Feminist radicalism against capital in Spain

Current grassroots mobilizations in Spain, known as 15M or Indignados movement involves and benefits a great deal from feminisms. It is refreshing to see various feminist currents flowing through the Iberian streets in a symbiotic relationship with other struggles as part of the movement.

15M activists refer to the movement as a whole as 15M, because it all started on May 15 2011 when the squares of 79 towns and cities across the country were occupied and citizens’ assemblies were formed in them. By August 2011 it was estimated that at least 6 million people had participated in the movement. The 15M, still very alive and radicalized, showcases a myriad of initiatives and a staggering decentralized network. Their actions involve a great deal of creativity and theoretical analysis. The movement proves that, after the mass exodus and killings of progressive and talented minds during and after the Civil War, Spain has again regenerated its progressive-minded social tissue.

I am not trying to make an exhaustive map of different feminisms in Spain today; but rather to try to paint a near-accurate portrayal of grassroots feminisms responding to the crisis by elaborating on their narratives.


Defending what has been achieved: The Violet Tide

Violet tide marching in Malaga
Violet tide marching in Malaga

The violet tide emulated the many other ‘tides’ that emerged from the 15M. ‘Tide’ means ‘strand’ within the 15M movement: eg the White Tide is the movement defending free public healthcare while the Green Tide is the movement defending public education. The tide gathering feminist collectives and individuals across the country would inevitably be violet and indeed they like to make this obvious by dressing in that colour.

It was instigated from Málaga, a city in South Spain, and quickly joined throughout the state by hundreds of 15M feminist assemblies and other longer-established feminist organizations and collectives. Their actions take place simultaneously in several places across the country. A protest in February 2013 for instance was coordinated in the cities of Malaga, Madrid, Valencia, Córdoba, Granada, Jaén, Almería, Pamplona, Estella-Lizarra, Murcia, and Ceuta, along with many other towns.

In its manifesto, the Violet Tide condemns cuts to budgets for Equality Policies, the Law of Personal Autonomy and the Law of Sexual and Reproductive Rights. It also condemns the closure of services such as free legal aid and shelters for victims of violence against women as well as Women’s Centres and organisation such as the Women Institute.

Denouncing the systemic roots of it all: Feminisms Under the Sun

The movement has also given birth to ‘Feminisms under the Sun’, a Committee of Madrid’s Assembly (which occupied Plaza del Sol). Their manifesto fleshes out demands to bring about gender justice and economic justice, including demanding that domestic work is measured and factored into accounts of national wealth; that work and wealth are fairly distributed  – less work for each person so that we all have work. They denounce the fact that our current society puts markets, rather than people, first.

Feminist economy workshop held as part of an outdoor assembly
Feminist economy workshop held as part of an outdoor assembly

Actions also reflect this wider concern, for instance, feminist economy workshops where ‘collective intelligence’ is put to work. These forums think through an economic system that puts people’s lives and needs first. What needs should the economy fulfill? What kind of production and labour systems would adequately meet them?

In 2012 ‘Feminisms Under the Sun’ encouraged women at the margins of the labour market to participate in the two general strikes that were taking place in Spain: unemployed and precarious workers, domestic workers, undocumented migrants and sex-workers; women were also called to join a care strike against capital and patriarchy. Households were picketed and housewives informed of the economic (and social) value of their free work and of the exploitation of such work both by patriarchy and capitalism.

‘Feminisms Under the Sun’ thus makes visible the systemic roots of the so-called ‘crises’ that European rulers have used as excuse to roll back what had been achieved in terms of laws and policies that protect women and advance gender equality, and proposes alternatives to such systems.

Holistic and experimental: The mutant bitches

Loyal to the critical spirit of 15M, militants of an Ultra-violet tide, the Mutant Bitches, question what they call ‘politically correct policies’ and aim to dismantle conceptual maps and systems of thinking within each of us that make us reproduce patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism, racism and every other interlinked system of oppression. The Mutant Bitches want to provoke a transformation within the 15M movement itself and for this purpose they ‘de-programme patriarchal, capitalist and imperialist thinking’ using surveys, micro-workshops, boycotts to persons’ identity and happenings.

There is much creativity and enthusiasm in how feminisms are being played out in current grassroots struggles in Spain against injustice. Encouragingly all of them, from those working within the system to those working outside it work alongside other 15M ‘sub-movements’ as I have shown above. Arguably this alliance is weaker in Britain, not just at a grassroots level but throughout, where other struggles operate rather disconnected from feminisms; from its ideas and its energies. Such disconnections weaken us all who are working to put people before profit.

Virginia López Calvo

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