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Feminist strike: protest that transformed Spanish politics set for new International Women’s Day

Manifesto warns of “patriarchal offensive" as far-right rises ahead of general election


07 March 2019 12:58 PM


Alan Ruiz Terol | Barcelona

Feminists in Catalonia and Spain are gearing up for a new International Women’s Day on March 8, after a feminist strike last year spawned an unprecedented wave of demonstrations with major political consequences.

"We want to improve on last year’s success," said Dolores Pulido, an organizer of this year’s feminist strike in Barcelona.

Dozens of protests are expected all across Catalonia throughout the day, with the main rally called in Barcelona at 6:30 pm. According to the local police, some 200,000 people attended the demonstration in the city last year.

Apart from temporary work stoppages and a general strike, feminist groups are calling again on women to back a strike affecting their consumption and family care tasks.

Major political figures are supporting the strike, including the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau.

  • “The same reasons as last year remain: we continue to suffer structural violence, they continue to kill us, they rape us, attack us, and discriminate against us"

    Ada Colau · Barcelona mayor

“The same reasons as last year remain: we continue to suffer structural violence, they continue to kill us, they rape us, attack us, and discriminate against us,” said Colau, who stressed that politicians should let “the feminist movement" take the lead and avoid using it for partisan interests.

The consequences of last year’s protest were far-reaching, galvanizing both politicians for and against the feminist movement.

Most egalitarian cabinets ever

When he came to power in June last year, Spanish president Pedro Sánchez appointed 11 women and 6 men as ministers—an unprecedented record both in Spain and in most world countries.

In Catalonia, president Quim Torra appointed 7 men and 6 women as his ministers, the most egalitarian ever.

Elsa Artadi, the Catalan cabinet spokesperson and the most senior female minister, warned of the “patriarchy showing his teeth" and criticized parties which advocate for derogating “the laws that protect women.”

Far-right dismisses feminism as 'supremacist'

With far-right Vox party rising in polls ahead of the Spanish general election next April, the rejection of feminism is seen as one of the main driving forces behind its increasing popularity, along with its tough approach on migration and the Catalan independence bid.

Vox has repeatedly described the feminist movement as “supremacist" and criticized it for defending "gender ideology.” The party has questioned official figures on violence against women, alleging that many men are unjustly reported by their partners.

Vox burst into Spanish politics last December with historic results in Andalusia's election, which allowed People’s Party (PP) and Ciutadans (Cs) to oust the Socialists from the regional government.

Both parties were under fire for negotiating with the far-right, but opened the door to new deals following next April’s election in Spain.

PP and Cs: confronting mixed feelings

PP and Cs were initially reluctant about the feminist strike last year, but eventually applauded the protest after its major success. Yet, they remain critical of the movement and rejected attending the feminist strike.

Spain’s opposition head and People’s Party (PP) leader, Pablo Casado, ruled out attending the official march on Women’s Day this year after reading the manifesto, which he dismissed as “extreme left propaganda.”

In this year’s statement, strike organizers accuse “the right and the extreme right” of targeting “women, lesbians, trans people, and especially migrants,” with their “ultra-capitalist, racist, and patriarchal offensive.”

Casado was recently under fire after advocating for more restrictive abortion laws, which would only allow it in cases of rape, impairment of the fetus, and health risks for the mother.

The leader of Cs in Catalonia Inés Arrimadas has been the party’s standard-bearer of what the party describes as “liberal feminism,” which advocates for the legalization of prostitution and surrogacy, among other measures.