Millions of People Take to the Streets in the Largest Show of Support for the Feminist Struggle in Spain's History

8-M demonstrations in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Vigo. Photos from the website, under CC-BY-SA license.

More than five million people (possibly even six million) went on strike in Spain on March 8 to show their support for the feminist struggle in a huge movement that many consider a historic moment in the struggle for gender equality.

This initiative was so successful that it received extensive international media coverage. Women hung their aprons from balconies in a subtle act of solidarity for those who couldn't take part in the strike because of their work or family obligations.

One of the main reasons behind the strike is the economic effect of the crisis which has hit women harder than men. Female unemployment is 3.4% higher than male unemployment and job insecurity triples that of men. The wage gap, according to the latest Eurostat report, stands at 14.9% which also translates into lower pensions and a higher percentage of women who experience economic hardships.

In addition, mainstream media and social media have contributed to the growth of the strike. In recent days, the press has been extensively covering the opinions of the most influential politicians on this feminist strike. The reactions ranged from the unconditional support of the leaders of the Unidos Podemos (‘United We Can’) alliance, a tepid reaction from the PSOE which supported the women's demands but not the strike, to the direct rejection by of People's Party that governs the country.

The radical change of position taken by the People's Party is worth mentioning. At the beginning of the week, its members argued and accused the strike of instigating “the confrontation between men and women” and of pretending to “break our model of Western society,” labeling it “irresponsible, elitist and unsupportive”. On the day of the strike, President Mariano Rajoy surprised everyone by supporting the feminist actions and disavowing the position of several leaders of his party, some of whom even went so far as to accuse the women of being elites and asked, “who will care for the elderly and minors?”:

¿No pueden esas mujeres ir a la huelga? ¿No pueden las autónomas ir a la huelga? Esa huelga es para las élites feministas y no para las mujeres reales que tienen obligaciones.

Isn't true that those women can't go on strike? Isn't true that the self-employed can't go on strike? This strike is for feminist elites and not for real women who have obligations.

Divergent opinions: the discussion on racism within the Spanish feminist movement

The group Afroféminas reported that it was not planning on joining the strike because it considered it the product of  “mainstream feminism, explicitly white”:

No hay representación, ni visibilización de nuestras posturas, y nuestra principal reivindicación como mujeres racializadas [es que] el racismo se obvia, ya que en realidad, no se le da ninguna importancia. La brecha más grande es entre blancxs y racializadxs.

There is no representation nor visibility of our positions and our main claim as racialized women [is that] although racism is obvious, in reality, it is not given importance. The biggest gap is between white people and people who are racialized.

This position has caused some feminists to get upset, like “qwerty”, who commented on the website:

Vamos, el problema es que no os victimizan lo suficiente. En lugar de pelear por salir adelante, a llorar para dar pena. Claro que sí, guapis.

Come on, the problem is that they do not victimize you enough. Instead of fighting to get ahead, you cry for pity. Of course, lovelies.

But most people have understood the reasons for these demonstrations, like Carolina, who also participated in the discussion on the website:

Gracias por vuestro testimonio, de este nos queda reflexionar y trabajar todo lo posible para incluir a todas. No hay excusas que valgan, hay que trabajar esto ya. Gracias.

Thank you for your testimony, we have to reflect on this problem and do whatever is possible to include everyone. There are no valid excuses. We have to work on these issues straight away. Thank you.

The position of the Church and the response in the social media

The Catholic Church also commented on the feminist movement, although its opinions have been conflicting. On the one hand, Archbishop of Madrid Carlos Osoro, said he understood the women who support the strike because they must “defend their rights,” and concluded: “I would also support it, in fact, the Blessed Virgin Mary does.” However, Bishop of San Sebastian Ignacio Munilla, well-known for his controversial ultra-conservative views, spoke with the Radio Maria station and stated:

Es curioso cómo el demonio puede meter un gol desde las propias filas. El feminismo, al haber asumido la ideología de género, se ha hecho una especie de ‘hara kiri’

It is interesting how the devil can score a goal from their own ranks. Feminism, having assumed the gender ideology, has become a kind of ‘hara-kiri’ (referring to the Japanese suicide ritual Seppuku)

That has prompted the Twitter user named Filosofía Perdida to answer this:

#EsMachismoCuando (#IsMachismoWhen) you see the devil in feminism and equality but you do not see it in pederasty or pedophilia.

The hashtag #EsMachismoCuando (#IsMachismoWhen) has been trending on the social media and has lead to heated debate:

#EsMachismoCuando (#IsMachismoWhen) a woman who has an abortion is a murderer, but a man who kills his wife is an alleged murderer.

#EsMachismoCuando (#IsMachismoWhen) men tolerate and even laugh at the macho antics of others and we do not have the courage to reprimand them.

#EsMachismoCuando (#IsMachismoWhen)

- What are you doing dressed like that? Are you going to class or partying?
-Sit like a lady
-You have to look for a man with money
-It's different for your brother, you're a girl
-Who is going to want to marry you if you don't even know how to fry an egg?

Others used the same hashtag to express completely contrary opinions:

#EsMachismoCuando (#IsMachismoWhen) those who call themselves feminists force me to hate all men, to follow the call of ‘machete to macho’.

#EsMachismoCuando (#IsMachismoWhen) the woman is interested. No woman is born with a contract in her hands forcing her to marry, have children, etc. It's optional. It is good to play the victim for everything all the time. You can not swim and also take care of your clothes at the same time. You (some of you) want everything.

#EsMachismoCuando (#IsMachismoWhen) a couple separates and the man remains without house and gives a pension for the children every 15 days; also, when a woman denounces a man and they arrest him without even asking him; when you see only what you want.

Despite the differing opinions and heated debates, it is clear that March 8th, 2018 will go down in history as a key day for feminist demands in Spain.

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