Today is International Women’s Day, and if anyone had any doubt just how much the situation of women in Spain has changed over the past fifty years, an e-mail sent to the euroresidentes mailbox this morning serves to illustrate the complete transformation of the role of women in Spanish society.
The email contains a collection of some short extracts taken from publications of Seccion Feminina, the organization under Franco that was in charge of the indoctrination and formation of the new Spanish woman. And they have to be read to be believed.
“Throughout her life, the mission of women is to serve. When God made the first man, he thought “It is not good for man to be lonely”. And he made woman to help and accompany man, and to serve as a mother. God’s first idea was “man”. He thought of woman afterwards, as a necesary complement, as something useful” (Public and Social Studies, Secondary Education, 1962)
“When you get married, your name will become your first name, your first surname, then “de” (of) and then your husband’s surname.
Like this: Carmen Garcia de Marin. This is a pleasant formula, as we do not lose our personality, but we become Carmen Garcia who belongs to Mr Marin, that is Carmen Garcia of Marín” (syllabus of the course Domestic Economy for secondary school and teachers training level, 1968).
“The life of all women, however much they may pretend otherwise, is no more than an eternal search to find someone to whom they can submit themselves” (1944).
“When he arrives home from work, have a delicious meal ready for him…Take off his shoes. Speak in a low, relaxed and pleasant tone. Get ready – touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair. Make yourself look a little more interesting for him.
He may need a bit of cheer after his hard days work, and your job is to give it to him. Looking after his needs will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
Minimise all noise. When he arrives, turn off the noise of the washing machine or vaccum cleaner. Greet him with a warm smile and show him that you want to please him. Listen to him, let him speak first – remember that his topics of conversation are more important than yours. Never complain if he arrives late, or if he goes out to dine or enjoy himself without you. Try rather to understand his world of tension and stress and his real needs… Remember he is the master of your house.
Encourage him to enjoy his hobbies and support him without being too insistant. If you have a hobby, don’t bore him by talking about it because womens’ interests are trivial compared with the interests of men.
At bedtime prepare the bed as quickly as possible. Although feminine hygiene is of maximum importance, your husband should not be expected to have to wait to use the bathroom. Remember you should look perfect at bed time. If you have to put face cream or hair-rollers on, wait until he is asleep as both can alarm a man last thing at night. As far as intimate relations are concerned, you must remember your marriage obligations. If he needs to sleep, let him. Do not intrude his privacy or stimulate him. If your husband initiates the act, then you should agree to it humbly, always bearing in mind that his satisfaction is more important than that of a woman. When the peak arrives, a small noise from you will be enough to express any enjoyment you may have felt. If your husband asks you to participate in unusual sexual practises, be obedient and do not complain” (Domestic Economy for secondary school and teachers training level, 1958).
Today Spain has more women ministers than any other European government, and one of the firmest and most repeated commitments of Spanish President Rodriguez Zapatero is to extend further womens rights in terms of working conditions, pay, positive descrimination, protection from domestic violence etc. Much progress still has to be made, but the extent to which the role of women in Spain has progressed over the last 30 years is a tribute to Spanish democracy (and a great relief to all of us women living here). Feliz dia de la Mujer!