Why Did Women Journalists Strike in Spain?

Photograph of the march shared publicly by journalist Elisa Piñeiro, used with permission. Sign reads “Journalists on strike.”

Some 8,000 women journalists from Spain, among them the author of this post, recently signed a manifesto called “Journalists On Strike,” which was read during the “Feminist Strike” that took place on March 8 in a dozen cities in Spain.

Neither the manifesto nor the strike were initiated by a union, political party, or media source, as is often the case. For the first time, women television show hosts, radio presenters, and newscasters decided to turn off their microphones in the studio and take their voices to the streets.


Many, many women work in parliamentary information. Here are some of the #WomenJournalists on strike and standing up against discrimination.

#Madrid 18:20 #WeWomenJournalistsStrike #WomensDay

Why did they strike?

First of all, talking about change doesn't always translate into action. According to a study published in El profesional de la información, men hold three-fourths of the highest management positions and two-thirds of editorial positions. Overall, 75 percent of Spanish executives are men.

Secondly, the wage gap continues to exist in the field. Eighty-five percent of Spanish journalists earning less than 1,000 euros (about 1,200 US dollars) are women.

Tweet reads: #FeministStrike #8March #WeWomenJournalistsStrike

Sign in image reads: We are the granddaughters of the women who weren't allowed to write.

Beyond economic demands, another key point in the manifesto was workplace harassment, following the wave of protests like #MeToo and #TimeIsUp. Women journalists run an extra risk: In addition to harassment by superiors and colleagues, they may also be harassed by sources. Furthermore, many Spanish publications have a culture of condescension and paternalism, as well as other types of microaggressions.

Francisco Marhuenda's tweet: This strike is a little petty. It's a lot of women who have never had a serious problem in their life. I've never seen a publication discriminate because you're a man or a woman.

Noelia Ramírez's tweet: Hello, Paco: Remember when you interviewed me for a job (without a contract) and asked me if I had a boyfriend, then added that we couldn’t get pregnant at La Razón newspaper because “this isn't like TV3”? That’s discrimination. Today journalists are on strike so that doesn’t happen again. Cheers.

Finally, the journalists demonstrated against biases in news coverage. Opinion segments and talk shows are male-centric. According to the Global Media Monitoring Project, 91 percent of experts and 82 percent of media spokespeople are men.

Tweet reads: #WeWomenJournalistsStrike

Sign in image reads: I can talk about politics and the economy – stop mansplaining!

 “All we needed was a spark to get out in the street and make our demands.”

The movement grew thanks to a group on the instant messaging service Telegram, which, in the days before the strike, facilitated discussions about the mobilization as well as the organization of the online manifesto campaign. It also focused on vetting new members of the group itself, given that one in particular, dedicated to receiving videos, was overrun by trolls who tried (unsuccessfully) to undermine the protest.

Several of the protest's organizers spoke with Global Voices about the defining characteristics of this protest and the elements that may have contributed to its success. We also asked what makes this occasion unique–why is now the time that people are getting out on the street to fight for these demands?

Lucía Gómez – Lobato: Las periodistas nos hemos conseguido organizar por primera vez, con lo que ello supone de arrastre de medios de comunicación de todos los colores. La repercusión inevitable ha conseguido doblegar incluso a políticos y con todo, la sociedad entera ha reaccionado. Efecto contagio y efecto bola de nieve, mucho.

Lucía Gómez – Lobato: Women journalists have succeeded in organizing for the first time, with an accompanying slowdown in media of all types. The repercussions have even had an impact on politicians. All of society reacted. It’s contagious, a snowball effect.

María José Romero: Solo hemos necesitado una chispa para salir a la calle a reivindicar. Los asesinatos del año pasado, la manada (el caso de la violación en grupo a una joven), el #metoo, el goteo continuo de actitudes machistas… Todo ha llenado el vaso de nuestra paciencia y en el caso de las periodistas sólo ha bastado que unas pocas iniciaran el movimiento para acabar todas metiéndonos de lleno, porque nuestras desigualdades son las mismas.

María José Romero: All we needed was a spark to get out in the street and make demands. The murders that took place last year, the gang rape of a young girl, the #metoo movement, the continuous trickle of sexist attitudes… All of that has exceeded the limits of our patience. In the case of the journalists, it only took a few women initiating the movement for all of us to dive in headfirst, because the inequalities we face are the same.

Rocío Ibarra Arias: Uff creo que ha sido la chispa, como en otras ocasiones. Bajo mi punto de vista, creo que hoy ha sido el resultado de un cúmulo de injusticias y la necesidad de decir a una de ellas básica: ¡BASTA YA! Pero no sé, creo que también hay una parte de necesidad de la gente de salir a la calle y mediante la unión demostrar que tenemos fuerza y tenemos el poder de cambiar las cosas. Y creo que las Periodistas Paramos ha sido un impulso.

Rocío Ibarra Arias: I think that was the spark, like other occasions. From my point of view, I think today was the result of an accumulation of injustices and the need to say to one basic one: NO MORE! But I don’t know, I also think part of it was people's need to get out in the street and use the power of numbers to demonstrate that we are strong and we have the power to change things. And I think the journalists’ strike was one of those urges.

Ana de la Pena: Desde mi punto de vista, nosotras cubrimos la actualidad y aquí este [año] se han difundido más los casos de violencia machista. También hemos ido quitando la etiqueta “tabú” durante estos meses, tocando estos temas una y otra vez.

Ana de la Pena: From my point of view, we report the news, and cases of violence against women have been reported more this year. We’ve also been eliminating the “taboo” label as we've touched on these topics over and over again during these past months.

María Grijelmo: No lo sé, pero en el último año el número de noticias sobre machismo y feminismo ha sido exponencial respecto a años anteriores. Un caldo de cultivo de muchos años de movilización feminista que ha ido calando en los medios y en las calles hasta conseguir vivir lo que hemos vivido hoy. Hemos hecho historia pero el movimiento es eso. Seguir caminando.

María Grijelmo: I don't know, but in the last year, there’s been an exponential increase in the amount of news reporting on sexism and feminism compared to previous years. It's taken many years of feminist mobilization in the media and in the streets to get to where we are today. We've made history. That’s the movement. Keep going.

Mariona Sòria: Creo que el éxito de hoy es que por primera vez se han encontrado la primera generación de mujeres feministas con las que se acaban de incorporar, que ven que la situación que les toca vivir e tan nefasta como la de nuestras madres, precariedad, falta de oportunidades, patriarcado latente.

Mariona Sòria: I think today's success is that the first generation of feminists has united with the newest wave, who are seeing that the situation they live in–precarity, lack of opportunity, and the patriarchy–is just as toxic as that of our mothers.

Kristina Zorita: La cifra de mujeres asesinadas, la manada, una crisis que ha golpeado más a las mujeres, pueden ser parte de la causa.

Kristina Zorita: The number of murdered women, the gang rape, the economic crisis that hit women the hardest–that could all be part of the cause.

Claudia Morán: Yo creo que los casos mediáticos de asesinatos machistas como [el de] Diana Quer y el intento de violación en Boiro tuvieron mucho que ver. Este año se mezcló con el movimiento #metoo en EEUU y un presidente diciendo sobre legislar contra la brecha salarial.

Claudia Morán: I think the media coverage of cases of violence against women, like the Diana Quer case and the rape attempt in Boiro, have a lot to do with it. This year there’s also the #metoo movement in Europe and a president talking about making laws to close the wage gap.

The economic crisis that hit Spanish media in 2007-2008 caused a spectacular increase in unemployment among journalists, and the worst affected were women. Unemployment among women in journalism is higher than among men–63.8%, to be exact, according to official data.

However, more and more women are studying journalism. Six of every 10 students in the field are women, according to the Madrid Press Association’s report on data from the past four years.

The historic demonstrations that took place on March 8 open the debate not only on decision-making in the media in Spain, but also on social and economic policies in other job sectors. Fifty years after the feminist slogan, “The personal is political,” and the civil unrest that took place in May 1968 in France, the new generation of women seems to understand that the cause still needs them.

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