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"All the small boats on the water aren't going anywhere."
The Jenni Hermoso/Luis Rubiales affair has burst my bubble a little, but it may also be bursting other people's.
This week’s soundtrack: Stereolab - “The Flower Called Nowhere”
An often-repeated sentiment I try to bring forward to people when I discuss American political bifurcation is that the great shock of Nov. 9, 2016 was not that Donald Trump won, necessarily, but the actual setting in that 62 million people voted for him in the general election. That may seem like a distinction without a difference, but the import is this: The cocktail party set, the media, the blue states writ large… They had to reconcile, on that day after, that nearly half their neighbors occupy a different reality than they do. The people with whom I most frequently interact – me included, I guess – had (and have) the most difficulty with the notion that they share a homeland with sixty million people who pulled the proverbial lever for someone so obviously clownish.
In essence, the 2016 was when much of this country found itself understanding the bubbles in which so many of us live. While there is a separation with knowing that the Fox News Cinematic Universe exists, it doesn’t come upon many of those who don’t live in it. It did in Nov. 2016.
While it’s not come upon me, I have found myself completely beset by a similar (albeit less important and less direct) bubble burst this week in following the Jenni Hermoso/Luis Rubiales affair that has gripped the Royal Spanish Football (Soccer, for Americans) Federation. The Spanish women’s national team won the Women’s World Cup earlier this month and Rubiales, on the stage during the trophy presentation ceremony, grabbed and kissed Hermoso. These are the facts that are not in question.
Hermoso claims that she did not consent to said kiss, Rubiales said he asked her and she consented. I’m not a lip reader (especially not in a language I speak with the alacrity of a 2-year-old learning to talk), but I would suggest the moment and the positions of power involved mean it’s fairly unimportant what Rubiales said. As sportswriter Lindsay Gibbs noted, it’s kinda immaterial.
The women’s football world has largely come out behind Hermoso, as one would expect. Leicy Santos held up a Hermoso national shirt after scoring the winning goal for Atlético de Madrid’s side, the entire Spanish women’s team signed a letter saying they won’t reup and, even in the U.S., the NWSL players showed their support. A lot of Spanish male players have also voiced their support for Hermoso, including national legend Andrés Iniesta.
I am so naïve that I thought that Rubiales would be unceremoniously drummed out of the football world. I thought everyone would get on board – specifically, the people associated with the Royal Spanish Football Federation – and abandon Rubiales. I thought that everyone agreed that such behavior was plainly and obviously terrible.
(There is a broad caveat here in that I’m not Spanish. I write this after having multiple conversations with a good friend who is Spanish, though she lives here in the U.S. and has done so for a while. I’m coming to this with a decidedly American perspective, though I would simply suggest that I’m also coming to this with a fairly universalist perspective. YMMV if you agree.)
Rubiales won’t step down and is not being quiet about it. He’s got the backing of the federation. Spanish prosecutors are looking into it. The coach of the women’s national team has voiced his support for Rubiales (though he’ll have to hire a new staff). His family is piping up (and his mom, uh, is going particularly hard). It’s a real split in the worldwide football world, but mostly a real split in the Spanish football world.
This has taken me aback. Some of that is related to the parenthetical above; my madrileña friend has cited Spanish sexism as a driving force here. I can’t speak to that, but I can say that no one ever lost money betting on abundant sexism in the world of powerful men (and, specifically, powerful men in football). The other thing, of course, is something I’ve gone over before: The online v. non-online world.
If you took the temperature of the football world from Twitter, you’d think everyone was on Hermoso’s side. The cascade of sportswriters, footballers and regular people all have fallen on the side of the angels in that they don’t see a way that Rubiales can survive this (see the above screenshot from Lindsay Gibbs), nor should he. But, that’s obviously not moved the proverbial needle. The online world is not the same as the non-online world.
(These two things are connected, of course. The Internet speaks American and much of the Internet is dominated by our values, cultural arguments, etc. It sucks and I do want to apologize to the rest of the world for the non-Mastodon Internet being so damned American. On behalf of my garbage homeland, I’m truly sorry.)
Spanish journalist Rebecca Carranco has a great column about Twitter’s role in this entire ordeal, noting that the platform often “characterized by bad vibes”recently has actually moved the needle for the better.
This time Twitter users —and they're still there, check for yourself— have taken the very Spanish bull by the horns and still haven't released it under the slogan “It's over”.
You’ve probably seen #SeAcabo (“it’s over”) trending on Twitter because of this online feminist movement. Women football fans – and those of all genders who are supporting Hermoso – have made noise. She concludes that
Maybe it’s moving the needle or maybe it’s not. Carranco ends her column with the hope that this ordeal could bring down one of the most odious parts of the broader “macho system:” Football.
I don’t know that I’m totally on board with Carranco, but I’m also hopeful. This ordeal has burst my bubble, but I imagine it’s also burst the bubble of Rubiales and his closest acolytes in the Royal Spanish Football Federation. As ever, we’re seeing the convergence of the online and not online world.
If you want to hear my sonorous voice talking about government IT, I appeared on our podcasts twice this past week at GovCIO Media & Research. The first is a quiz show in which I got my clock cleaned by our writer/reporter Anastasia Obis. The second is also with Anastasia in which we talked about ODNI’s new strategic plan and the IT/cyber elements of it. Not shockingly, I made some tortured analogies, but that’s my signature thing.
My beloved bulldog is a big hit in my work’s Slack pet channel, as she is quite the looker. She went through a barking fit while I was on a video conference meeting today, so she might be less popular now.
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