OPINION Fighting the ‘Wolf Pack’: What next for Spanish women?

Irantzu Varela, journalist, feminist and coordinator of the feminist creative collective Faktoria Lila tells The Local what La Manada verdict means for the women of Spain.

OPINION Fighting the 'Wolf Pack': What next for Spanish women?
Irantzu Varela believes the verdict has woken women up in Spain. Photo: Daniel Blanco

What message is the Spanish justice system sending to every Spanish woman and girl with the verdict on the multiple rape committed by the group of five men who style themselves as “La Manada” –The Wolf Pack?


Well, this verdict is telling us we’re not free to decide about our own bodies, we’re taking a risk when we deciding to go out  – especially at night – and the police, the law and the justice system are not going to protect us.

And that’s not all.

It is also telling us, that, in 2018, in a country that is considered a democracy, Spain allows the possibility that a woman can be forced into having sex without her consent and it’s not considered violent.

This verdict is telling every Spanish woman that, in this country, being forced into non-consensual sexual acts is not violence.

There is also the question of intimidation. It’s become obvious that this thing we call “justice” absolutely ignores the everyday reality of what it’s like to be a woman.

Bearing in mind that practically every women has felt that moment of fear when a stranger steps into the elevator, and that all of us breathe a sigh of relief when we discover that the footsteps behind us on a lonely street at night, belong to a woman.

How is it possible that a court can consider that when five strong adult men, strangers to an 18-year-old girl, lead her to a dark corner, surround her, and force her to be penetrated eleven times (anal, vaginal and oral) that THEY ARE NOT TERRIFYING HER?

The La Manada verdict perpetuates the idea that a woman must put up resistance in case of an assault, that she must fight back physically, using violence if necessary, putting her life at risk to avoid being raped.

If she doesn’t fight back, she simply won’t be believed, not even by a court called to judge the rapist. Or rapists.

GALLERY: Millions take to the streets for women's rights

Crowds fill the streets outside the Banco d'España on March 8th. Photo:AFP

On March 8th (a day that saw women across Spain take to the streets in mass demonstrations for women’s rights) it felt like a new awakening in Spanish women, a feeling of understanding on a huge scale, that the feminist movement is a fight within all of us.

And I think a huge number of women have understood that it is impossible to balance inequality between men and women, and violence against women, without changing social structures that support that male supremacy.

Those things that manifest in seemingly innocuous conducts, but make such oppression possible.

Those structures that build the heteropatriarchalsystem, that use women as objects to satisfy  family, men and market needs.

That's why there are people (such as the three judges responsible for deciding the verdict) that didn’t see violence in the act of forcing a woman into sex without her consent.

A woman shouts slogans during a demonstration in Madrid on April 26. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

In my opinion, with this verdict, a lot of women in Spain have realized that the system is not built by us, is not for us.

The fact that every structure of the system is oriented to give us the place they need us at: serving, caring, satisfying every need and desire of those we have around us, sexual desire included, of course.

I think we, the feminist movement, have now a big double responsibility.

Firstly, to generate the conditions to make structural changes in the system, to break all the dynamics that produce inequality and violence against women.

And secondly to convince every woman that, if we are not protected by the police, the law and the justice system, and the decision to go out or try to act free is assuming a risk… then we have to develop personal and collective self-defence strategies.

For more from Irantzu Varela, follow her on Twitter and the feminist creative Faktoria Lila



Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.