Feminism bounces back in first post-pandemic International Women's Day

More than 15,000 women demonstrate against job insecurity, borders and male violence in a protest marked by the war in Ukraine

3 min
8M demonstration in Barcelona

BarcelonaThe rain as a metaphor of patriarchy threatened the day of the happy resumption of the International Women's Day mobilisations but, in the end, feminism prevailed for a few hours. Up to 15,000 people –the vast majority women of all ages– paraded through the centre of Barcelona in the movement's first demonstration since pandemic restrictions were lifted.

Some will point out that it was not the hundreds of thousands of people seen in 2018, the first year that saw mass demonstrations which surprised both friends and foes. But today feminism is the most transversal movement, capable of rallying huge amounts of people. In spite of the different sensibilities, ages and demands, Catalan women have managed to make it to International Women's Day more or less united, unlike what happened in Madrid, where two antagonistic demonstrations were called (they clashed over their position vis-à-vis the new Transgender law). "We are all different but in this difference we have space to coexist, being aware that we all add something and when we are divided we take that away", says Maria Jose Carrasco, walking along the Gran Via with a homemade banner denouncing the relentless drip of femicides.

Unlike other years, this time the care, consumption and labour strike was called by minority union CGT and, as expected, has had a much smaller following. "We have left the children at home, with our husbands," explained two friends who had been debating for days via WhatsApp whether they would support the triple strike and join the demonstration. In the end, they only backed it partially.

International Women's Day march in Barcelona
International Women's Day march in Barcelona
International Women's Day march in Barcelona

Maternity pressure

There are plenty of reasons to be in Barcelona this cloudy afternoon. Asking around, the list of reasons, demands or complaints is long: from sexual and emotional freedom to the right to decide on one's own body, to earning the same as men or being able to walk alone in the streets at any time. It is clear that previous years' wittiness remains intact, both from the banners and the chants. Huge purple balloons with 8-M printed on them stand out. As a footnote, it must be said that feminism is winning its battle at the same rate as Catalan is losing its own, as both could not coexist. Not even the least attentive observer can fail to notice that Spanish dominates the banners and chants. However, Ingrid Picanyol, 33, holds up a bilingual banner reading: "Yes, I am over 30 and no, I am not trying to have a child". She explains that she fed up with everyone asking her when she wants to become a mother, regardless of whether she might want to but can't, and above all, she is annoyed that no one asks her partner anything similar.

International Women's Day march in Barcelona

"Against precariousness, borders and violence" is the slogan chosen this year by the Assembly 8-M, the organisation that called this unitary demonstration. It did not want to ignore the dramatic situation of the war in Ukraine. "Since the suffragettes, feminism and peace have gone hand in hand. Women defend life and not death and wars," said Dolores Pulio, spokeswoman for the Assembly at the beginning of the march. The party's manifesto stresses that the pandemic has widened the wage and gender gaps, has made women, especially migrant and racialised women, more precarious, and is against the law on foreigners and "heteropatriarchal and colonial capitalism", the enemy to be defeated for the freedom of lesbian, transgender, transsexual and non-binary women.

How difficult the path to the future looks after the pandemic and the crises is well known to the youngest, who have come out in numbers and guarantee the movement's continuity. And there is still a lot of work to do. Up next is the expected reform of the abortion law, which should allow the youngest to decide without parental consent, but also the sexual freedom law, known as the "yes is yes" law.

As Carmen Madera, a 75-year-old veteran trade unionist and feminist militant, said, there are reasons for optimism: "At last now demonstrations like these are no longer a parade of grannies; now there are many young women". If this International Women's Day demonstrates one thing it is that the movement has resisted the pandemic and that there are many women who mark this day out in their calendar. Not as a holiday, but in order not to miss it.