The World Cup kiss that’s caused chaos and became a symbol of deeper tensions

President of Spain's football federation, Luis Rubiales, kisses Jennifer Hermoso.

This World Cup kiss has led to a crisis in Spanish football - a moment of sporting history that has become etched in the country’s.

It lasted just a matter of seconds, but it has become a defining moment in Luis Rubiales and Jenni Hermoso’s careers and potentially their lives.

Millions watched as Spain beat England to become Women’s World Cup champions, but instead of revelling in the glory of their victor status, the team have been rallying around one of i's stars and responding to questions about what happened after the match.

As forward Jenni Hermoso went up to lift the World Cup trophy, she was kissed on the lips by Spanish FA President Luis Rubiales.

He claims it was consensual - she says it was not.

It has dominated discussions in Spain and has barely left the front pages.

Spain's Jennifer Hermoso and head coach Jorge Vilda. Credit: AP

But the kiss has become a symbol of a deeper conflict in Spanish society, between those who believe his behaviour is acceptable and those who want it consigned to history.

Luis Rubiales, who also grabbed his crotch during the final and has been accused of previous sexist behaviour by women in senior positions in Spanish football, has been held up as an example of machismo.

Machismo is the concept of strong masculine ideals and pride in them.

In Spain, it is a hangover from life under Franco’s nearly 40 year dictatorship (1939-75) when a woman’s value was seen as being a mother at home.

This was an era when divorce was illegal and women weren’t allowed to travel away from home or have bank accounts without their husband or father’s permission. Policies, that were only removed following Franco’s death and Spain’s transition to a democracy in 1975.

Fifa has suspended Luis Rubiales while it investigates the kiss. Credit: AP

Rubiales’ opponents want him and the culture they argue he represents, out of positions of power.

The movement against him has been considerable. More than 80 players, women and men, have refused to play for the national side until he is removed.

Protests through the streets of Madrid by feminist organisations have led commentators to call this Spain’s #MeToo moment.

“It’s over, no more discrimination for women,” said acting Sports Minister Miquel Iceta. “ We are witnessing a real social and sporting backlash.”

Protests have taken place in the streets of Madrid against Luis Rubiales. Credit: AP

But speak to those on the streets and the views are not consistent.

Some believe the response has been an overreaction to the behaviour of an elated man who acted in a moment of spontaneous joy.

Others think Hermoso is being used to make a socio-political statement, as one woman told me, for the progression of “extreme feminism”.

These divisions have been reflected in the country’s recent narrow general election. The snap vote, called by Spain’s governing centre-left party after local election losses, did not bring about a conclusive result.

Neither side had enough votes to form a majority government, and the Sanchez administration barely clung to power.

A swell in support for Spain’s right-leaning parties has been attributed, amongst other policies, to the government strengthening women’s health and reproductive rights, including relaxing the rules on abortion and gender identification.

The kiss has become the embodiment of social tensions existing between different sections of Spanish society.

Those comfortable with it and those urging a break away from traditional values, the previously accepted power dynamic between men and women and the associated standards of behaviour.

But it’s not clear if there is full momentum behind Spain’s #MeToo movement.

Rubiales’ refusal to resign and his supporters, a few vocal and many more silent, are further evidence that there is a section of Spanish society that holds onto standards rooted in the country’s past.

Is Spain ready to pull away from an older version of itself?

Perhaps this is another stage in the country’s ongoing, and at times uncomfortable, post-Franco evolution.

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