Some #MeToo-Themed Ads Luis Rubiales (and Many Others) Should Watch
And so a banner year for the Women's World Cup ends—with a nonconsensual kiss.
Spanish football federation leader Luis Rubiales grasped Spanish player Jenni Hermoso's head and kissed her during the medal ceremony, right as the team was accepting their laurels for Spain. The event has awakened #MeToo in the sector of Spanish soccer. To the resulting outcry, Rubiales railed against "fake feminism," insisted he asked permission first (Hermoso: He didn't), kind of apologized, and watched, perhaps dazzled, as figures of politics and sports slid their protection away from him.
The Spanish women's team knows it has leverage now; it's just taken gold home. Team members have declared they won't continue playing at the national level until federation leadership changes. Last weekend, much of the coaching and technical staff resigned. (Rubiales is refusing to resign, and has since been suspended.)
If the ire seems overblown to some, journalist Irantzu Varela took the time to clarify it: "To all the guys who are stunned by the reaction against Rubiales; it's because this has happened to all of us. With our boss, with our client, with our teacher, with our friend, with a stranger, with you?”
There's a sorrowful irony to a great year for women's soccer ending this way. It's like something magnificent can't happen without a compulsive act reminding those who've emerged victorious—and by extension, all women—where power really sits. And that our bodies, for all that they do amazing things, remain more theirs than our own. (Incidentally, the Spanish soccer federation counts 140 members, of which just six are women. Many of them supported Rubiales' refusal to resign.)
Beyond a few high-profile shifts, I'm not convinced #MeToo changed much. I'm glad it appears to have made a difference in this situation; public broadcast has a long history of seeing women kissed against their will (see examples 1 and 2. Extra credit for film buffs: This little chestnut). I'd like to think norms in high places trickle down.
Often, though, they don't. In advertising, not to mention other sectors where #MeToo first exploded—resulting in panel upon panel about women's empowerment, and the strategic firing of a few especially abusive execs—the problem persists. There's no need to give examples; we read hundreds of them over several years. As Varela observes, this is a thing we take for granted that happens, and it remains, more often than not, the burden of women to pick their battles: How big of a problem is it, really? Can I manage it on my own? How significant are the power dynamics involved? Do other people around me appear to think it's normal? If so, what is it worth to me to escalate this situation? Is it worth my job? Is it worth my professional reputation?
I'm bored with these questions, sick of this problem, and of still seeing problematic men around, falling up despite any number of complaints filed against them. They can all chalk it up to a bad year; those they hurt, however subtly, get one more piece of themselves sliced away.
I'm sure Rubiales will be back on his feet in no time.
Anyway, this seems as good a time as any to reopen the #MeToo files, and look back on some past ads in memory of that heady momentum that quickened the belief that change was nearer, and would perhaps be more dramatic, than anybody dared hope.
We'll start with the house favorite: Hornbach's "Smashing the Clichés" by Hornbach and Heimat. While effectively expressing rage and fatigue, it is also wordless, which you might be grateful for in a minute.
Next, enjoy "Draw a Line," by JWT London for UN Women. Is it too much to hope Rubiales will watch these? (Yes. He doesn't think he did anything wrong, and neither does his mom. The best hope he has of changing is that, with his free time, he goes on an ayahuasca journey and has some kind of awakening that causes him to vomit and weep for six days straight. But he's not in tech, so that seems improbable.)
TBWA\Paris gives women's stories some visceral action, with literal dicks on the move, for French startup HandsAway. Ever had a guy rub his hard peen against you on a crowded train? I have, twice, in two different countries. A third time, I was chased by a man who was actually masturbating as he ran.
"Study of Power," by Cut+Run's Sean Stender and director Lara Everly for the U.S. market, continues the nice fireside-chat vibe we've got going on. When you start to see all these stories stacked on top of each other, it gets tempting to think, "Well, men are pigs, that's why it's so important for women to be cautious." Resist that urge! That's how shit like this persists until the end of time. Everyone is responsible for being a responsible human, acknowledging the sovereignty of our own bodies and those of others. We owe each other that, at least.
I really don't care if you don't agree. But it's intolerable, and lazy, to look at negative systemic effects and call them human nature. It lets corrosive systems off the hook. It lets everybody off the hook.
We'll wrap with "Me Too. Act Too" by FCB/Six Toronto for the MeToo movement. Featuring Tarana Burke, who coined the phrase #metoo, front and center, the ad looks back on the past several years and proposes a tool for the way forward: A blockchain-based app that enables people to organize more effectively for social change.
Signing off, we extend congratulations and mad respect to the Spanish team. They won a huge tourney. They ought to be celebrating and doing fun stuff. Instead, they're in another arena, with subtler rules, and the game in question playing out just as publicly. We hope they get their laurels there, too.