Of course, what happened on the evening of the Spaniards' World Cup victory between the Spanish football president Luis Rubiales, who has since been suspended from Fifa, and the player Jennifer Hermoso, was not a kiss. It was also not a harmless moment of joy, as some football pensioners talked shop in this country. On videos showing the entire process, you can clearly see that Rubiales first jumps up on the athlete, grabs her with his legs and presses his crotch against her abdomen. Then he grabs the back of her head with both hands and presses her lips to his. Even before that he had grabbed between his legs during the cheering. Apparently Rubiales is someone who seeks close contact with his "cojones".
But he is also one of the most important men in Spanish football and thus something like Jennifer Hermoso's superior. He is also, and that is also part of the story, a high-ranking official who has always been able to keep his post despite various scandals. In the run-up to the World Cup, there had also been disagreements between the footballers, the association and the coach - Jennifer Hermoso was one of the players who had publicly expressed solidarity with those "rebels" who had boycotted the national team at this World Cup due to various incidents.
In this respect, the comparison is flawed, according to which the situation was as if Angela Merkel had kissed Philipp Lahm during the 2014 World Cup victory. Merkel has no influence on the careers of footballers. The scene between Rubiales and Hermoso was more than just a testosterone-driven attack. It was a demonstration of power by a man who believes he can do anything. The gesture of a boss who briefly makes it clear to his rebellious goalscorer at the moment of her greatest triumph who has the longer advantage. That's why it doesn't matter whether the Spaniards on the team bus initially laughed about the kiss. Or whether a man is still allowed to kiss a woman without asking “these days”. What's more interesting is how Rubiales reacts to the accusation of humiliating assault - because there is a pattern behind it.
When the first criticism of Rubiales was raised immediately after the forced kiss, he quickly made it clear: It was not outsiders who decided whether his behavior was inappropriate - but rather himself alone. There were "idiots everywhere," he said about the allegations He won't bother with "nonsense". In another statement, he later repeated that the outrage came "from outside", while "we" - he and the team, that should mean - saw the gesture as "something normal". When in doubt, crisis managers recommend exactly that: the “denial strategy” simply denies that anything has happened. At the same time, the critics are being attacked: In this case, Rubiales accused the "public" of damaging the joy of the World Cup victory with their statements. He probably also meant feminist politicians who had spoken out.
Combined with a powerful position, this strategy can be particularly effective: the allegations are wiped away and quickly fade. It is even more effective if those affected support the thesis. As has now become known, Jennifer Hermoso is said to have been pressed by the Spanish Football Federation to make a statement confirming Rubiales' "nothing is happening" statements. That would have been the end of the matter. However, Hermoso refused.
After the player didn't go along with it and the outrage in the Spanish public continued, Rubiales went into the second phase with arguments according to the motto: It's not that bad, after all it's about football, you don't understand that. "Diminish", weakening, is the proven recipe here. Sexual harassment and demeaning gestures toward women are often dismissed as "temperamental slip-ups," and a man can still count on the approval of many of his peers. In Germany, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, among others, thought it was "completely okay" what Rubiales had done, emotionality was important, one had to leave the church in the village. In Spain, Rubiales can also rely on that, many see things in a similar way. In his statement to the Spanish Football Association, he didn't apologize to the player, but to those who "saw the kiss differently" – namely, from his point of view: wrong. So he takes back the authority to interpret the incident, which he evaluates as "something natural, without bad intentions". To substantiate this, he used generalities that have nothing to do with the matter: You have to "distinguish between truth and lies", said Rubiales at a meeting of the national football association. In terms of small talk, this means: the incident is just a trifle. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Rubiales also repeated several times what is really important to him: "I will not resign."
At the same time, the federation launched a counterattack against Jennifer Hermoso, who was accused of pulling and lifting Rubiales (which the videos may now have disproved).
If allegations can neither be completely dismissed nor be talked down, the alternative is "scapegoating" - one looks for a scapegoat as the guilty party. When trying to refute allegations of sexual harassment, those affected and their supporters are usually identified as "the real perpetrators": Spain's football association threatened Jennifer Hermoso with legal action. Rubiales presents himself as the victim of a conspiracy: "A social murder is being committed," he said in his statement. "You're trying to kill me." By "they" he apparently means all those who do not follow his argument. He also sees himself – a comfortable role in the charged social context – as the victim of a feminist threat: "False feminism" is the "great scourge of this country," according to Rubiales. And presented Jennifer Hermoso's allegations, without naming her name, as hypocritical: "What must a woman who has really been sexually abused think?" Men like him - and not Hermoso and other "feminists" - should apparently decide when a woman has the right to complain.
It's not about a "kiss" on the lips. The point is that immediately after the incident, Jennifer Hermoso said, "I didn't like it. But what should I do?" She still decided to fight back. She has found many supporters - also because it is finally becoming clear that there is a principle behind incidents like this and not an individual blunder. It's about the question of how we as a society deal with this and the next Rubiales. And the one after that.