INTERNATIONAL WOMAN’S DAY: A REMINDER OF OUR SUBORDINATION

Today, 8 of March, International Woman’s Day, I only feel irritation. I’m irritated because we still need a special day to complain that more than half of humankind is subordinated to men, who are actually the minority. I’m irritated because I wish we did not need days like today in 2015 and because even if I live to be 100 (2066…) there is still going to be an urgent need for an 8 of March like today. Google has decorated its opening page with a logo reminding us of women’s achievements in a variety of fields but the Spanish media are full, rather, of the miseries we women endure and I feel really downbeat.

El País explains that since the Spanish Government started counting the victims of couple-related violence, back in 2001, the list extends to more than 800 already… The son of one of them writes about the tragic void left by his mother’s absence and this is as it should be: the men must shoulder half the burden of the fight against patriarchal misogynistic terrorism, which must become a collective fight. Miguel Lorente, the man who, together with Luis Bonino, has spoken with the greatest clarity against male violence in Spain, makes the same claim and I could not agree more with him: my main hope for violence against women to end are the loving sons, brothers, fathers, partners, friends… and, above all, the fathers of daughters who will not want to see their little girls grow into abused women, whether this is in the hands of men claiming to love them or men in positions to employ them.

Many of the news items this week have to do, precisely with the gender pay gap, which in Spain is officially 17.5% in contrast to 19% for the whole European Union. This means that if a man and a woman are hired to do a job he will get higher wages by that percentage just for having a penis (it seems that a common strategy to justify this kind of illegal discrimination is giving the man’s job a title within a higher category). Catalan TV3 interviews today a few female students indignant that they have to face a worse future than their male peers although the statistics indicate not only that women are a majority in college but also that they do better. Then, the newscast moves onto a report of a political act in which President Artur Mas has promised women will have full equality in a future independent Catalan nation. His own Government has withdrawn all aids to kindergarten for children from 0 to 3 years-old, the very pre-school establishments on which young mothers depend in order to be able to work full time. So why delay to a hypothetical future Catalonia what can be done today? And not only to help young mothers but also young fathers…

As regards violence, I’m left with two potent images: one from the new film Refugiado directed by Diego Lerman, who was inspired to write it when he saw a woman attacked in the street by her husband before his very eyes. The little boy Matías, age 8, and on the run with his pregnant mother from his murderous dad, has a conversation on the phone with him: “If you love her so much”, he asks really distressed, “why do you hurt her?” The other image comes from an Italian campaign, in which some boys, ages 6 to 12, are introduced to Martina, a girl about 10. They’re asked to caress and kiss her face, which they all do very sweetly–and then to hit her. Taken aback, all the boys refuse to use violence against the girl: as one sentences, this is not what a man does. I only wish all the men who do use violence could be shamed by other men into understanding that they do not deserve the honour of being called a man, much less a human being.

I have not joined the local demonstration in Barcelona today, though I have crossed paths with it as I walked to La Virreina to see an exhibition by the renowned French woman photographer Sophie Calle, ‘Modus Vivendi’. What better way to celebrate women’s work, right? I have been distressed by some of Calle’s autobiographical works, presenting her as vulnerable because of her body (she has even worked as a stripper) or her relationships with men. The main segment of the exhibition had to do with one of her peculiar projects: she passed to a variety of women an email which her lover had sent her announcing that he was ending their relationship. Each of these women analyzed the lover’s pathetic, whiny letter from her own vantage point, determined by age and occupation. The result is a frankly hilarious deconstruction of romance, right now one of the worst vampires sucking energy off women, together with fashion and the cult of youth.

Then, to complete my peculiar homage to women I have read La guerra secreta de los sexos, a fascinating volume that María Lafitte, the Countess of Campo Alange, had the temerity to publish in 1948, under Franco’s regime and one year before de Beauvoir published The Second Sex. I marvel not only at her bravery but at how profoundly feminist her book is, and how valid her view of women’s subordination is still today. If you’ve never heard of Lafitte, she founded in 1960 the Seminario de Estudios sobre la Mujer, the first one in Spain. Like the editors of her text, re-published in 2008, I had serious misgivings that she would offer a right-wing version of women’s mission in support of the fatherland, closest to Pilar Primo de Rivera, the regime’s main female spokesperson. This is not at all the case; Lafitte is no left-wing, radical feminist like the ones that would appear in the 1960s but she is quite outspoken in her own mission to highlight the strategies used by patriarchy to diminish women physically and mentally. Her view is that patriarchy of the traditional kind ended in the 19th century when legislation took much power away from patriarchal family men; we are, then, immersed in the long process of building a new system which she thinks will take very long to accomplish, perhaps centuries. I see myself like her in 1948, just one of the few free enough to hurry the process along, surrounded by many more freer women than Lafitte but also by millions of other women stuck in the mud of what I can only call enslavement.

Over lunch I hear on TV the news about that young Moroccan woman, resident in Rubí, just a few kilometres from my university, who has been arrested for inducing women to join the Islamic State. She herself abandoned her husband, kidnapping their three-year-old boy, and moved to Syria. A Spanish woman lawyer specializing in cases like this one explains that women are lured into joining this barbaric kind of patriarchy (as seen by this week’s destruction of the Assyrian city of Nimrud) by the promising of finding the man of their dreams: a handsome warrior that will protect them. My appalled husband complains loudly that the authorities should launch a campaign against that kind of gendered brainwashing but I find myself telling him that, then, another campaign needs to be launched against other forms of enslavement. Like Fifty Shades of Gray, the film so many Western women are freely choosing to see (with their girl friends) and which is giving men the excuse to say that all we want is a master to enslave us –whether he is Christian (Grey) or Muslim…

Only 364 International Patriarchal Men’s Day left for the next International Woman’s Day, then…

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