Raquel Ramos González
Editors’ note: The famous Chilean feminist cry, "La culpa no era mía," (The fault in not mine.) created ripples in Latin America and the rest of the world. Raquel talks about how Spain reached this primitive point in the the history of Spanish Feminism”
Women all over the modern-day world are involved in political activities, using their right to vote, attending university, taking part in high-rank jobs, among other achievements, but this has not always been like that. Since 2003, the Spain’s Government Delegation for Gender Violence reported a total of 1,054 female victims, the last 21 murdered so far in 2020¹, which proves there’s something wrong in our social system. Indeed, this is better explained if we take a look at the past.
For thousands of years, Patriarchy has expanded a social-construction model based on the principle of natural gender-based inequality. This is linked to all the different reproduction functions which leads to another model of construction of identity and gender relationships grounded in men’s superiority over women. This model-relationship could not be changed, as it originated from human beings’ very nature and women were not considered to have the same abilities as men.
During the Industrial Revolution, big social changes where people started questioning this inequality and changing their minds into an idea based on natural equality between men and women were developed in Europe. Therefore, feminism became a movement that questioned the social and familiar organization of that time . If we consider that, in “premodern families” marriage was for convenience, until the very end of this period, , the modern family formed by a married couple appeared who lived in the city with offsprings and the male figure as a breadwinner of the house. During the late 19th Century, Spanish women lived in a traditional and conservative society. Accordingly, most women from the lower class were dedicated to improving their standard of living as housewives as they only worked in agriculture and in domestic service. However, we could consider that the feminism revolution began around that time in the bourgeois classes because they began participating in the familial businesses and these new responsibilities required the women to be dexterous and was only possible if she was educated. The first lady who dared take the leap forward was Concepción Arenal, who dressed up as a man to attend Law lectures and was not even recognized as a student².
In Spain, one of the most prolific periods for women in Spain was during the Second Republic (1931- 1939). (1931-1939). With the emergence of the 1931 Constitution³, women’s suffrage was recognized in article 36 for the first time in the Spanish history. Furthermore, they could get divorced and work on equal terms with men, but they were debarred from a stint in the army. Nevertheless, these measures would have never been enacted; had it not been for the efforts of the women who came from affluent families and took part in the fight against injustice. Considering this period, Clara Campoamor⁴ and Dolores Ibárruri⁵ (well known as “The Passionflower”) were and still are some of the feminist icons of the struggle in Spain. Clara was a politician and one of the first women to drive and who fought in order to achieve the female suffrage;⁶which took place for the first time in history in the 1933 general elections. Dolores was a communist politician who fought for women's rights and later decided to be part of the government.
In the middle of the 20th century in Spain, feminism had no place in a dictatorship where women lost all the rights accomplished during the Second Republic. Instead, women were completely silenced. With Francisco Franco’s rise to power in 1939 and taking advantage of the fact that the rise of televisions in bourgeois houses was increasing; he controlled everything that was on TV to what was allowed to play at the cinemas. Censorship and dubbing of some scenes from foreign movies. Only TVE (national television) and Estudio 1⁸ were allowed by his government that in the beginning deceived the population to think that the autarchy was the right system. The emergence of the cinema industry led to economic improvements like the first Stabilization Plan in 1959⁷. But in addition to all this content, the most important genre was the NO-DO⁹, public information and propaganda from the dictatorship made “news and documentaries”. The ideal stereotype of "the woman of the regime"¹⁰ was portrayed in some of them: catholic, young, demure, strong, obedient, familiar, the male shelter and who did not fight to have the same rights as men; if they did not comply with these requirements,“an ideal women” would never appear in a NO-DO episode. In fact, any republican, anarchist, communist or defender of any ideology against the regime, was depicted as “causing the decline of Catholic morality” or “not appropriate”. They were not only subjected to the mentioned adjectives, but also they were victims of a violence that was only performed to them for the simple fact of their gender., linked to maternity like the withdrawal of her children, or even if she was detained in jail, those kids happened to be adopted by rich family relatives of the regime.
The spanish female model during Francoism was constructed after the Spanish Civil War¹¹, with the Female Section¹², founded in 1934 by Pilar Primo de Rivera. This organization educated thousands of women in the service to the homeland under the fascist regime and obviously was underrated by men. Unlike Spain, around the 60s, the rest of democratic european countries like France, achieved a legal equality which built a more conducive environment for role reversals, like for example the men taking care of the household chores; and additionally women could wear “more daring” clothes, as opposed to spanish women.. For example, Coco Chanel’s designs appropriated male clothes like stripe trousers or other designs inspired by the male suit.
With the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, the Spanish Transition began and the new generations returned stronger and the newer generations empowered themselves They took a non-favorable position against a system consolidated by a macho-based dictatorship. Today, this system remains in some way or another in the Spanish society.
The new socialist government led by Pedro Sánchez (Prime Minister of Spain) is trying to resolve some inequality problems; especially in the workplace and, above all, supports groups in which changes in gender laws are implemented. The Minister of equality of Spain, Irene Montero, recently has presented a project to regulate the equal pay for women and men¹³. The gender gap in Spain is gaping. There is a big difference between the salaries and jobs occupied by men and women. In 2020, 47.4% of the world’s population think that men are better leaders and businessmen than women, which makes female mobility towards higher rank jobs harder. But this is not the only thing that the government and enterprises have to focus on. For example, during the quarantine, thousands of workers have been doing their respective jobs telematically. This type of working could be the solution for pregnant women.. Pregnancy is one of the causes for this problem of women’s re-incorporation at work; but the work does not allow a woman to look after both- work and children’s education, , but emphasize that children are not the obligation of the mother, but they are also the father’s. As a result, workers’ unions propose to shift to telematic work for parents during maternity leave or with young children.
If we compare this gender gap with other european countries according to the Women's Institute for Equal Opportunities¹⁵, Sweden leads the ranking while Spain is in the 9th position. From 2015 to 2017, Spain has improved 1.8 points in gender equality, doing well economically, health and employment factors the European average with a little difference. This means that feminism advanced steadily in a country that still has Francoism as a legacy and this is another generation gap to deal with.
In 2018, a study collected that the 58%¹⁶ of spanish women were considered openly feminist. The reason why this number has been increasing is because social media gained traction that gave this movement impetus. . For example, the March 8th of 2020 strike was supported by all the political spectrums where the liberal feminists believe that “feminism belongs to all ''. But in reality, incumbent far-right wing parties, thanks to the masculine vote, are in-majority and are of the opinion that a “gender war”, never approve of the requirements from feminist associations like sexual education, abortion, sexual assault or gender-based violence.
How can we reach equality? If we educate children on universal values with an adapted education that is able to normalize the existence of different types of families. Gender should not be a criteria and being a woman is not a sentence. Misogynistic beliefs, opinions, and social inequalities should be done away with. and work towards an inclusive future. Schools shall not be a segregation factory, but a space of respect, tolerance and diversity¹⁷.
In my opinion, more and more people are preparing to open their minds and support women in their struggle. What women need are new laws and a total unification of ideas of the political partie, which guarantees them their security and rights, Feminism fights for equality and gives a space to all women who, throughout history, had no chance to raise their voices. We know history does not have to be repeated and no suffering of the humans must be tolerated; regardless of class, creed, sex and otherwise. . Stamping a label on women for being “feminazi” is a misogynistic concept and that school of thought needs alteration. The fight for feminism is an on-going process and is a movement that will bring about a change in the system, a system that took millions of lives of women.
Tardivo, G. (2016). Aproximación a la Sociología contemporánea. Barcelona: UOC.