Does Protest Have a Sex? Women in the Spanish Protest Movement – a Case Study

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 12:42
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Ruth SIMSA, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
This paper we argue, that women are not only affected specifically by the economic and social crisis of Spain, but they also play specific roles in the Spanish movement of the Iindignados. These roles sometimes show a double face. In part, they reproduce gender stereotypes, in (the larger) part they are the prefigurative enactment of new patterns of gender relations, communication-styles and activism. In spite of declared goals of movement actors to strive for gender equality, some feminist activists criticize the everyday enactment of gender relations in movement activities and see more emancipative chances in women´s groups, yet with very open boundaries regarding common activities with mixed groups.

Based on in-depth interviews with movement activists we present a case study of a women´s initiative, a group of survivors of domestic violence that combines protest and advocacy with social help for women in the same situation, cultural activities and entrepreneurial strategies, all explicitly based on feminist theory. In a first step, the paper describes characteristics, forms and strategies of participation of these activists related to their theories in use in an ethnographic way. This will be complemented in a second step with results of interviews with female activists of other groups of the Spanish protest movement about differences, conflicts as well as common goals and learnings regarding gender and the role of women and men in the protest movement. Gender is a contested terrain in the movement. Generally, women describe both subtle discrimination and substantial learning. The latter is achieved mainly by discussions and rules regarding everyday-practices of communication styles in assemblies. Based on that, we will elaborate tensions, achievements and strategies of feminist activists. We argue that women play a crucial role in the movement and that they see their roles and activity styles as different from that of men.