‘We’re not afraid’: MTSU student witnesses Spain’s first nationwide feminist strike

Photos by Alexis Marshall / MTSU Sidelines

Class was cancelled Thursday for History and Models of Journalism at the University of Malaga in southern Spain. My instructor, Laura Lopez, explained in the previous session that there would be a strike. I had seen the posters and heard a little buzz around my host campus, but what I saw on March 8 of my semester abroad from MTSU was anything but little. “La Huelga Feminista,” or feminist strike, emptied classrooms and filled the streets of my new city with people ready for change.

The Guardian reported that over 5 million people nationwide participated in the feminist strike, which was the first of its kind for Spain. During the day, many professors, like Lopez, chose to cancel classes. Even courses that met were visibly reduced due to the strike. Less than half of my photojournalism classmates showed that morning.

On my way home from class, I walked through the city center. I walked past shops that are usually teeming with tourists and shoppers. However, instead of travelers, I saw dozens of Spanish women, clad in purple, leaving a rally that had just concluded. They walked in packs past the stores, stopping in front of some to chant. Many wore signs that read, “Lo siento, hoy no compro,” which translates to, “Sorry, today I’m not shopping.”

That day, there were demonstrations in the streets throughout Spain, but what I didn’t know was that the protests would last into the night. My friend Jenny was visiting from MTSU, and it was her last night in Spain. As we walked out to dinner, I saw a large group gathering in a plaza with signs. I thought that the event was wrapping up. As we finished eating and started walking back to my apartment, I realized that I was very wrong. We had stumbled into a march with thousands of people.

Demonstrators bore signs that advocated for principles similar to those expressed in the women’s marches I have attended in the U.S., including reproductive rights and wage inequality. However, Spanish women placed a distinct emphasis on the issue of “machismo,” a culture akin to toxic masculinity. Many women in Spain say that machismo contributes to gender discrimination, sexual aggression and domestic violence. And, to be completely honest, since arriving here, I kind of understand the urgency. I’ve been catcalled a lot. Men at clubs and bars don’t always accept no as an answer. At times, it is very uncomfortable. At times, it is dangerous.

Among the signs carried at the nighttime demonstration in Malaga were those that read, “De camino a casa quiero ser libre, no valiente,” which translates to, “From the street to home, I want to be free, not brave.” Chants referencing the deaths of women as a result of domestic violence rang out. Women shouted, “No son muertas, son asesinadas,” meaning, “They aren’t dead. They are murdered.”

From my perspective, it seemed the women here weren’t marching solely for political visibility but for their own safety and livelihood.

Despite some of the dark themes at the march, the overall tone was upbeat and hopeful. Women I spoke to had real hope that this demonstration would bring about some change. At the very least, it would make a statement. As they walked from Alameda Principal to Plaza de la Constitución, the crowd began to chant what reflected the attitude of the evening: “Que no tenemos miedo.”

“We’re not afraid.”

This is an opinion, written from the perspective of the writer and does not reflect the views of Sidelines or MTSU.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Rachael Horner
    March 13, 2018

    Incredible work!