In gender roles within society. Images and

In this podcast episode I will be addressing the ways in which the
notions of gender and the portrayal of women in Spanish society has changed over
the years. Women, and the nation as a whole, have progressed remarkably in
Spain throughout the last 40 years from the strict, totalitarian rule of
Franco, to the exuberant cultural outburst of La Movida.

1931 was a revolutionary year for Spain. It was the year in which the
Second Republic granted women full suffrage; the right to vote being one of the
many new legislative rights women were accorded. Women were given full legal
status and measures were taken to provide equal access to the labour market. The
advancement of women continued during the years of the Spanish Civil War where
tasks, such as manual labour in factories and agriculture and involvement in
the militia, highlighted the significance of women outside traditional and
conventional gender roles within society. Images and war propaganda of women
fighting alongside men encouraged this. Similar advancements were witnessed in
countries like Britain and America throughout the Second World War. One notable
female heroine in the Civil War was Dolores Ibárruri,
known for her slogan ‘¡No Pasarán!’ who
inspired a feminist political movement against fascism. However, not only did
the Civil War bring about the death of half a million of its citizens, but
amongst the bloodshed, a fascist dictator rose to power: Francisco Franco. The
democratically elected Second Republic was demolished and along with it, the
progress of gender equality.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Within the 36 years of his authoritarian rule Spanish society regressed,
particularly as Catholicism played an integral part in shaping Franco’s regime
and his societal and cultural ideologies. A social hierarchy aimed at
preserving the traditional family principles was enforced by public law. Women
became subordinate to men. They were denied divorce, contraception, abortion
and married women were not permitted to hold a job. They were tasked with
striving to be good housewives, mothers and nothing else. Attending University
was firmly discouraged for fear of creating financially independent women. Opening
a bank account, signing a contract or even applying for a passport were
unattainable without a husband’s permission. Measures were taken by the state
to restrict women’s labour outside of the home. Marriage bars were introduced
preventing married women from working in several major companies and sectors of
the economy to reiterate the importance of the male authoritative role in the

La Sección Feminina was the women’s section of the Falange political
movement. Its social activities were a continuation of the domestic role of
women to the community; the ideas were very much similar to that of the Women’s
Institute in Britain. In 1937 it was recognised by Franco as an official
organisation of Social Service for Women. Its primary role was to instruct
women on Francoist ways and influencing his patriotic morals. The institution
released a set of rules for women to comply with in ‘The Good Housewife’s
guide: 11 rules to follow to make your husband happy’. It is important to look
at how these images highlighted and imposed the inferiority of a wife’s
position in comparison with her husband, whilst simultaneously showing the
contentment and pride they took in their only job. It is necessary to note that
Spain wasn’t fully closed off from the rest of the world. Consumerism was and
remains a transnational concept. Manufacturers across the globe were defining
gender based roles through tailoring the marketing of domestic goods towards
women. This was no different in Spain, with the country receptive to the demand
of a consumer based economy. However, there were women, artists in particular
who were challenging the notions that women were being lost in gender politics
and in their domestic roles even before the transition of politics and
democracy following the death of Franco. One of these artists being Eulalia
Grau whose art depicts the contrast between the idea of a blissful married life
with the bleak unfulfilling domestic reality.

A couple of years before his death, Spanish people had come in to
contact more with the outside world, but censorship on media, film production
and literature still prevented full immersion with the already advancing
societies of the Western World. Following Franco’s death in 1975 and the
restoration of democracy, Spanish society changed dramatically. There were
radical changes in politics, gender and culture. One particular influence
responsible for this was globalisation. With Spain’s borders lifted, and state censorships
relaxed; the country was re-opened to the influences of the rest of the world. Women
could work again. They were entitled to an education and became increasingly
involved in politics. In only eight years, by 1983, 46% of Spain’s University
enrolment was female. Popular companies like Nike, Coca Cola and McDonalds opened
offices and outlets in Spain, offering many employment opportunities that
hadn’t existed under Franco’s rule. Globalisation empowered women and opened
doors that weren’t previously available. In modern day Spain women now
constitute 53.4% of the country’s labour force.

The ‘Transition’ phase that arose after the dictator’s death lead rise
to cultural explosions, particularly in urban areas. La Movida Madrileña was a countercultural movement that transpired from the
repressive political and sexual taboos of the fascist regime. In Madrid
especially, these changes were profound and lead way to a hedonistic wave of
cultural revolutions. Explosions of film, music and fashion that echoed the
attitudes seen in the New Wave and Flower Power movements of Britain and
America and the Neue Deutsche Welle punk rock
movement in Germany. Pedro Almodóva’s film ‘Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del
monton’ became emblematic of La Movida with the main theme encouraging female
resilience, independence and solidarity. It ideally characterised this period
of change, of sexual and cultural freedom from the grasps of a repressed
Francoist era.

In 2005 Spain was one of the first European countries to legalise same
sex marriage, unimaginable to those under the asphyxiation of the Catholic
Franco regime. In the 2008 election the president Zapatero made headlines by
announcing more women in his cabinet than men. Even last year Spain were placed
22nd out of 144 major and emerging economies on the Global Gender
Gap Report. Spain has become one of the most progressive nations in Europe. The
death of Franco over 40 years ago, enabled this closed, one party country to be
open and influenced by the rest of the world.



Douthet Ashley, 2015, Gender Violence and the Empowerment of
Women in Post-Franco Spanish Film




Jose Maria, Arias Raque, 1981, Feminism in Our Time, Women’s
Studies International Quarterly, Volume 4, Issue 4.