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Confronting Sexism and Misogyny: Reflections on the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Kiss Incident


a kiss with lighting from behind the couple
Unsplash - Kiss

I write this post as a gender diversity expert with a deep passion for all genders, with an added focus on my own lived experiences as a woman with a trans history. It is with a heavy heart, fueled by deep concern for women's (cis & trans) safety and human rights—the outrage over the kissing incident that unfolded during the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup award ceremony. The photograph capturing Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), taking a non-consensual kiss from Jennifer Hermoso, a revered Spanish women's national football team player, demands our attention and collective reflection.


The visual representation of this incident is not merely a fleeting moment; it embodies deeply ingrained issues of misogyny and sexism. At first glance, what might seem like an innocent gesture of a kiss unravels into an alarming display of power dynamics, privilege, and disregard for consent. The act of Rubiales forcing a non-consensual kiss upon Hermoso echoes the disturbing narrative that women's autonomy over their bodies is secondary to the desires and entitlement of men.


To comprehend the gravity of this incident, we must recognize it as a symptom of a much larger problem: the persistence of patriarchy. This system perpetuates harmful beliefs that reinforce male superiority and the unfounded notion that men have the authority to govern the lives and bodies of women. The patriarchy teaches men that they are entitled to women's bodies and that women cannot make their own decisions.

The patriarchy can also harm men by teaching them to be strong and dominant to be considered "real men."


But let us not forget that patriarchy's toxic reach extends beyond its impact on women alone; it diminishes the freedom and potential of all genders, stifling progress and hindering human flourishing.

It is critical to recognize that dismantling the alpha male paradigm cultivated within the patriarchal framework is a responsibility that falls squarely on the shoulders of cisgender men. This system, which promotes dominance, control, and toxic masculinity, results from historical gender dynamics that have marginalized and harmed individuals of all genders. However, the onus to rectify this deep-seated issue should not be placed upon those negatively impacted by it.


Trans women, in particular, should not be burdened with reforming cisgender men entrenched in this system. It is vital to understand that while trans women are equally deserving of respect and rights, they are not the architects of this oppressive structure.


Instead, it is the collective responsibility of cisgender men to challenge and rectify the alpha male culture they've inherited and perpetuated, thereby working towards a society where all individuals can thrive regardless of gender identity.


Our collective responsibility demands that we rise against misogyny and sexism, dismantling these harmful structures one act at a time. Our mission is to cultivate a world where safety, respect, and human dignity transcend gender lines. We can commence this journey by unequivocally condemning incidents like this, recognizing them as blatant violations of consent and agency.


As a One Leader who embodies Two Genders of Experience, my conviction burns brighter than ever. Each of us holds the power to ignite change, champion the cause of gender equality, and contribute to a society where such incidents are unthinkable. Let us lend our voices to the cause, standing in solidarity with those who challenge the status quo and supporting organizations dedicated to upholding and protecting the rights of women and trans women alike.


In closing, I implore us to reflect on the interconnectedness of our experiences, transcending gender divides, and strive for a world where compassion, understanding, and respect prevail. Together, we can and must rewrite the narrative, ensuring that respect for every individual's autonomy is at the heart of our collective journey.


** N.B. **

To reduce possible triggering, I chose not to show the kiss referred to in this article.

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With over 25 years of experience in corporate and board leadership, including seven years focused on supporting the LGBTQ+ community and women's rights, I am available to speak, mentor, or consult for your next gender-related event. Please contact me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com with any inquiries.

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