Saturday, March 04, 2006

In support of mujeres

Spain is known as a country that has problems with machismo, a word for which the best English equivalent my dictionary can offer is "male chauvinism." We have talked about it in my classes, as part of both Spain's historical and current culture. I can't say that I have personally seen much of it (but then my señora is divorced, so it's not like I see a lot of couples interacting) but certainly traditional gender roles are fairly common here. During Franco's dictatorship, there was a whole section of the government devoted to women, which among other things encouraged them to be "angeles del hogar" (angels of the home). To be fair, my señora told me that the Sección Femenina did some good things too, like educating women about how to cook inexpensive, simple, nutritious meals for their families, and increasing the literacy rate among rural women. Nonetheless, until three decades ago it strongly encouraged a supporting role for women, the effects of which continue into today's society.

In the most extreme cases of machismo, women are killed by their husbands at a rather alarming rate compared to Spain's overall violent crimes. For the most part, however, the historical machismo manifests itself in the lifestyles of Spanish women and families. A lot of women do not work outside the home or only work part-time, and surveys have shown that women, even those who work, spend on average far more time working in the home than their male counterparts. However, the cost of living here is extremely high, at least in Madrid, and so the number of women who work full-time is increasing with the need for two incomes. This has resulted in a sharp decrease in the birthrate, as well as increasing stress-related health problems for women in general, as many of them take on a career while keeping household responsibilities.

Despite the progress that has been made, I read in the paper yesterday that Spanish men earn 40% more than Spanish women. Forty percent more!! That is a lot. Of course there are lots of factors that go into that, and there are some areas where there is much less disparity. What it comes down to, however, is that even with the same level of education and training, women earn less than men in every field they measured. I took it as a good sign that this study made the front page of El País - it is at least recognized as an issue that concerns the Spanish population - but obviously Spain, like many other countries, has a long way to go toward true equality between men and women.

In light of that, I thought I'd write this post as a tiny tribute to the mujeres (women) of Spain. Here's hoping progress toward equality is as swift as has been Spain's astounding advancement in the economic and political arenas.
**edited because I realized that "mujer" doesn't sound the same as "woman." Thanks Daniel!


At 4:29 PM, Anonymous Mom said...

You go girl!

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Grandma said...

Kendra, you really write very well. We can hardly wait for the next blog to appear, and we are learning so much about Spain from your articles.
P.S. I am not giving my opinion because I am your Grandma!!!!!!!


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