Issues and arguments in twentieth-century Spanish feminist theory.
As I indicated, all these studies take an author-by-author chronological approach, which gives us insights into individual writers and their contributions to feminist debates. I suggest here an "issues" approach, because questions that have been at the forefront of Spanish feminist thinking are not necessarily those that shaped the development of feminist theory in other countries. In addition, the issues approach allows for a comparison of views by several authors on a particular matter and facilitates an understanding of the theoretical nature of Spanish feminist thinking, which as I remark below, is often covert rather than overt. Geraldine Scanlon's La polemica feminista en Espana, the classic study of Spanish feminism, also proceeds along a topics format, but, of course, hers is more of a factual history of the Spanish feminist movement(s), although she does discuss a number of theoretical issues that fueled feminist debates between 1864 and 1974. From Scanlon we can begin to assess one of my central points here, namely, that unlike the more linear trajectory of feminist thought in other countries, Spanish feminist thinking has traversed a circular path that follows the vicissitudes of twentieth-century Spanish history. After a consideration of how we might view the notions of "feminist" and "theory" in the Spanish context, I will outline several salient issues and arguments that define what I am calling Spanish feminist theory. The number of these issues, including education, history, femininity (maternity), biological notions of gender, marriage, the Spanish legal system, class, work, double-militancy, feminism vs. humanism, community, suffrage, hair styles, fashion, and women's writing, is too large to treat comprehensively in an article. Here I will concentrate on history, class, work, and marriage, with a promise for a fuller treatment in a longer study. (2)
For my purposes, I use the term "feminist" for writing that addresses the condition of women in order to expose and/or attempt to correct inequities. (3) While in the Anglo-American world, few who write about or work for the improvement of women's situation would contest being labeled "feminist," such has not been the case in Spain. "Feminist" has been a troubled category even for the women like Federica Montseny, Rosa Chacel, Maria Zambrano, Carmen Laforet, and Soledad Puertolas, who fit many definitions of feminism but were or are reluctant to be called such. For example, Kathleen Glenn reports that "Soledad Puertolas rejected the idea that as a female author she should shed light on the world of women" (374), (4) although Mercedes Mazquiaran de Rodriquez finds feminist statements in Puertolas's La vida oculta: "Puertolas's self-acknowledged inability to respond quickly and cogently in front of an audience is the result of social conditioning, and her own annoyance regarding that fact is an indication of her awareness of the limitations patriarchal societies have imposed on women. Uneasiness when facing the public eye has traditionally been a woman's reaction in male-dominated cultures" (237). Mazquiaran de Rodriquez also cites Puertolas on women's writing: "Why should it be acceptable she wonders, for male writers to write about anything they desire without anyone questioning the reasons for their choices, while all women are expected to write about the same things. Once again she posits a rhetorical question charged with irony: 'Is it that women perhaps and within that category, women writers, are condemned to be exactly the same?'" (238).
It is not entirely clear why the label "feminist" should have such negative connotations in Spain. Often the resistance to the feminist label is couched in terms that pit feminism against what some women consider more universal human concerns. Some writers and activists, like Federica Montseny, were "double militants" who did not believe that matters relating specifically to women should take precedence over what they considered the larger issues of class oppression. Lidia Falcon countered that argument by declaring women a social class. As I will develop below, an idea central to some Spanish feminist thought is that the sexes are absolutely equal in abjection of all sorts (including bourgeois marriage). Within the polarity between arguing for an emphasis on women and women's issues and a natural division of the sexes--what today is called "difference feminism"--and for women as human beings who should not necessarily be distinguished in any way from the rest of humankind, Maria Martinez Sierra might be seen to fall on the extreme side of "difference feminista" or viewing the sexes as radically different, while Rosa Chacel might occupy the extreme opposite. As Mary Lee Bretz points out, one of Maria Martinez Sierra's contributions to Spanish feminist theory is her wedding of the notions feminine and feminist. Martinez Sierra argues that no woman should reject the label of feminist, because being feminist does not make a woman unfeminine (i.e., domestic, maternal, emotional, caring):
toda actividad generosa que le haga traspasar por un momento los lindes encantados de su propio hogar, acercarse a la vida, ponerse en situacion de comprenderla, de darse cuenta de que hay un mas alla, o un mas abajo, hecho de injusticias tremendas y de dolores insospechados, lejos de hacer perder femininidad a su espiritu, la aumentara, ensanchandole el corazon a medida que acrezca el conocimiento. Por saber mas no es una mujer menos mujer [...] no puede dar de si mas que un perfeccionamiento de sus facultades naturales, nunca un cambio de su naturaleza. (Feminismo 13)
Maryellen Bieder notes that early in her career Carmen de Burgos was a master of holding feminist positions and carrying out feminist activities, while strategically rejecting the label: "As she frequently does in her public statements, she takes both sides of the issue, opposing feminism but recognizing its fundamental role in enacting social change" (250-51). By the 1920s, however, she unequivocally declared herself a feminist (251).
In many cases one suspects that in rejecting the feminist label women writers wish to avoid the kinds of ridicule leveled at feminists, who were caricatured from the earliest years of the century forward in the popular press and in novels such as Pio Baroja's Paradox, rey and El mundo es ansi. In these novels the feminist characters are foreign (English of Russian), and thus a latent nationalism may be operating in Baroja's and other male writers' depiction of feminism as a foreign movement that could invade Spanish soil where traditional womanhood formed part of the nation's identity. These caricatures persisted in the scorn heaped on Carmen de Burgos, whose pseudonym Colombine was transformed into Colombone, and in the ostracizing of highly militant late Franco-era feminists like Lidia Falcon. Women writers learned to shun any association that would similarly attempt to marginalize them. And yet other women writers--including Carmen de Burgos, Maria Martinez Sierra, Margarita Nelken, Montserrat Roig, Rosa Montero, and Lucia Etxebarria--openly called or call themselves feminists, and they have the credentials to warrant it. However, some male public figures like Miguel Primo de Rivera and Felipe Trigo, who readily adopted the feminist label, may be suspect. (5)
The term "theory" presents another set of problems for the Spanish case. We have not been accustomed to considering Spanish thought when theorizing about feminist issues in Spanish writing, partly because that writing often does not resemble theory, as we understand it--namely, engaging in overt abstraction. Many of the Spanish feminist materials we have are more historical, sociological, or political in nature--Carmen de Burgos's book on divorce in Spain and her La mujer moderna y sus derechos, Margarita Nelken's La condicion social de la mujer en Espana, and Lidia Falcon's Mujer y sociedad. (6) Of course, there is theory behind every historical, political, or sociological essay, but sometimes it is submerged and latent and needs to be teased out and fore-grounded. Spanish feminist thinkers often distinguish between theory and practice, with some tendency to favor the latter. Lidia Falcon mentions a woman acquaintance who became disillusioned with attending feminist meetings in the early 1970s because those present devoted the time to "una comparacion de teorias feministas" (Levine and Waldman 75). Eva Forest points to the need to base theory on experience:
Nosotras no queremos partir de textos; mas bien los problemas que surgen en cada sesion nos llevan a los textos. Por ejemplo nos preguntamos despues de una discusion: ?como se ha plantado tal tema en la historia?, ?que ha dicho de Beauvoir de este tema? O ?que se dijo en tal epoca? o ?como respondieron las mujeres de cierta clase social a estos problemas? Entonces cada una se encarga y hace un poco un resumen de lo que se ha dicho sobre ese problema. Eso nos obliga a estudiar mucho y ver el problema como vinculado con todos los demas problemas, porque no se puede aislarlo. (Levine and Waldman 104)
In addition to reconsidering Spanish historical-sociological essays with an eye to feminist theoretical issues, I also suggest that we look at non-traditional materials beyond the formal essay format, such as journal and newspaper articles, autobiographies, diaries, letters, interviews, and fiction. (Catherine Davies, for example, relies on novels for more than hall of the material in her pioneering article on Spanish feminist writing.) In "El hombre musa," Carmen Martin Gaite points out that as early as Rosalia de Castro the novel began to be a major ally of Spanish feminist thinkers. Perhaps instead of "applying" foreign feminist theory to Spanish fiction, we should sift through novels for autochthonous Spanish feminist theory. Fiction, memoirs, letters, and interviews may not appear to engage in the kinds of conceptualizations we expect of theory of quasi-philosophical discourse, because we have been conditioned by the practices of feminist thought in other countries to consider only a recognizable essay to be the proper source of feminist theory. We look to Virginia Woolf's Three Guineas and A Room of One's Own to find her feminist ideas rather than to Mrs. Dalloway, or to Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex rather than to The Mandarins. Because we are not accustomed to seeking feminist or other theories in sociological essays, novels, newspaper articles, or correspondence, Spanish feminist theory as a body of work with recognizable and recurring themes has eluded us. And some of the issues addressed and arguments marshaled in Spanish works are unfamiliar in the current climate of feminist theory.
Historical approaches are a case in point. The French and U.S. feminist theorists that are so often cited in our studies of Spanish literature--Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous, Nancy Chodorow, Carol Gilligan, and Judith Butler--take a mostly non-historical "universalistic" or abstract (overtly philosophical or psychoanalytical) approach to the study of matters relating to women and/or gender. By contrast, Spanish feminist theory is more directly tied to specifically Spanish situations, and Spanish feminist writers for the most part begin their analyses and arguments with a historical view in order to understand the present situation. In part, the emphasis on history is central to Spanish feminist thought, because political history has varied more in Spain than it has in France, England, of the United States since modern feminism began to emerge. In honor of the emphasis of the journal we are celebrating, Ideal here only with Spanish feminist thought in the twentieth century, although this means leaving out earlier feminist writers like Father Feijoo, Concepcion Arenal, and Emilia Pardo Bazan. Such a limitation can be defended as well, because Spanish feminist writing became more polific after World War I (see Scanlon).
Catherine Davies divides her study of twentieth-century Spanish feminist writing into four parts that follow the swings in Spanish political life in the last century: 1900-1930, which covers the last years of the Restoration and the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, especially that crucial post-World War I era in which Spanish women entered the workplace in larger numbers and thus gained greater consciousness of their inferior social and legal status; 1931-1939, the Republican period when women achieved the vote, equality before the law, and entered political life as diputadas and government officials; 1939-1975, the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, when all the gains made under the Republic were rescinded and earlier legal codes reinstated [even worse, some aspects of women's roles that were formerly a matter of social convention [e.g., domesticity] became institutionalized through the Seccion Femenina); 1976-1990, the period of transition and democracy, when women once again gained the right to divorce, to limited abortion, and equality before the law. As I noted, this historical situation, in which Spanish feminists had to "reinvent the wheel" in the 1970s after the 40-year hiatus in legal and social progress for women during the Franco era, makes the history of Spanish feminist thought somewhat circular.
Many feminist issues of the pre-Republican and Republican eras (1920s-1930s) resurface in the late 1960s as Francisco Franco approached death. The pre-Republican years were governed by the Civil Code of 1889, a series of legal statutes that severely restricted women's legal independence. Carmen de Burgos (La mujer moderna y sus derechos) is particularly eloquent on the "legal construction" of Spanish womanhood, which she defines as a relegation to the status of "eterna menor" (144). Unmarried women could not live alone without parental permission; unmarried women were legally prohibited from becoming pregnant, and if they did, the law forbade paternity investigations; the husband of a married woman had to authorize any work or travel she wished to undertake, and the husband had control of all the woman's money; the infamous article 438 dictated that the man who killed his adulterous wife was only sentenced to exile, and if he beat her there was no punishment. Lidia Falcon's Mujer y sociedad (1969) revisits the legal construction of womanhood 40 years after Carmen de Burgos's La mujer moderna y sus derechos appeared. Both women appeal to nationalist instincts by comparing Spanish legal structures to those in other countries; Burgos emphasizes the gains made by women in England, while Falcon has a chapter on "Tio Sam," which bears the heavy imprint of Betty Friedan. (In Feminismo, Maria Martinez Sierra also compares Spain and the United States, although in her pre-Betty Friedan world, she views women's situation in the U.S. in a more positive light.)
There were, of course, some feminist threads that were not severed during the Franco years, although on the whole, Franco-era feminists were only vaguely aware of the work feminists had done in the pre-War period, if at all. When Franco-era feminists cite pre-War feminist thinking, they seldom mention specifics. Carmen Alcalde comments, for example, that
nos quedamos un poco cortas. No supimos ver de verdad todos los valores que hubo en los anos veinticinco, treinta y treinta y cinco, y en la Guerra, la gente de un valor extraordinario como Victoria Kent y Margarita Nelken o digamos "La Pasionaria", que ya es mito, y Federica Montseny y una cantidad de gente anonima con unos esfuerzos tan grandes y tan pioneras que verdaderamente no se puede decir que no hubo feminismo, tal como se dijo en este libro [her El feminismo iberico co-authored with Maria Aurelia Capmany and published in 1970]. (Levine and Waldman 27-28)
When asked if the work of feminists like Margarita Nelken and Victoria Kent in the 1920s and 1930s was known to post-War feminists Elisa Lamas replies that there was an "ignorancia total" (Levine and Waldman 117), because the younger women were all educated under the Franco regime, which recognized nothing that happened before July 18, 1936. She remarks that a few highly educated women were aware of the feminist movement in the pre-War period, "pero son una parte pequenisima de la poblacion" (117).
As Catherine Davies points out, the concern for issues that had occupied feminist writing in the 1920s and 1930s did not completely disappear between 1939 and the late 1960s; they went underground and found publication outlets in the novel: "fiction [from 1940 to the 1970s] provided virtually the only means by which women [...] were able to express their preoccupations, to affirm their identity, to arouse public awareness, and yet avoid [...] arbitrary censorship" (208). A few more overtly feminist books began to be published in the 1960s (Lidia Falcon's Los derechos civiles de la mujer  and Los derechos laborales de la mujer ), although they did not have much resonance, and feminist issues only resurfaced as part of the public discourse in 1976. According to Linda Gould Levine and Gloria Feiman Waldman, in May of that year "varios grupos feministas organizaron una manifestacion 'el Dia de la Madre,' para pedir la legalizacion del aborto, la venta libre y gratuita de anticonceptivos, derechos iguales para hijos legitimos, ilegitimos y naturales y la abolicion de la funesta patria potestad paterna. Se recogieron firmas para un escrito solicitando del Ministerio de Justicia la abolicion de la figura delictiva del adulterio" (17). Some issues, such as contraception and abortion are new to post-1976 feminist writing, but illegitimate children, adultery, and patria potestad all echo issues that were fielded by feminists in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1970s Carmen Conde even repeated Carmen de Burgos's 1904 "encuesta sobre el divorcio."
If historical circumstances inform the legal structures so prominent in Spanish feminist thought, they also strongly influence the style of argumentation we find in both pre-Francoist and post-Francoist feminist thinking. Some of the most frequently mentioned early twentieth-century feminist essays--Carmen de Burgos's La mujer moderna y sus derechos and Margarita Nelken's La condicion social de la mujer--as well as the more recent (late Franco-era) Lidia Falcon all emphasize the historical situation of Spanish women, especially aspects of Spanish women's condition that derive from Roman patriarchal law, Moorish customs, and Islamic law. All contributed in different ways to the Church's strong domination in matters relating to women's lives that make argumentation for Spanish theorists more of a minefield that it might have been for feminists in other countries. (7) While both Burgos and Falcon argue from history, Falcon foregrounds the history of women's oppression beginning in the Bible in order to understand women's situation in Franco's Spain. (8) Burgos, on the other hand, incorporates history into her individual chapters that center on the nature of gender and the several rights women should enjoy in the present (1920s)--education, work, financial independence, divorce, equality in the religious and military realms, suffrage, and freedom of dress. Thus Burgos is more prescriptive, while Falcon more descriptive.
Even Rosa Chacel's "Esquema de los problemas practicos y actuales del amor" and Saturnalia, which are closer to the abstract philosophical style of feminist theorizing we associate with most French and Anglo-American feminist thought, has a historical angle. She argues from an Orteguian notion that one lives enmeshed in one's historical circumstances. Thus, according to Chacel, from a historical point of view women have not necessarily suffered injustice in any particular era; their situation is synchronous with the times in which they happen to live. She does find certain thinkers (like Georg Simmel) out of synch with the times (the 1920s and 1930s) in continuing to assert that culture is male. (9) The historical in both the content and arguments of Spanish feminist thought might be a useful point of departure for considering some Spanish novels by women-Rosa Chacel's Memorias de Leticia Valle (1945) set during the pre-feminist era of the Moroccan Wars; Ana Maria Matute's Primera memoria (1960) set during the Spanish Civil War, but echoing events from the Inquisition that resurface in Carme Riera's historical novel El ultimo azul (1994); Carmen Martin Gaite's El cuarto de atras (1978), a memoir-novel of the Civil War and early Franco era; and Lourdes Ortiz's Urraca (1982).
Two intertwined issues--work and social class--have not typically been prominent subjects in the feminist theory to which literary scholars refer in their studies of Spanish literature, and yet it is a subject that permeates the pages of Spanish feminist writing in the 1920s and 1930s and again in the 1970s. The topic of work has a central place in Margarita Nelken's La condicion social de la mujer and Carmen de Burgos's La mujer moderna y sus derechos. In the World War I period from 1914-1918, more Spanish women began to work outside the home due primarily to the expanding Spanish economy and rising prices for basic goods. Despite their growing numbers in the workforce, women's wages and the types of work available to women were vastly inferior to men's. Margarita Nelken attributes this situation to women's education, and she links work to the basic dignity of the human being: "La preparacion en una carrera, o en un empleo da porvenir que responda al imperioso mandato que se presenta a todo individuo digno de bastarse a si mismo y de ser lo mas util posible a los demas. Poco a poco, casi inconscientemente, estas muchachas van formando una conciencia nueva, una moral nueva, en la mujer espanola" (55). Work, she contends, leads to economic independence for women, making unhappy abusive marriages less likely. She also argues that intellectually disciplined women will be more moral. Ultimately, the argument for the importance of work to the individual becomes ah argument for the health of the nation: "Por esto pueden decirse, sin paradoja que las mujeres de la clase media espanola son, en la actualidad, el mayor peso muerto de la nacion y, al mismo tiempo, lo que hay en ella mas energico y mas valiente" (56, emphasis in original). Thus work becomes the center of individual being (its very existential core) as well as the backbone of a strong nation.
Maria Martinez Sierra, likewise defends women's right to work, albeit employing arguments that appeal to traditional--Christian and maternal--Spanish values:
procurando trabajo honrado y retribuido en su justo valor a mujeres necesitadas, en vez de darles un socorro como limosna; administrando su labor honradamente; librandolas de la tirania de un intermediario explotador, hacen ustedes obra de puro feminismo, puesto que, mujeres, trabajan ustedes en favor de sus hermanas desvalidas [...]. (Feminismo 12)
Like Nelken, Martinez Sierra employs nationalistic rationales in her feminist argumentation, although she incorporates motherhood into the equation. She advocates women's education and suffrage, because educated women who vote will raise better (male) citizens:
Y ... figurense ustedes que tienen un hijo, el primero, hijo de amor y de ilusion, y que suenan ustedes para el toda la gloria del mundo y toda la felicidad, por anadidura. Le quieren ustedes heroe, santo, sabio... ?No les gustaria a ustedes que ese hijo, esperanza viva, pudiera educarse en una escuela que le ensenase a ser hombre de veras, en una Universidad que formase su espiritu para nobles batallas, para gloriosos triunfos? Pues bien: esa escuela y esa Universidad pueden y deben crearlas las leyes. Si las madres espanolas votasen las leyes, ?creen ustedes que estaria la ensenanza oficial en Espana en el lamentable estado en que hoy se encuentra? [...] Piensen ustedes que si la patria es como una madre para los hombres, para las mujeres es como un hijo... (Feminismo 20, 28)
Martinez Sierra's argument is intricate. Through a concatenation of circumstances, women are the mother's of the nation. As educated citizens who acquire suffrage, they will vote for better schools and universities that will in turn better educate their sons to become the future leaders of the nation.
Geraldine Scanlon found the style of Martinez Sierra's arguments paternalistic ("escribe como un maestro de escuela severo pero amable" 197), but, of course, when Scanlon wrote her book in 1974, she still believed that Gregorio had written Martinez Sierra's feminist lectures and essays. Even when one knows the female gender of the author, the arguments can appear patronizing, but they also respond to the mentality of the day and attempt to convince traditional Spanish women (most likely from the middle class) to consider progressive measures by speaking to them in language that is comforting and familiar. Scanlon comments that "[e]l tono insipido de la propaganda feminista de Gregorio Martinez Sierra nos da una idea bastante exacta del espiritu de la mujer de clase media" (197). Alda Blanco argues persuasively for a much more firmly feminist view of the essays Maria Martinez Sierra wrote under her husband's name: "But if in part the essays of 'Gregorio Martinez Sierra' register the rich complexity of the protest against the subordination of woman, they also reveal the theoretical turns of a corpus of ideas that always seem to be refining and making more precise what it means to be a woman in patriarchy" (81). (10)
Margarita Nelken used some the same feminist reasoning that calls on motherhood and nationalism we find in Martinez Sierra, although the tone of her writing is much less conciliatory. As Mary Lee Bretz notes, "The social condition of women in Spain calls for radical change and expresses a strong critique of the existing social structures" (103). Thus, as Bretz points out, at the same time that Nelken rhetorically employs terms like "maternity, motherhood, future citizens" (111, emphasis in original), she "criticizes those who combat feminism in the name of 'motherhood' and who blindly accept certain 'feminine' occupations with no concern for the environmental hazards to the mother, the fetus, and the infant" (111-12). One of Margarita Nelken's most important contributions to Spanish feminist theory is her coordination of the categories of gender and class. Nelken found it impossible to consider women's issues apart from social class; she believed that feminism in Spain was inextricably inter-twined with class affiliations. According to Bretz, "[t]he conflict between gender and class and the complex interactions between these two categories, which sometimes overlap and sometimes compete with each other, constitute a major focus of The social condition of women in Spain, informed by feminist and socialist concerns, and addressed to women readers and to workers, the text struggles to create bonds between these two groups without conflating them" (106). Nelken believed that working class women, who were already equal to men in that they work, are naturally feminists. They have a "mentalidad mas sana y espontanea, ignorante de los prejuicios y de los convencionalismos, se encuentra, implicitamente, al mismo nivel social que su hermano o su marido" (36), thus their battle is limited to fighting for equal salaries and obtaining protective legislation and workers' unions that will put them on equal footing with male workers. She believed that middle class women hada steeper hill to climb because they were combating prejudices, an "ambiente mezquino," that created a real obstacle course in the march toward liberation: "Su libertad de trabajo va siempre precedida de una emancipacion moral, penosisima las mas de las veces; de ahi la necesidad de la lucha, la solidaridad intuitiva con las que, en otros paises, supieron ya unirse a estas, de imitarlas" (36).
If the issues of work and class (especially as they relate to women and feminism) seemed to disappear from public discourse in the early Franco era, we can find them in fiction. Carmen Laforet's Nada (written in 1944 and published in 1945) is an example of a novel that can be fruitfully read in light of pre-War feminist theory, especially those essays (reviewed briefly above) that theorize work as an important source of personal identity and freedom for women. Nada has received numerous interpretations that could have implications for understanding the novel either as a feminist or a patriarchalist work. Some critics consider the narrative technique and/or the ending as signaling Andrea's liberation from the patriarchal constraints symbolized in her nightmarish life on Aribau Street under the tutelage of anachronistic Aunt Angustias, wife-beating Uncle Juan, and sadistic Donjuanish Uncle Roman. (11) Elizabeth Ordonez, on the other hand, argues that Andrea is ensnared by the new Francoist order via her "salvation" at the hands of Ena's father, a successful capitalist under Franco's regime. And more recently Barry Jordan comes to a similar conclusion, particularly citing Andrea's apparent passivity.
However, if we situate the novel within the Spanish feminist theories on work and class that preceded it by a few years, as well as within some of Laforet's own statements on work, a feminist message emerges that coincides with ideas on work and female liberation put forth by Margarita Nelken and Carmen de Burgos. Laforet, herself, like her pre-War predecessors Burgos, Nelken, Martinez Sierra, Chacel, and Maria Zambrano, began working at a young age. When she was a university student in Madrid, she wrote her first novel Nada, which became a source of income for the rest of her life. She married Manuel Cerezales in the same year the novel was published, but, contrary to custom in Franco's Spain, she continued to work throughout her marriage, and after she separated from her husband in 1970 she hoped to return to her career as a novelist that had been diverted into journalism due to the economic necessities of her growing family. In 1966 Carmen Laforet wrote to Ramon Sender that
Dentro de unos dias envio a cuatro hijos a Alicante con la muchacha. Me quedo en Madrid trabajando. Los americanos llegan el dia 6 y hay que recibirles y pasearles un poco por aqui, y trabajar y llevarles luego a Alicante, y continuarles el viaje por Espana que quieren hacer. Y entregar y cobrar lo que yo haga porque con ello contamos, y si no vamos a tener que pedir limosna o cosa asi... Antes de terminar las cronicas de America no puedo pensar en hacer nada de mi, y habia la posibilidad de ir a Polonia tambien este verano y tambien con cronicas--en compania de una amiga que salio de alli el ano 39--la amiga a quien dedique Nada. (66)
And again in the same year, she wrote to the same correspondent that "Como no escribo articulos ni nada que valga la pena, ocupada en ayudar a mi marido a solucionar nuestros problemas economicos de cada dia, no he escrito lo que quiero" (70).
In light of Spanish feminist notions of the importance of work to female identity, it is significant that all the major female figures in Noda (except the grandmother of a distinctly different generation) work of have the formal education necessary to do so. Angustias is ah administrative assistant; Gloria plays cards for money in her sister's bar; Antonia is a maid; and Ena's mother prepared for a career in music, although she did not pursue it. As Margarita Nelken theorized, class plays a large role in these women's working lives. Even though Angustias works and is the main provider for the family at Aribau Street, she does not see work as a long-term solution for a woman of her class; when marriage eludes her, she finally abandons her job and chooses the convent, the traditional route for unmarried upper-middle-class women. Much is made in the novel of Andrea's taking control of her own finances (her small orphan's pension) after Angustias's departure, reminding us of the arguments so many pre-War feminists made for the importance of women's financial autonomy to their sense of individual identity. Lower-middle-class Gloria, on the other hand, eschewing the laws of Franco's Spain, works without her husband's knowledge and is effectively the family's breadwinner. Antonia, the maid, despite the many negative connotations implied in Andrea's youthful descriptions of her, is one of the most autonomous characters in the novel. Because of her class, she was able to save Roman from a Republican prison during the war, and her working status allows her to live a completely independent life at Aribau Street (she eats better food than the family members). She leaves the Aribau house at the end of the novel, while the upper-middle-class grandmother, who never worked, and her helpless son Juan, who cannot hold down a job, are stuck there. (12)
Lower-middle-class Gloria and working-class Antonia, rather than upper-middle-class Angustias, serve as Andrea's eventual role models. Like Antonia, Andrea leaves the sordid house on Aribau Street, and like Gloria she sees work not only as a viable alternative, but a necessity (unlike Gloria, however, as a single woman, Andrea can work openly rather than clandestinely). Although she briefly entertains a Cinderella ending with the well-to-do Pons, a denouement in which she would have ended up like Pons's mother, an upper-middle-class socialite wife who does not work, Andrea discards that option to follow in the footsteps of lower-middle-class Gloria who works for a living. Throughout the novel, Andrea is attending the university in preparation for a career; she tells a university companion that she will probably teach when she completes her university degree. At the end of the novel she leaves Barcelona to go to Madrid, where she will work for Ena's father and continue her university studies, which will lead to economic and personal independence from her family (in other words from the Spanish patriarchal system). Ena writes to Andrea "Hay trabajo para ti en el despacho de mi padre, Andrea. Te permitira vivir independiente y ademas asistir a las clases de la universidad. Por el momento viviras en casa, pero luego podras escoger a tu gusto tu domicilio [...]" (Laforet 294-95).
Not all Spanish feminist theorists, especially in the late Franco era, view work as the means to women's salvation. Carmen Alcalde, for example, has less faith than pre-War feminists in the feminist preparation of the working-class woman:
La mayoria que podria tomar un poco mas de conciencia, es la mayoria trabajadora. Esta mayoria trabajadora esta totalmente alienada por el trabajo y como dice Capmany << por la doble carga de mitad bestia, mitad ser humano >>. Pues esta mujer, no es que no tenga conciencia de su opresion como mujer, es que no tiene conciencia de nada, ni siquiera de que en un momento dado, tiene derecho a comer. No tiene conciencia porque son veinticuatro horas al dia trabajando. En casa y en la fabrica. No obstante, ella seria la unica esperanza. La mujer burguesa esta muy tranquila y muy bien en casa; toda la teoria de Betty Friedan esta aqui. (Levine and Waldman 32)
Although Lidia Falcon dedicates sections of Mujer y sociedad to women's work, especially to the legal restraints on it during the Franco era, she does not believe, as did some pre-War feminist thinkers, that work and economic independence will achieve true female liberation. Work is not central to Falcon's existential conception of women's independent state. She postulates that if women achieve a sense of themselves as women, economic liberation will follow. She does not believe that women have been economically oppressed, because they have never held wealth (if they do, it is because their fathers or husbands allow it): "Ella es un personaje, un ser oprimido, lo mismo economicamente que sexualmente, que personalmente; como persona esta oprimida, desde el primer momento. [...] Porque no ha tenido nunca poder economico, no ha tenido tampoco el poder politico. La mujer se liberara como ser humano, mas tiene que liberarse en una sociedad en que no haya distinciones de clases" (72). Eva Forest also argues that work in and of itself is not necessarily liberating: "El trabajo por si solo no libera a nadie. Aunque estuvieran en igualdad de condiciones con el hombre, tampoco liberaria este trabajo" (102). For Forest, in order for work to be liberating, it must be appropriate and satisfying. Carmen Laforet, who complained about diverting her writing skills to moneymaking journal articles, would probably have agreed.
Related to the issues of work and social class is double militancy--militancy for a political ideology as well as for feminist causes. Mireia Bofill highlights the importance in Spain of the intertwining of political ideology and feminist thinking, contrasting the Spanish situation to that in the United States:
Claro, en America, hay antologias de textos u otros de redaccion, pero, vamos, no los hay desde nuestro punto de vista que a lo mejor es mas politico. A nivel de divulgacion general, seguramente es mas politico y entonces hay que ver la relacion de la lucha politica con la situacion de la mujer, si una esta subordinada a la otra, si son dos luchas independientes, si las mujeres deben luchar solo por las mujeres y prescindir de la lucha politica, o luchar solo politicamente y dejar lo de las mujeres o intentar coordinar las dos cosas. (Levine and Waldman 49)
In the pre-War era, most Spanish feminists were identified with one of another of the leftist parties and militated to varying degrees within them--Margarita Nelken, first with the Socialist Party and later with the Communist Party; Maria Martinez Sierra with the Socialist Party (at least in the 1920s and 1930s); Federica Montseny with the Anarchist Party. Thus, Spanish feminist theorists often feel the need to prioritize their several interests. In Montseny's case, for example, what she considered universal human concerns took precedence over issues she considered more narrowly pertaining to women. Maria Martinez Sierra, while not directly addressing the division between more universal political militancy and feminist militancy, concentrated the majority of her essay writing on feminism.
Double-militancy was a highly divisive issue in the 1970s after the long oppression of both women and leftist political parties allied with the working class. In an attempt to overcome the theoretical dichotomy between gender issues and class issues, Lidia Falcon argued in Mujer y sociedad that women were a separate social class. In an interview she granted some five years later, she stated that in the conflict between the class struggle and women's liberation:
[n]osotros consideramos que la mujer es una clase oprimida, por lo tanto, entra dentro de la problematica de la lucha de clases evidentemente y hasta que la problematica esta no se haya resuelto, tampoco se resolvera la de la mujer. Para mi, no tiene importancia una cosa que otra, tiene la misma. La lucha debe llevarse al mismo nivel y ademas no es imposible. (Levine and Waldman 71)
Carmen Alcalde saw women's struggle to be the overriding one, and, like Falcon, she views women as a social class whose interests should take precedence over all others: "para mi es mas importante la lucha de la mujer. Para mi, es la primera lucha de clases que existe. [...] es mas importante, la lucha de sexos, la lucha sexista. Mientras esto no se solucione la mujer seguira colaborando con los partidos, con sus presidentes y directivos" (33). As I noted above, she argues that neither political parties nor working class women have time for feminist militancy. But she, like Margarita Nelken, sees an intimate connection between women's and class issues. She notes, for example, that contraceptives are necessarily a class issue, because middle-class women have access to them and working-class women do not.
In 1931 Rosa Chacel noted the tendency in contemporary gender theory (especially Georg Simmel's) to radically divide the sexes and thus "feminize" women. In the 1970s Chato Ema similarly complains that the Communist Party "feminized" women by talking to them mostly about the high cost of living: "les hablaban en unos terminos demasiado femeninos" (Levine and Waldman 51). Ema, who represented the Asociacion de Mujeres Universitarias, also highlights class conflicts and Spanish feminism. She notes that the working women of the Communist Party considered the university women "pequenas burguesas," while the university women found working-class women too wed to party ideology. She points out that within the Communist Party machismo still reigned, and that sexual liberation and the equality of the sexes were anathema:
no puedes decir muchas cosas porque el Partido esta diciendo las contrarias; no puedes ir alli hablando de la libertad sexual cuando el Partido no esta hablando de eso ni le interesa que hables de eso, porque ahora lo que hay que discutir es la recogida de basuras, y la recogida de basuras para mi es un problema del hombre y de la mujer y de todos, ?no? No es unicamente el problema de la mujer, porque si sigue siendo el problema de la mujer, seguimos en las mismas. (Levine and Waldman 60)
The tendency on the part of some Spanish feminist theorists to see humanity in less bipolar (male/female) terms and more in terms of social class also permeates their view of relations between the sexes, especially in their institutionalized form--marriage. Margarita Nelken viewed middle-class marriage as a kind of prostitution, in which the woman sells herself to the man, who then becomes equally entrapped in a burdensome situation; the woman does not expect to work and usually does not, while the man is enslaved to the consumerist needs of his wife and children ("para el hombre de la clase media, el matrimonio significa verdaderamente una carga, y una carga que muchos no se atreven a sobrellevar" ). Middle-class women are educated to enter into this vile arrangement: "el matrimonio burgues se envilece desde un principio por culpa de la mujer que se vende legitimamente con no menos astucia, y a veces hasta no mayor hipocresia que una ramera" (51).
Carmen Rodriguez raises the same issues 50 years later. She asserts that the truly exploited sector of Spanish society in the Franco era is the man; married women live as parasites on the man's work. She is thinking of middle-class women, who have ample domestic service in the home and thus have few responsibilities besides going to the hairdresser three times a week, overseeing the maids, and meeting friends for tertulias and card games: "Pues estas esposas de estos senores, que quiza han hecho hasta una carrera universitaria o que podrian hacer cualquier tipo de trabajo comercial o en una agencia, no se, no se plantea en ningun momento que estan viviendo los dos esclavizados, aunque de diferente modo. Por otra parte, ?como convencerle al hombre de que es un esclavo?" (Levine and Waldman 143). The man is not conscious of his enslaved situation; he has a false sense of power and domination because he exercises economic control. Work, for Rodriguez, is, as it was for Martinez Sierra, Burgos, and Nelken, a matter of individual dignity--an existential issue--but also a matter of equality for both sexes: "se trata de una esclavitud mutua. El hombre es un esclavo de su trabajo, la mujer es una esclava de su dependencia y de su mente. Ella esclaviza a su marido, pero a la vez, la sociedad o el marido la esclavizan a ella como individuo" (145).
Margarita Nelken addressed the mental slavery middle-class marriage represents for both men and women in her novel La trampa del arenal (1923). (13) This idea continues to assert itself in very recent Spanish fiction by women. For example, Lucia Etxebarria's Beatriz y los cuerpos celestes (1998 Premio Nadal) depicts the protagonist Beatriz's mother and father as the classic Franco era couple. The mother, when a beautiful young girl, entrapped an eligible bachelor by hiding the fact that she was an epileptic until after his physical desire for her was so strong that he could not back out of the engagement. Their marriage is a torment for both; the mother, without intellectual or other interests, devotes all her energy to her daughter, who finally rebels and leaves home. The father, alienated by his wife's insecurities, spends as little time as possible at home and keeps mistresses. Josefina Aldecoa's El enigma (2002) is a remake of Nelken's La trampa del arenal in which a man is trapped in a marriage to a superficial woman who thinks only of material possessions and keeping up appearances. In both novels the married man forms a liaison with a new type of woman who works and lives an independent life. The married man and the new woman have an open, sincere relationship he seems to desire, but finally the new woman, seeing no future in a relationship with a married man, chooses to follow a career path outside Spain, leaving the man mired in a loveless marriage that requires him to work long hours to keep up the style of life his wife wishes to live. Interestingly, in Aldecoa's version of this triangle, the progressive, modern woman Teresa is writing a book on famous collaborative couples, which is another issue (companionship and equality within marriage) that arises in pre-Franco era feminist thought. Maria Martinez Sierra and Federica Montseny, for example, foreground companionable relationships between the sexes in novels and essays. The subject resurfaces in 1970s Spanish feminist thought. For example, Chato Ema says that she and other leftist feminists want to "hacer un feminismo aceptable para los hombres de izquierdas. [...] Queremos tratar de ser feministas pero no quedamos solas" (Levine and Waldman 63).
The present article, which focuses on several issues that have remained constant in Spanish feminist thought from the 1920s through the 1970s (and even the 1990s), is only a beginning. I have selected certain issues and arguments--history, work, social class, and marriage--that have tended to recur, while leaving out others (such as the 1920s debates on the biological basis of gender) that are more specific to one era than another. There are many more recent issues and arguments (for example, the double loyalties of feminists from autonomous regions addressed by Montserrat Roig, among others). This essay is an invitation to continue the search for Spanish feminist theory wherever it may be found.
(1.) Linda Chown made a plea for such a practice in 1983, but few have followed her advice.
(2.) Many of these issues have been treated in one or another of the essays on individual writers mentioned above, and others, such as education, biological notions of gender, and suffrage are addressed in Johnson (Gender and Nation), although not from the perspective of comparative feminist theory. I have chosen to focus on history, class, work, and marriage because these issues, so prominent in Spanish feminist theory, define it as a body of work distinct from the feminist theory generally cited by critics of Spanish literature. Unfortunately, I cannot include ah issue such as Spanish theories of women's writing, which would bring Spanish feminist theory into dialogue with major feminist theorists in the French and Anglo-American realm who have addressed the topic (e.g., Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar). That topic would require an article unto itself. As a sample I can point to ideas of Carmen Laforet and Carmen Martin-Gaite on the subject. In 1967, somewhat before the wave of French thinkers who proposed an ecriture feminine, Carmen Laforet theorized women's writing in a private letter to Ramon Sender, which has only recently been made public. One wonders if Laforet did not discuss such matters with friends and if these kinds of ideas were not circulating orally in Spain: "Quisiera escribir una novela (pero no antes de dos anos o cosa asi) sobre un mundo que no se conoce mas que por fuera porque no ha encontrado su lenguaje ... El mundo del Gineceo. (Que no es de la celebre frase en El Banquete ?verdad? << Tenemos las mujeres del gineceo para la casa y los hijos ...>>) En verdad, es el mundo que domina secretamente la vida. Secretamente. Instintivamente la mujer se adapta y organiza unas leyes inflexibles, hipocritas en muchas situaciones para un dominio terrible ... Las pobres escritoras no hemos contado nunca la verdad, aunque queramos. La literatura la invento el varon y seguimos empleando el mismo enfoque para las cosas. Yo quisiera intentar una traicion para dar algo de ese secreto, para que poco a poco vaya dejando de existir esa fuerza de dominio, y hombres y mujeres nos entendamos mejor, sin sometimientos, ni aparentes ni reales, de unos a otros ... tiene que llover mucho para eso. Pero, ?verdad que esta usted de acuerdo, en que lo verdaderamente femenino en la situacion humana las mujeres no lo hemos dicho, y cuando lo hemos intentado ha sido con lenguaje prestado, que resultaba falso por muy sinceras que quisieramos ser?" (Puedo contar contigo 97). In a series of lectures in the mid-1980s, Carmen Martin Gaite, who had come into contact with Anglo-American feminist theory while teaching at Barnard College in 1980, gives a brilliant feminist reading of Rosalia de Castro's novel El hombre de las botas azules, in which she finds that Castro inverts the typical romantic trope of the female muse and invents a male muse for a woman ("El hombre musa"). She had used the same strategy herself in her novel El cuarto de atras published in 1978. Emilie Bergmann aptly calls Martin Gaite's writings on literature "Narrative Theory in the Mother Tongue." Another example of Spanish women's theorizing about women's writing is the statement by Soledad Puertolas quoted below.
(3.) Carmen Alcalde raises the issue of what feminism means within the Spanish context, and one could develop an entire essay on this question alone. Alcalde, for example, shifted her view as to whether or not there had been a "feminist movement" in Spain before the Civil War, centering her argument on the theoretical issue of whether feminism entails individual or group efforts: "Lo que pasa precisamente es que la Guerra frustro completamente al feminismo, lo corto. Entonces vino la reaccion y la mujer volvio al hogar. Quizas ahora lo ampliaria mas y quizas lo trasladaria mucho mas a la politica, al problema del no feminismo en Epsana. [...] Yo no se en esos momentos que se entiende por feminismo, porque me parece que esta muy conthso todo esto. Si lo entiendes como un movimiento militante, no se hasta que punto lo somos. Ahora, si el feminismo se entiende simplemente a nivel individual, la realizacion verdadera de la mujer como ser, entonces yo creo que no se puede decir que no hubo feminismo en Epsana. Creo que hubo feminismo. Lo que pasa es que Espana lleva un lastre de un siglo y mas, de mucha castracion y mucha reaccion. Entonces no hay posibilidad de feminismo en un clima de reacciones imposibles" (Levine and Waldman 27-28). Chato Ema seems to limit the term "feminista" to political action: "estoy muy cansada de hablar en reuniones porque salimos todas de alli muy contentas pero al dia siguiente la cosa no es la misma. [...] Puedes hablar, te interesan mas las mujeres, entiendes mas su problema, es una terapia que esta muy bien, pero no es una accion politica" (Levine and Waldman 61).
(4.) Glenn also quotes Cristina Fernandez Cubas as having emphatically declared "[n]inguna de nuestros libros se puede considerar feminista. [ ... ] Y es que literatura y feminismo no tienen nada que ver" (374).
(5.) Wadda Rios-Font carefully examines Trigo's works to discover that his self-proclaimed feminist stance is not born out by his narrative strategies.
(6.) In distinguishing Spanish feminist thought from that in other countries, I do not overlook the fact that Spanish feminist writing has received important inspiration from foreign sources. John Stuart Mill's concept of the servitude of women looms large behind the work of Carmen de Burgos, Maria Martinez Sierra, and Margarita Nelken, although each adds significant dimensions to Mill's ideas that fit the Spanish context. Betty Friedan's notion of the feminine mystique had a major impact on Lidia Falcon's writing in the late 1960s, and Carmen Martin Gaite discovered U.S. feminist ideas about women's writing (Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Judith Fetterly, and especially Adrienne Rich) (hat inspired her to think about Spanish literature in new ways (see Desde la ventana).
(7.) For example, Mary Lee Bretz cogently analyzes Margarita Nelken's argument Doro history: "early in the text [La condicion social de la mujer en Espanol, the blame for the lack of women's advancement in Spain is attributed equally to the Moorish influence and a narrow-minded anti-Christian Church (13), but in a subtle textual about-face, in a later discussion, the text speaker points out that under the purported antifeminine Moorish regime, there were several famous women doctors at the University of Cordoba (44). The reader is left to surmise that the major contributor to the Spanish woman's developmental lag is the Church" (103). Michael Ugarte notes that Carmen de Burgos "takes great care to distance herself from the popular anticlerical discourse that was crucial to the understanding of the history of the Spanish left. On the contrary, in Modern woman, she uses examples from the lives of Jesus, the saints, and certain teachings of theologians as allies in her arguments for the social and legal rights for women" (63).
(8.) Her historical approach is very similar to Simone (le Beauvoir's in The Second Sex, which she quotes in chapters 3, 4, and 5.
(9.) See Shirley Mangini (129-32) for an analysis of the seeming inconsistencies and contradictions in Chacel's arguments in "Esquema de los problemas practicos y actuales del amor," as she attempts to overcome the male-female polarity: "One of the concepts Chacel argues most insistently is found in 'Outline' is the adherence to the belief that woman's intellectual development has been hampered by the quagmire of social institutions; nevertheless, she systematically refuses, in all her writing about women's inferior role in culture and society at large, to point the accusatory finger at the instigators and defenders of those institutions" (132). Mangini also suggests the importance of Chacel's essays as "theoretical frameworks for understanding the ambiguous, shifting realities of her fictional characters" (132).
(10.) Blanco's article provides a detailed analysis of many of the literary strategies (for example, the epistolary form) Martinez Sierra employed to convince her audience. Blanco also outlines the salient theoretical issues in Martinez Sierra's feminist writing, including "the theoretical possibility of wedding femininity to feminism" (89), the importance of developing consciousness (90), the importance of feelings and passions (91), "a new configuration of the couple, founded on companionship" (92), "[t]he feminine aspiration for peace" (93), the necessity for "every woman's desire for individual freedom [to] be intertwined with the desire for solidarity" (93), "social emotions" (94), and divorce (97).
(11.) See especially El Saffar, Johnson (Carmen Laforet), Jones, Lamar Morris, Schyfter, Spires, Thomas, and Villegas.
(12.) Class in Nada is highly nuanced and is closely allied to gender in a way that Margarita Nelken's theory of the interdependence of gender and class can illuminate. The characters represent a wide range of class identifications. Interestingly, the lowest class represented--the beggar who does not work--is male. Antonia is firmly working class, while Gloria is associated with lower-middle-class shopkeepers (her sister and husband own a bar). Don Jeronimo, now Angustias's boss and a member of the Catalan upper middle class, also came from a family of lower-middle-class shopkeepers (although perhaps somewhat more respectable than Gloria's relatives, whose establishment is in the shady barrio chino). Angustias's upper-middle-class family opposed her marriage to a man of the shopkeeping class, and thus she was destined to be an old maid. As Nelken noted, there is much work to be done before middle-class women overcome traditional biases. Angustias and Roman continue the tradition of despising the lower middle class in their scorn for Gloria.
(13.) For analyses of this novel see Davies (198-99) and Johnson (Gender and Nation 248-50).
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University of Kansas
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|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
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