Mass protests against inequality are constantly erupting everywhere on the planet, the latest one being perhaps the international Women’s March that followed the election of President Trump. Many of these uprisings go quiet again, as most don’t have a leader and don’t want one. Others dissolve their efforts in the many different topics that affect them. There has been the 99 Movement in the United States, the March of the Million in Tel Aviv, Nuits Debouts (Standing Nights) in France among others.
Spain, it is the birthplace of the Indignados or Indignants, an anti-austerity movement created inthe Spring of 2011 when the economic crisis was tearing society apart, leaving entire families jobless and without a roof over their heads. Bloggers and online activists wrote a manifesto named "Real Democracy Now" calling for citizens to join them. People soon flooded the streets of Madrid and Barcelona calling for a reform of the political system, of capitalism and of banks, they also demanded the end of corruption especially among politicians. Yet, most people joined in to fight for their basic rights, to have a home and a job, they marched for the sake of culture, health and education.
The Indignados organized topical assemblies in which citizens were invited to address issues at hand from their specific perspective. The gender equality assembly was created in Barcelona by Feministas Indignadas. T he group focused, among other issues on domestic violence, (In Spain every eight hour a woman is being assaulted*) the right for women to control their body, and economic issues such as rewarding domestic work and offering retirement money for stay-at-home mothers.
Six years have passed since the Feministas Indignadas first met in Plaza Catalunya, the movement has dissolved but their group hasn’t. According to Joana Garcia, they don't work as a collective but rather as a group that sees itself as part of a larger network of people fighting for women’s rights. They join forces with other feminist groups, informing one another, and cooperating on specific issues. For Joana, who works as a journalist specialized in gender issues, Los Indignados was a great opportunity to gather women and discuss vital matters such as the chilling crime rate against women. “The fight isn't over,” she says. A lot remains to be done, and so they stayed.
Joana admits that the Indignados was unsustainable from an organizational point of view. For her, it makes more sense to go back to work but keep her activism, joining groups that come together to address specific issues such as the reform of the abortion law that would ban it altogether. They succeeded in preventing the passing of the lawandwent on organizing the nationwide 2015 mass demonstrations against domestic violence. Rather than a collective Feministas Indignadas adopts the idea of acting through a flexible and opened network of a variety of feminist organizations. They believe that silence and denial are covering up sexist violence, society then becomes complicit, sympathizers, allies, or even implementers of violence against women.
I have been a feminist activist since the 1980's, I was also involved with other causes such as the protection of the environment and the anti-military movements. I took an active part in fighting mandatory military service in Spain. I was also part of the anti-OTAN campaign. These commitments brought me to engage in gender equality.
Joana Gracia is a journalist specialized in gender issues. She has worked in several organizations focusing in the rights of women, more specifically, health issues and sexual and reproductive rights.
Our cry was amplified by networks like Facebook and Twitter, which allowed for the simultaneous interaction of hundreds, thousands, and millions of people in real time, facilitating horizontal communication. We wanted to challenge conventional patterns by which mass media are the only broadcaster and the audience is the content receiver, with little possibility of interaction. I think that Los Indignados was a turning point, when the idea that millions of people can narrate the same event from different perspectives became possible. Those neglected by institutions and conventional media had the same voice than everyone else.
I work in the public sector as a psychologist specialized in domestic violence. I decided to join The Indignados after seeing what the recession did to people, especially those at risk of social exclusion. In 2011, I needed to join the protest, it was a personal responsibility to be part of a collective effort to challenge the discrimination I witnessed on a daily basis. For me, the Indignados was an opportunity to show how much people were suffering from the government cuts. Among the many groups I could have joined within the Indignados, I chose the gender perspective partially because I feared that the female contribution to the movement would be overshadowed. I didn't want the assemblies to be meant for men only, important issues should be looked at from both genders perspectives.