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Why are Spanish Women Striking on March 8?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Helsinki chapter.

After the 2017 International Women’s Strike on March 8 last year, a series of feminist collectives in Spain started to organize a nationwide feminist strike on Women’s Day 2018, fueled by the growing feminist conscience that is sweeping our generation.

For the first time in Spanish history, there is an official and legal call to action on Women’s Day. It is also a rarity that, for once, there are no labor unions directly behind the call to strike; in spite of this, they are being supportive of it and acting as allies to legalize this industrial action. Yet in this case, dozens of feminist organizations from all over the country have joined forces in the “8M Commission” working group in a bid for women to strike for 24 hours on March 8, 2018.

The 8M commission has released a manifesto detailing the reasoning behind the strike, as well as the goals it is setting out to achieve:

“It is not our aim to organize a “classic” workers strike but to go beyond this format: our plan is to paralyze all the different invisible tasks and activities that women usually do, in all different levels and places. Specifically, we call a housework and care strike in the private field, a labor strike and a consumers strike (both in the public field) and a students’ strike in all educational levels.”

The manifesto calls for a stop to aggression and humiliation against women, a stop to everyday sexism, a stop to oppression rooted in sexual orientation, a stop to the gender pay gap and undervaluing women in the working world, and a stop to female poverty, among other demands.

“If we stop, the world stops”.

 By interrupting work for 24 hours, the aim is to give visibility to women’s role in society, so often undervalued or overlooked, for instance in domestic situations such as caregiving or cleaning. Even the Queen of Spain has reportedly cleared her schedule on Thursday 8 March, although she has not officially confirmed whether she is supporting this unprecedented action. However, Spanish women are also encouraged not to buy anything on this day, especially in businesses where women suffer from poor labor conditions, and, if they’re students aged 14 and over, to walk out of class.

Is there a valid reason for a strike of these proportions? This question ties in with the oftentimes discussed relevance of feminism nowadays. Let’s have a look at some numbers:

  • Despite making up 51% of the population, only 28% of women are civil servants, or 19% mayors, even though over half of those with university degrees are women: this so-called glass ceiling prevents, at a structural level, women from occupying positions of power.
  •  On average, women spend twice as much time as men doing housework or as caregivers.
  • Women endure more unemployment and part-time work than men do. According to Spain’s population survey, 75% of part-time contracts are signed by women. These typically pay less, which means that women have less access to social benefits as they are not contributing as much. But most women don’t “voluntarily” choose these contracts— they are what gets offered to them, or they simply cannot afford to work more hours due to childcare or caregiving obligations, which are also almost exclusively female. These occupations are also, for the most part, unpaid. 
  • The gender pay gap: a woman earns on average 13% less than a man for the same position. This all ties into the so-called pension gap: in Spain, women make up only 36% of those in retirement with a right to a pension. 
  • Political representation is another arena where women are underrepresented; there’s consistently under 50% women in regional parliaments, and the current government boasts only 5 women out of 14 ministers. Female ambassadors are also a rarity.
  • Gender violence is alive and kicking: nearly 1000 women killed since 2003. 55 women were killed in 2017, and as of the end of February 2018, 6 women have been killed in Spain. These numbers may well be higher, as until January 1 2018, the only cases counted where those in which the victim and the murderer had a relationship. This type of violence is the extremely visible tip of the iceberg; it would be nigh impossible to count the everyday sexist “micro-aggressions” in the media, the workplace or in public spaces.

So, yes: the strike is more than justified, and it is only the beginning. Men are also invited and more than welcome to join in, namely by supporting those women who would like to attend the protests: taking care of the kids or grandparents, cleaning the house, and so on. 

Protests have been confirmed elsewhere around the world, such as Belgium, France, Sweden, Argentina, the US or South Korea, to name a few. While the numbers and concrete struggles differ from country to country, the common transversal axis joining these protests is the claim to equal rights and opportunities. 

No matter where we are on March 8, let’s stand in solidarity and empower each other!










Esther is majoring in Media and Communications. She likes reading, vegan food, and spending way too much time on social media.
Helsinki Contributor