in the past have hardly had to face the brunt of consequences of their actions.
Red carpets, awards shows, talk shows and public events have seen several incidents of a similarly sinister style- men taking the liberty to kiss, grope or harass women and men alike, with no qualms about having to face the music, because, well, they haven’t. That people do this while in the public eye or even on camera should be testimony to how haughty they are.
(Trigger Warning: Mentions and Imagery of assault)
David Letterman doesn’t have the best reputation but certainly seems to have garnered quite a few eyeballs for being creepy. Multiple female celebrities who made an appearance on his show have been visibly uncomfortable.
His behaviour with Jennifer Anniston where he licked her hair in front of the audience, made everyone uncomfortable. Unperturbed, he kept commenting on how her dress suits her because she has long stunning legs, the FRIENDS star looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there.
Not called out and practically encouraged by his popularity, he went on to abruptly reach and touch Catherine Zeta-Jones’ hair. Unsurprisingly the actress was stunned, and didn’t how to react. Madonna shut him down when he got up close and personal about her sex life, followed by him asking her to kiss a random man from the audience. It’s neither funny nor candid. And still, he continues to find an audience-and he’s not faced the music. He is still deemed as an esteemed talk show host and has made a celebrated career around it.
Oscars, IIFA, MTV all these acclaimed award stages have been the podium to mainly celebrate talent and great work. And despite the fact that this is where the cameras are at, the audacity of men is…well, shocking. There have been several instances where women have been kissed without their consent. In 1995, during the MTV Awards, Cameron Diaz’s co presenter Chris Isaak kept getting too close for comfort, going as far as asking her for a kiss. When she determinedly refused, he went in for one anyway, while the rest watched. Jim Carrey was applauded for defending his friend Diaz.
But then, two years later the then 35-year-old Jim Carrey took the liberty to kiss a 20-year-old Alicia Silverstone impulsively, when she was presenting him with an award.
At the 2003 Oscars, Adrien Brody kissed Halle Berry which sparked a huge controversy.
John Travolta, Gary Busey Isaac Mizrahi, Vitalii Sediuk have all openly groped or kissed women and men on camera. Consent in these cases was merely an abstract concept.
Isaac Mizrahi groped a 21-year-old Scarlett Johansson while interviewing her. She was visibly uncomfortable in the video that took social media by storm.
When the famous prankster Sediuk tried to kiss Will Smith, he got smacked in the face.
Matters aren’t better closer home. In 2014, during a party celebrating the success of Finding Fanny, Homi Adajania planted a kiss on Deepika Padukone on the red carpet. She looked uncomfortable but this was dismissed.
During their campaign to spread awareness about AIDS, Richard Gere planted multiple kisses on Shilpa Shetty’s face without her consent while the crowd cheered and hooted. It gets worse. A group of Indian activists filed a case against HER for public obscenity.
For far too long, men have gotten away with playing with the boundaries of consent- behind closed doors and even in the public eye. But we are in 2023 and if women are still being blamed for the bad behaviour of men or blamed for men’s actions, we need to take a serious relook at everything we believe to be fair and just in society. Because women cannot be carrying the burden of men’s actions and men need to face consequences, this simply isn’t up for debate any more.