On December 4th 2018, hundreds of thousands of people in Spain participated in the first-ever nationwide strike against gender violence as an effort to stand up against the abuse of women. Sadly, this moment was tarnished when controversial politician Eleni Valenciano, General Secretary of Spain’s socialist party, was unexpectedly kissed on the cheek by the speaker of Parliament, Pedro Sanchez.
The kiss undermines the long-held assumption that women should not be the subject of unwanted advances, or physical and emotional abuse. It reaffirms the power dynamic that women are expected to submit to, while also reminded a nation of the macho culture that has plagued Spanish society for so long.
The incident was immediately condemned as a “macho attitude” and a “clumsy display of power and dominance” by lawmakers. Valenciano also criticized the kiss as “irrelevant and not appropriate” and highlighted how it reinforced the idea that her body was owned by another person.
Unfortunately, incidents such as this one make it clear that while Spain has been making positive strides towards gender equality, there is still much progress to be made. The unwanted kiss is a reminder to both men and women that Spanish culture still has a long way to go when it comes to respecting and valuing the rights and autonomy of women.