Friday,8th March is International Women’s Day. The day every bloke goes on Facebook and writes “When is International Men’s Day? hahha”- Well, it’s 19th November.
Now that is cleared up, let’s crack on.
Since 2017, when 40,000 women ascended on Madrid the 8th March has become a big date in the Spanish calendar. 2018 was when it really hit it off with millions of women striking in the first ever 24 hour strike. Housewives hung out their aprons, next to the Spanish flags, in solidarity with their fellow strikers.
10 major unions, which are still strong in Spain, backed the world’s only 24 hour women’s strike in 2018. Over 5 million workers of all backgrounds, jobs and duties stood in solidarity around Spain. Many were in Madrid’s famous Cibeles roundabout where Real Madrid normally celebrates their cup wins. That day it was a blinding purple colour instead of white and blue.
Housewives in particular were encouraged to strike, Spain has an aging population that is more likely to hold the old stereotypes true. Stereotypes of men doing paid labour and women doing the housework and caring duties.
In 2017 the Center for Sociology Research (CIS) carried out a survey that showed 2 in 10 men did housework in Spain. 16% were found to cook the same amount as their partners and 24% cleaned the same amount as their partners. And regarding children, only 5.6% of men claimed to be the main child carer in the home.
Funnily enough, 48% of men were happy with how the jobs were shared and only 36% of women were.  It is quite clear that most cleaning, or caring tasks, fall to women in all walks of society. Since the Second World War women have been able to work. Many had to fight for the right to work, and even when they got it, they still had to uphold the same responsibilities that they had before.
Whilst society advances in all aspects, simple matters can still have a large effect on women. A simple thing such as paying for sanitary products. This is well portrayed in the film “I, Daniel Blake” where a young mother Katie Morgan, wonderfully played by Hayley Squires, tries to take sanitary products from a shop without paying for them, as she has to spend what little money she has on food to feed her kids. When the store manager sees the predicament and he lets her go. This really says how many of the public may feel if you asked:
Should women have to pay for sanitary products? Should they be taxed?
-Many would say No, however many women struggle to pay for these.
Why aren’t we all feminists?
Feminism gets a bad name. Mainly because the media like to create stories out of small things and this reinforces negative stereotypes. Stories of extreme feminists are blared over the television showing the more extreme side of the movement, when it accounts for less than 10% of the movement.
I’ve spoken with a number of women about this and I found quite a few were reluctant to, or felt it difficult, to identify as feminists because they were scared of backlash, or held views, over the negative stereotyping. However, it is losing the label, despite the media pushing the “Feminazi” and the “crazy, I’m gonna chop your balls off” image. Similar stereotypes have been reinforced in society such as “all black males will rob me” and “all Chinese people in Spain sleep and eat in their shop”. It is all complete rubbish and very out of context.
Are you a Feminist?
I bet if you asked most people they would identify with the majority of feminist goals.
- Do you believe men and women should be treated equally?
- Should they have equal opportunities?
- Should a woman be able to be completely independent? Economically, biologically, and emotionally?
- Should they be able to live without fear of being attacked?
The above questions are only a few things that come to mind, but I think most people would agree with them, yet society says differently.
Over the last 2 years, gender violence has been a big issue in Spain with the county’s politicians fighting for votes over who protects women best. Whilst this was going on in the halls of the Congress other things were happening in the country.
In Pamplona, during the 2016 running of the bulls, an 18 year old girl was raped by five men in a shop doorway. Some of who tried to flee the country during their court case. Disgracefully, some were members of the Civil Guard. They have been trying to wriggle out of the case and get light sentences, but it is one issue that makes people very disgusted with the courts.
If we all want equality, then in my opinion, men should encourage strike action on the 8th March. There are ongoing discussions about if men should strike or not. Personally, I think this is up to the individual. The point of the strike to highlight people’s contribution to society and also make people aware of the inequalities. If men stand with women, then this will be more visible. It will also be a sign of solidarity with fellow human beings.
Inequalities in Spain are still a problem
Women are paid 12.7% less than men, for similar work, in Spain. This is a figure that has been calculated by an EU think tank that has considered variables such as contract type, education and age. Since 1980 the law has been equal pay for the same job. But, as we all know the world is not that simple and there are many factors in the pay gap argument. 
Another battle for women is economic interdependence. Women may be reliant on men for economic support. This may be because they have had less opportunities, have to work part time or sacrificed their career to have children. If women are economically dependent on men, then this takes away their ability to be independent, and is also keeps them in relationships that might be toxic or dangerous. This is not only a problem in Spain, but the world over.
Further inequalities are also more likely to affect women. In 2014, El Pais reported that 730,000 Spaniards were unable to read or write, 60% of these were women. Of these women, 60,000 are between the ages of 30 and 49. The majority of these women are from the Roma community. 
We all stand to lose something, not just women.
Whilst these facts and figures are scary Spain has come on leaps and since the death of Franco. During Franco’s time divorces and abortions were illegal and women needed a man’s permission to have a bank account. Now in Spain over 39% of elected deputies are women and it has a 50% split in its ministerial cabinet. That is until the elections are over. When we may see a swing to the right for Spain.
Despite the success of last year’s strike this year many of the major unions are not supporting a full 24-hour strike, but only a minor two hour one. Many groups of feminists, and smaller unions, argue against this because they now feel their rights are more at risk than ever.
In 2014, a controversial reform law was moved by the Partido Popular (PP), it was trying to reform the abortion law which allowed women to have abortions at their will in the first trimester. Thankfully, it remained in its 2010 form as the PP were stopped by the force of public opinion and demonstrations. However, this is under threat again from the new far right party Vox who want to reform abortion laws.
Vox are the biggest threat to the feminist movement in Spain. With the country embracing nationalism at a time of the Catalan crisis and the ongoing unneeded austerity imposed by the EU, Spain is seeing a slide to the right. This party wants to see a return to catholic and Spanish values.
Vox has vowed to scrap the gender violence law as they feel it discriminates against men. They also want to pull funding for feminist groups and stop public health care paying for abortions.
The current leader of Vox in Andalucía Francisco Serrano, a judge who was banned for 2 years for trying to fix a case, says that in the past he has been the “victim of gender-based Jihadism”. Andalucía is the region where the party won 12 seats and is currently in a coalition with the other two right wing parties. 
Winning these seats has scared many people, not only feminists, into what may happen if this is replicated in the national elections at the end of April. If Vox is to be king maker, then it is almost guaranteed that the right wing parties will have to make concessions to Vox to remain in power. These concessions are what scare people:
Spain will have to do something big to fight off the far right in the build up to the elections. Feminists, and anyone, that does not want to see a far right party in power will have to work together. As PSOE lingers around the centre, and with Podemos unsure where they are going, the feminists need to build momentum and shock Spain into form. They need to make Spain aware of how easy it is to lose rights that you have gained. It’s much quicker to lose your rights than it is to gain them. Many who were not born at the time of “El Transición” will not know this. Spain has only had its freedom from fascism for 44 years, it needs more.
We all stand to lose something if Vox holds any power in parliament. Women and minorities more than anyone. That is why you should support any women striking, you are not only doing it for them, it is for all of us.
|||S. Urra, “Only two out of 10 men in Spain share cleaning and cooking duties equally,” El Pais, 7 June 2017. [Online]. Available: https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/06/07/inenglish/1496825837_317585.html.|
|||M. Gomez, “Women in Spain earn 13% less than men for similar work, new study shows,” El Pais, March 2018. [Online]. Available: https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/03/07/inenglish/1520413367_221769.html?rel=mas.|
|||A. Lucas, “The silent history of Spanish illiteracy,” El Pais, September 2014. [Online]. Available: https://elpais.com/elpais/2014/09/10/inenglish/1410364155_783288.html.|
|||P. Alvarez, “Spain’s feminist groups mobilizing for battle against far-right Vox party,” El Pais, January 2019. [Online]. Available: https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/01/08/inenglish/1546944031_447326.html.|