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Gender Inequality in the Spotlight: The Controversy over Consent in Spain's Women's World Cup 2023

Updated: Sep 23, 2023


In light of a reader's comment asking, "What are your thoughts on the recent controversial incident where a FIFA federation president kissed a Spanish female player without her consent?" this blog post aims to dissect the complex dynamics of gender and consent in sports. This incident comes as a poignant reminder that despite advancements, the struggle for gender equality and respect for women in sports is far from over.

I have explored the broader issues surrounding women's sports in my previous posts. .In Voices Unheard: A Feminist Insight into the Silent Storm of Sexual Harassment,, I discussed the culture of silence that often surrounds topics of harassment and gender inequality. Similarly, in 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup: The Unseen Side of the Beautiful Game I tackled the often-overlooked aspects of women's football that go beyond the pitch. This post builds on those themes and zooms into the specific event that has recently stirred public debate.

The Stolen Spotlight: Unpacking August 27, 2023

The world watched as Spain and England battled on the pitch during the Women's World Cup final on August 27, 2023. A day that should have been a monumental celebration for women in sports was marred by a single act that exposed the deep-rooted gender biases still prevalent even on the world's biggest stages. During the trophy presentation ceremony, Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Football Federation, kissed Jennifer Hermoso, the team captain, on the lips without her consent, immediately shifting the focus from the team's historic win to a blatant display of patriarchal entitlement (CNN | NBC News | Sky News | The Guardian)..

  • Why is it that even when women reach the pinnacle of professional success, they are still subject to the whims of male authority figures who feel entitled to their bodies?

  • How can we, as a society, allow such incidents to not only occur but also to overshadow women's accomplishments?

The time is now to challenge the power dynamics that silence women and derail conversations about their achievements. Let this incident serve as a wake-up call: it is high time we confront these issues head-on and push for a paradigm shift in how women are treated, not just in sports but in all arenas of life.

The Eclipsed Triumph: Unveiling the Shadows over Women's Achievements in Sports

Luis Rubiales’ act on a day that should have been a glowing landmark for women's sports stole the spotlight from the athletes' accomplishments. This single act exemplified the pervasive gender dynamics and professional boundary issues that still plague sports, and society at large. So let us confront the unsettling questions that this incident raises:

  • How many more milestones for women must be overshadowed by the actions of entitled men who abuse their positions of authority?

  • When will society finally view women in sports, and indeed all women, as more than objects for male gratification, and instead as accomplished professionals deserving of respect?

These are not rhetorical questions; they demand serious reflection and action. Until we can fearlessly answer these questions, incidents like these will continue to eclipse the real stories we should be celebrating. It is time we all took a hard look at the systems in place that allow such infringements on personal boundaries to occur, and take collective action to upend them.

Gender Dynamics and Consent: Unveiling Deep-Rooted Biases In an instant that should have symbolised Jennifer Hermoso's professional triumph, she was instead made to feel "vulnerable and victimised" by an act she did not consent to. The incident raises the curtain on the still deeply ingrained gender biases and power imbalances that taint not just sports, but all professional settings. What is even more glaring is Luis Rubiales' selective conduct, which appears to be exclusively targeted at female athletes. Notably, Rubiales has not exhibited similar actions with male players during previous sporting events.

So, let us grapple with some uncomfortable but necessary questions:

  • Why do women still have to fight for the basic right of bodily autonomy, even at the pinnacle of their professional achievements?

  • How much longer will society permit powerful men to transgress professional and personal boundaries, leaving women to grapple with the emotional and professional fallout?

These questions should serve as a catalyst for introspection and, more importantly, immediate action. It is high time we move beyond the superficial discussions around gender equality and take tangible steps to dismantle the patriarchal norms that facilitate these violations. Until we do, women will continue to be sidelined, not just in sports but in every sphere of life.

The Bigger Picture: Machismo and Gender Inequality The Women's World Cup has seen record-breaking viewership, indicating a growing interest and respect for women's football. Yet, incidents like this reveal the persistence of a "macho" culture that demeans, diminishes and overshadows women’s achievements. This incident is not an anomaly; it is a symptom of a pervasive gender inequality that infiltrates not just sports, but every facet of life.

So let us confront some hard-hitting questions that we all need to internalise:

  • How can we celebrate record-breaking viewership for women's sports while still grappling with incidents that so starkly highlight systemic gender inequality?

  • What does it say about our society when a woman's moment of glory is so easily tarnished by the uninvited actions of a man in power?

These questions should unsettle us. They should spur us into re-evaluating our roles in perpetuating or challenging these deep-rooted patriarchal norms. It is not enough to be a passive observer. The onus is on each one of us to actively dismantle these oppressive systems. Until that happens, the notion of equality remains a far-off dream, a buzzword devoid of substance.

Concluding Reflections: A Call for Systemic Change—A Feminist Imperative Despite Spain's historic victory in the Women's World Cup, the focus has been stolen by Luis Rubiales' inappropriate actions, which have not only underscored gender inequality but also highlighted the "macho" and "machismo" culture in Spain. The Spanish government and FIFA have taken steps, but Rubiales has not yet resigned, adding to the systemic issues surrounding gender in sports.

The incident on August 27, 2023, serves as a stark reminder of the challenges that lie ahead in achieving gender equality in sports and broader public life. It is not an isolated case of disrespectit is not just about one unwelcome kiss, but a glaring symptom of a much larger disease: systemic gender inequality and abuse of power. This moment should not merely pass as a blip on our social conscience. Instead, it should catalyse a rigorous examination of the gender dynamics that permeate not only our sports institutions but our everyday lives.

Here are some questions for introspection and urgent action:

  • How can we collectively ensure that the dignity and autonomy of women athletes are not just respected but fiercely defended?

  • How can we shift the focus back to women's achievements and away from the acts that undermine them?

  • When will we stop allowing these acts, which have profound impact on survivors, to cumulatively create a culture that continuously undermines women?

  • What concrete steps will you take to challenge these deeply rooted imbalances?

These questions demand actionable answers. This incident should not be reduced to a fleeting moment of social media outrage and hashtags. It must trigger a deep, unflinching examination of the gender dynamics and patriarchal norms that infiltrate every aspect of our lives. It is not merely about demanding spaces; it is about reclaiming spaces that patriarchy has long has long denied us.

Join the Conversation!

The stories of infringed consent and gender inequality in sports are numerous, each serving as a stark reminder that we must do better. We must confront these issues openly, challenging both systemic norms and individual behaviours that perpetuate such imbalances. The fight for respect and bodily autonomy is not just a feminist issue; it is a fundamental human rights issue. Together, we can create a world where the dignity and safety of every individual—both on and off the pitch—are upheld.

  • Reflect on: What steps can you personally take to challenge gender norms and create a more equitable environment?

  • Consider: How can bystander intervention become more prevalent in sports settings to prevent harassment and gender-based misconduct?

  • Ask Questions: Your curiosity fuels our conversation. Ask, explore, and let us unravel answers together. What specific issues would you like to see discussed more openly?

  • Connect with Others:Engage, respond, build connections. Our community grows through interaction and shared insights.

  • Respectful Dialogue:Embrace diversity but uphold respect. Your voice is welcome here, as is your empathy. Check out our commenting guidelines for more details.

  • Social Sharing: Found resonance in these words? Share this post, spread the awareness, and be a part of the change.

About the Author Nite Tanzarn is an Independent International Consultant with a strong focus on gender equality, women's rights, and social justice. In this incisive blog post, she unravels the complex nuances of consent and gender dynamics in sports, spotlighting an incident that has sparked global debate. Her writing, deeply rooted in feminist principles, challenges us to confront patriarchal norms and advocate for systemic change. Nite's consultancy work extends to sectors like transport, agriculture, and rural development, always with an eye towards advancing women's rights and fostering a more equitable world. She not only eloquently discusses the issues but also actively engages in creating solutions, making her a true catalyst for change.

20 views4 comments


Nov 05, 2023

This one was a bit controversial. The captain seemed not to mind the kiss but then apparently changed her mind after the outrage in the media. It is harassment only when it is unwanted.


Nov 05, 2023

I came across this article while doing research for our 16 days of GBV activism. No space is safe for women.


nsabimana canisius
nsabimana canisius
Aug 31, 2023

Controversial subject but still manageable humanly

Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Aug 31, 2023
Replying to

Hi Canisius,

Thank you for taking the time to read the blog. Indeed, the subject is controversial but the fact that it is 'manageable humanly,' as you put it, is what fuels the need for us to keep talking, examining, and taking action. Together, we can navigate these complex issues and strive for a more equitable society.



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