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Women’s Rights and Spanish Football

Updated: Mar 15

There has been uproar in Spain over sexism in the women’s national football club, ignited by disparities between men’s and women’s wages and furthered after the actions of Luis Rubiales. 


After the women’s team had just won the World Cup, the head of the Real Federación Española de Fútbol, Luis Rubiales, planted an unwanted kiss on Jennifer Hermoso. She claimed that the kiss was not consensual. When the consequences followed, Rubiales argued he was being unjustly punished. He called Hermoso’s protest “false feminism.” 

Rubiales’ actions illustrate that much work still needs to be done on behalf of women. After the federation head’s horrific dismissal of blame and his lack of self-awareness for his disgraceful assault on Hermoso, #asqueroso, or disgusting, began trending on social media. People everywhere have begun to condemn Rubiales and his abuse of power, and they are right to do so. 


Abuses of power, notably by men in positions of authority, have caused discomfort and, often, trauma that I can confidently assume most women have gone through. These incidents happen far too often, leaving women too fearful to speak up. I stand with Jennifer Hermoso and all the women who have been domineered by men through sexist acts. 

One would think that in 2023 we would believe women when they speak up against sexist acts, but it is clear there is far more work to be done. For a man in his position to feel as though he had committed no error, to shift the blame and not take responsibility for his abuse of power, is disgraceful. 


Spanish football has also reignited debate over wage gaps. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it must be agreed upon that women deserve equal pay and opportunity. For far too long women have been given the short end of the stick, and whether it be in professional sports or local companies and businesses, women continue to earn less than men. In the US specifically, a study showed that in 2022, women earned only 82% of what men make, and compared to 2002, when women earned 80% of what men made. Two decades have brought minimal progress. 


There are competing explanations for these disparities, a fact that many conservatives are wise to point out. But we must recognize: sexism is a significant factor in wage gaps. 

Some say women’s alternative career interests play a role in the gaps. But even if that’s the case, by and large, it doesn’t explain the pay inconsistencies faced by the Spanish team, or by women in fields traditionally dominated by men.


Perhaps it’s because the women’s team in Spain just isn’t very successful. Unions have repeatedly been told that the money is just not there. Yet, the women’s team earns television rights, has government funding and, just last year, Barcelona’s women’s team broke the world attendance record for a women’s game, with 91,600 fans in attendance. 


The Spanish women’s team is experiencing the same sexism that exists globally. Paired with Rubiales’ treatment of Jenni Hermoso, the wage disparity should motivate continued efforts on behalf of women everywhere. 


This is not just an issue for the women of Spain: it is a global issue. This incident is just one of many at the professional level. Sexism affects every level. All areas of work. All ages.


Jennifer Hermoso’s story is just a glimpse into the traumas that women can often endure. Millions of girls across the globe have similar stories. We must do better. 


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Aragão, Carolina. “Gender pay gap in the U.S. hasn’t changed much in two decades,” Pew Research Center, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/03/01/gender-pay-gap-facts/. Accessed 20 Sept. 2023. 


“A sexism scandal in Spanish football hides the country’s progress,” The Economist, 29 Aug. 2023, https://www.economist.com/europe/2023/08/29/a-sexism-scandal-in-spanish-football-hides-the-countrys-progress. Accessed 10 Sept. 2023. 


Hurtes, Sarah and Rachel Chaundler. “Spain’s Female Soccer PPlayers Strike Over Wage Dispute,” New York Times, 7 Sept. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/07/world/europe/spain-women-soccer-strike.html. Accessed 10 Sept. 2023. 


Martin, Michael and Laurel Wamsley. “In Spain, there’s a reckoning over sexism and women’s sports,” NPR, 30 Aug. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/08/30/1196712581/in-spain-there-s-a-reckoning-over-sexism-and-women-s-sports. Accessed 10 Sept. 2023. 

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