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ELECTION

Feminism is the buzzword in Spain’s electoral campaign

Women's rights have taken centre stage in election campaigns for Spain's left- and right-wing parties as International Women's Day approaches even as ultra-conservative groups hit back at what they dub "radical feminism."

Feminism is the buzzword in Spain's electoral campaign
Students demonstrate for women's rights at a recent protest in Madrid. Photo: AFP

Unions, feminist associations and left-wing parties have called for a work stoppage for two hours on March 8, hoping to recreate the strike and mass protests seen nationwide to mark the same day in 2018.

But things are different this year.   

Political parties are already busy campaigning for upcoming snap general elections on April 28 and European, regional and municipal polls on May 26th.   

The ruling Socialist party, centre-right Ciudadanos and the conservative Popular Party (PP) have all raced to pledge to do their bit against gender inequality in a country with a strong feminist movement.

But virulent anti-feminism rhetoric has also made its entrance, with far-right party Vox and an ultra-conservative association that chartered a bus with the slogan “#StopFeminazis” coupled with a picture of Hitler wearing pink lipstick.

READ MORE: Spanish Ultra-Catholic group campaign against ‘Feminazis' with Hitler bus

Photo of the image emblazoned on the side of the HasteOir.org campaign bus.

Feminism 'sells'

Feminism — defined as the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes — like poverty or wealth redistribution, are usually more the remit of the left, says Cristina Monge, sociology professor at the University of Zaragoza.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made them a central theme of his campaign.

On Friday in its cabinet meeting, the socialist government — which has the most female ministers in Spain's history — approved a number of progressive measures.   

Among them, a gradual increase in paternity leave so that it equals maternity leave by 2021, and more transparency on salaries in companies.   

They aim to reduce the gender pay gap, which stood at 14.2 percent in Spain and 16.2 percent in the European Union in 2016, according to the latest Eurostat figures.

But Spain's right-wing parties have also embraced feminism for years, even if they have not called to mobilise on March 8th.   

Centre-right party Ciudadanos on Sunday unveiled a manifesto for “liberal feminism” that defends gender equality and “doesn't exclude men.”   

Conservative PP meanwhile has glossed over a speech by its leader Pablo Casado criticising abortion and is pledging to reduce the gender pay gap and help women enter the labour market.

“Let's not let them speak in our name,” said outgoing parliament speaker Ana Pastor in a PP campaign video — in reference to the left.   

“That's tangible proof that feminism is here to stay and sells” politically, Professor Monge said. “Many right-wing people… won't tolerate that their party oppose it.”

Counter-protest

In Spain, 77 percent say a strike on March 8th is justified, according to a survey by polling firm Metroscopia published Monday.   

That, however, is five percentage points less than a year ago, particularly among those on the right as Vox's popularity increases.   

The far-right party, which could play a decisive role after elections in helping other right-wing parties secure a majority in parliament, opposes a law against gender violence that it feels is “ideological” and “discriminatory” towards men.   

The bus chartered by conservative, Catholic association HazteOir (“Make yourself heard”), which compares feminists to Nazis, has been driving around the country for several days.

It is protesting against a law fighting gender violence, another for gender equality and yet more for LGBT rights, arguing these all discriminate against men.

Prosecutors in Barcelona asked the bus to be stopped when it came to the Mediterranean city, charging it incites hate and discrimination, but a judge refused to do so, citing freedom of expression.

Meanwhile the “Women of the World Global Platform,” a Spanish initiative that groups together conservative associations from around the world, has called for a counter-protest in central Madrid on March 10.

International Women's Day “has converted into a day for those who reject femininity as well as masculinity, complementarity, maternity and dedication to the family,” spokeswoman Leonor Tamayo said in a statement.

“But we want to celebrate it, confirm it and reclaim it.”

By AFP's Adrien Vicente

ANALYSIS: Gloves come off as Spain begins two-month-long political fist fight 

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FOOTBALL

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.

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