Every year on the 8th of March, millions of women around the world take to the streets to celebrate International Women’s Day, and protest for equal gender rights. This year, I was lucky enough to spend this day in Madrid, Spain’s energetic and tireless capital. Throughout the day, a number of marches, protests, discussion groups, and exhibitions, were held in the city, culminating in the main event: a march organised by 8M in the evening, which attracted some 350,000 people.
8M is an intergenerational and intersectional movement comprising of a number of feminist groups that provide an open space for feminists to generate change and transform society. 8M fights to combat issues of gender violence, racism, exclusion, discrimination against trans people, injustice in the workplace, and female genital mutilation, to count a few. On the 8th of March, 8M organised a general strike – una huelga feminista – that extended beyond the workplace into all aspects of life, including schools, associations, and even shopping. 8M recognises that people’s reasons for participating in the strike are diverse and depend on innumerable factors such as sexual orientation, race, health or education. They therefore call on all self-identifying women to participate in any way they can towards any cause they believe in.
The atmosphere at the march was enchanting. Floods of purple washed through the streets of Madrid, a colour that celebrates efforts to achieve gender equality. Children and older women alike hit the streets with dyed purple hair, wigs, bright purple makeup and costumes to commemorate the Women’s Liberation Movement. Chants were sung and there was never a quiet moment.
The strength of mobilization shows just how fervent the feminist movement is in Madrid. Spain in recent years has made little progress in the move towards gender equality. The extreme right is gaining popularity as the new political party Vox has been advancing in the cabinet and fighting against ‘radical feminism’, proposing to abolish the country’s gender violence law. The Popular Party (PP) also refused to attend any Women’s Day events as they believed the day had been adopted by the extreme left. These regressive advancements, while are disheartening and frustrating, have mobilised strong and determined feminists to combat gender inequality even more emotionally and enthusiastically.
Language barriers and cultural differences have the real potential to be alienating, and I’m sure so many of us who have attempted, or are attempting, to make a life abroad have felt this same sense of discordance at times. And although at the march I often struggled to keep up with chants and understand some of the word play on banners, the sense of unanimity last Friday was undeniable. We were all there for one common cause, to fight for the rights of all women everywhere.