Category Archives: Feminism

Are You Superficial?

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WE ALL GET a little self conscious sometimes, it’s pretty hard not to be. Nobody wants to be considered unattractive. But have we all become too obsessed with body image? Do we live in a superficial society, where looks matter more than personality?

It’s a worrying concept, but one which appears to have an element of truth behind it. In 2011, Daniel Hamermesh published his book, ‘Beauty Pays’, in which he looked at the connection between appearance and success. He found that on average, attractive people earn between 3 and 4 per cent more than those with ‘below average’ looks. They also have job applications accepted sooner, are more likely to gain promotions and are given more perks within their pay package.

Perhaps this is nothing new – society celebrates beauty and always has done. Back in the 16th century, Elizabeth I used her appearance regularly to gain support of the men around her. Popular culture has always included visions of beautiful women, read Jane Austen, Shakespeare or even fairy tales and this is a clear trend. In Romeo and Juliet, for example, Romeo fell in love with his beau predominantly for her looks – “Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”

 

So perhaps society has always been preoccupied with beauty to some extent, but are we getting worse? At least in the past, poems, books and plays left looks to the imagination – now the constant bombardment of attractive people in media and adverts is arguably making the quest for personal beauty more ‘real’.

This has become widespread over issues with body weight. Between 2007 and 2011, almost 500 more girls under the age of 17 in the UK were treated with anorexia compared to the five years between 2002 and 2006. And concern over weight begins at a really, really young age. The Social Issues Research Centre has suggested that 81 per cent of American ten year old girls have dieted at least once, while 25 per cent of seven year olds in Sweden have expressed a desire to lose weight.

Society or something closer to home?

But, are eating disorders caused by the media? Kings College London have just launched a genetic study into anorexia. Cynthia Bulik, who launched the campaign (AN25K), has said that ‘We know very little about the biology of anorexia and hopefully by identifying these genes we will be able to develop new treatments. It is not just one gene – it will be hundreds of genes.’

The research project is backed by UK charity ‘Charlotte’s Helix’, which was set up in memory of Charlotte Bevan who died in January. Her daughter Georgie was diagnosed with anorexia aged 12,   and Charlotte was a strong believer that Georgie did not want to be anorexic, that it wasn’t a choice based upon a desire to be beautiful or thin. In her book for parents of sufferers, ‘Throwing Starfish Across The Sea’, Charlotte wrote that ‘I want people to know that my daughter is not a vain, mindless bimbo who just wants to be thin, but a stellar, brilliant, important part of the community who just happens to have a brain blip.’

The AN25K project is a really significant step forward for our understanding of anorexia, and aims to include 25,000 DNA samples from sufferers worldwide.

However, understanding the science behind eating disorders is perhaps only part of the process needed to reduce victims. Changing attitudes is also important, and in the media – especially on the internet – there is also an increasingly large backlash against make up, photo-shopped pictures and the idea of a ‘perfect’ image.

Make up free

Colbie Caillat, for example, has recently released her music video for her new single, ‘Try’. In it, a group of women – herself included – are shown taking their make-up off, symbolically revealing their true selves. Speaking to Elle magazine, Colbie said that ‘for the “Try” video I didn’t prep or starve myself and over-exercise. And then I didn’t get my nails done, I didn’t get my hair done. I didn’t get a facial. I didn’t have a stylist… it felt really cool to be on camera with zero [make up] on, like literally nothing on. And then when it got to the full hair and makeup, I actually felt gross. It was just so caked on.”

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

It’s a refreshing song and video, but Colbie isn’t the only one in the media advocating less makeup.   Hundreds of thousands of women took part in the ‘No Make Up Selfie’ for breast cancer , including celebrities like Beyoncé, Cara Delevingne and Cheryl Cole, raising £8 million for charity.

Similarly, a campaign launched in Australia called ‘Make Up Free Me’ is advocating that women across the country are sponsored to wear no make up on the 29 August, to acknowledge ‘the unrealistic body image expectations we put on ourselves, each other and that we absorb from the media and social media on a daily basis.’ The charity is aiming to raise money for projects which increase young people’s self confidence, and has suggested that across Australia 77 per cent of women think that too much emphasis is put on make up.

Beyond Europe

Asking around, it seems that there is a similar feeling in Europe. Some suggested that “society is definitely focused too much on appearances: which is ironic because when you become friends or fall in love with somebody, it goes beyond what they look like”, while another pointed out what an odd concept make up is. “You’re painting your face, trying to appear like somebody else. It’s like in history lessons when you’re given self-portraits, and told how they used certain colours to show wealth and certain objects to show they’re well-travelled. To some extent we’re doing that to ourselves.”

However, the general consensus was not against make up; “for me it primarily works as a booster of self-confidence and in that sense I think it’s a good thing – what harm does it do to feel good?”

Annie Gauru, a 20-year old Indiana University student, tested this theory by wearing no make up for a year. Eight months in, she has written about how it has felt so far; “I’ve learned that some people do treat me differently, but the people who matter don’t. I’ve also learned that I over-emphasised how much thought other people gave to my appearance. I’ve started relying more on my other assets. Working on kindness, humour and positivity has helped me change in meaningful ways.”

So, have many girls and women forgotten the importance of personality?

Addressing the issue from a different angle, Esher Hoing, a 24 year old American journalist, sent the same photo of herself to magazines around the world, asking them to photo-shop her to make her look beautiful, like a model they would see in a magazine in their country. The contrast of images from different cultures is astounding. So far she has images from 27 countries, but she wants to continue the project and get as much input as she can. “There’s so much to be told through this experiment,” she says. “It’s me, but it’s not me. It’s everyone.”

Idealised beauty is a huge issue in modern culture, but the backlash against it is growing and important. If you listen to the lyrics of Macklemore’s song, “Thin Lines’, he suggests that ‘The greatest trick that the devil ever pulled, Was convincing women that they looked, Better in their makeup.” Perhaps we all need to start believing this a little more – or at least remembering that appearance is just one part of who we all are.

Written by Sarah Newey
Photo Credits: Mil8, BudCat14/Ross 

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You’re ‘against’ Feminism? Let’s think about that

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We need to re-contextualise feminism in order to stop spreading nasty rumours about it.

Believe it or not, but a bunch of young women decided to join a Tumblr campaign called Women Against Feminism, started by an anonymous creator. The website features different women photographing themselves with a piece of writing that explains why they do not need feminism.

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As Ruby Hamad on DailyLife.au beautifully explains in 5 succinct examples, these women are a confirmation of the fact that feminism is needed and, in some cases, has actually won battles.

All seemed well and harmony was restored in the online debate. Despite this Miles1984 felt the need to write this comment in response to Ruby’s article:

sofia

Mark these words, dear reader, because this is the quintessential argument against feminism, or, in fact, any kind of movement fighting to achieve equal rights in a struggle with a dominant social class. Perhaps it will be useful to better understand the misinformation and ignorance in Miles1984’s opinion if we changed it around and replaced feminism with “civil rights movement.”

Feminism is in essence a civil rights movement, though the latter became associated mostly with the fight of African-Americans to demand the end of separatism and equality between ‘races’ and the protection of everyone’s rights, not only white people’s. Feminism’s fight is similar as, between other things, it aims at ending discrimination on the basis of gender and the protection of everyone’s rights, not just male’s.

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Admittedly, the “between other things” remain a bit of a blurry and fuzzy cloud of all sorts of claims made by all sorts of definitions of feminists. Feminists do not agree between themselves on a many issues, like pornography, sex workers, etc., but still a common area can definitely be found on the idea of ending gender-based discrimination. Just like the African-American civil right’s movement struggle to end race-based discrimination.

Miles1984’s comment in relation to African-American civil rights movement would sound like this:

“Civil rights movement does NOT represent all African-American people and never actually has. Civil rights movement can only really speak for African American civil rights activists, NOT for all African American people. Civil rights movement is not truly about equality. It fights for African-American people’s rights, not really white people’s. Sure there may be some side issues that are put behind white people’s issues. But African-American civil rights movement cares for African-American people. It does not give priority to both races. It is not equal. It is as divisive as its name. I don’t see much future for civil rights movement, tbh.” – Ridiculous, right?

Feminism is not a political ideology. It fights for all women’s rights. Not all women may decide to make use of laws allowing them to fight in the military’s frontline, but a few of them wanted to do so, and then were allowed to do so because of an ongoing fight to give women the same employment opportunities as men.

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Feminism does not fight for men’s rights in the same way as African-American civil rights movement were not fighting for white people’s rights, but a) white people were still welcome to join civil rights movement and protest just as much as males are welcome to support feminism and b) feminism’s fight for women’s rights will also produce benefits for men as it is a widely accepted economic principle that more empowered women will contribute to society’s growth and development.

And let’s get one last thing straight, no matter what the Women Against Feminism or Shailene Woodley may think: feminists do not hate men nor do they want to ‘take their power away’. Feminists condemn the patriarchy, which is an abstract concept to indicate society’s norms and customs that discriminate against women. Enforcers of the patriarchy are, in fact, both men and women, yet feminists do not hate these people, they merely think that their actions are detrimental to a vast percentage of the world’s population.

So if feminism is eventually just a movement for societal change as much as the civil rights movement, why does it have such a bad reputation? Is it because of angry women who were burning bras a few decades ago? And what exactly was wrong with that? Women did and do have a right to be angry just like any other part of society which sees itself diminish, discriminated, and in some cases even threatened by the dominant group – just like African-American people were ( and to some extent, still are). Some resorted to violent action, like those who joined the Black Panthers. As far as I know, feminism on all its forms has, to this day, remained peaceful. That’s because feminists, contrary to some people’s beliefs, do not hate other human beings.

When Caroline Criado Perez started a campaign to have more women featured on British currency, she did not hate the Bank of England, or her own country. She simply thought that not enough women were sufficiently commemorated on the British banknotes.

Jane Austen is expected to replace Charles Darwin in 2017. But no one hates Charles Darwin or belittles what he has accomplished. Figures on banknotes periodically change. It is time to remind the world that women have a place in our countries’ histories, too. Otherwise, we may run the risk of people forgetting about their contributions and taking for granted the rights we continue to enjoy because of their work.

By Sofia Lotto Persio
Photo Credits:Knight_Before and women against feminism tumblr

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Woman of Steel


Hillary Clinton is no rookie in the game of D.C. politics.

Her interest in civil rights and social justice were sparked during the Vietnam War. After hearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in 1962, she began working in politics for Republicans and Democrats alike.

Clinton went on to become president of her class at Wellesley college and later attended Yale Law School.

Enter, Bill Clinton.

While Hillary went on to hold numerous prestigious titles: lawyer, women’s activist, chair of many national committees, first female senator from New York and Secretary of State, the title most Americans associate her with is First Lady.

After dealing with the very public affair of her husband and a White House intern, Hillary chose to forgive him. It’s been 16 years since the humiliating incident and Monica Lewinksy’s name still comes up in interviews with the presidential hopeful.

You would think feminine qualities like mercy and forgiveness would help her be viewed as a woman and not a robot, right? Think again.

Since then, the former Secretary of State has been called names by those in the media from both sides of the aisle. Ironically enough, the only mention to her gender is when they criticize her appearance. Go figure.

Here are just a few of my personal favourites:

Carlos Gomez

“Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?”

-Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio host

 

 

“Political experts are now saying that to win the presidency in 2008 a candidate has to get hot at the right time.

Carlos Gomez

After hearing this, Bill Clinton said, ‘Hillary’s doomed’.”

-Conan O’Brien, late-night talk show host

 

 

 

“She’s not looking good these days. She’s looking overweight and very tired.”

-Ed Klein, author, The Life of Hillary

The best part about Hillary’s major critics is they’re all middle-aged, white men. Who are they to talk?!

After the stress she’s undergone, both personally and professionally, I hope I look as good at 66 years old.

Pollsters agree that it’s the press, not the public that cares about what Hillary looks like.

“I haven’t heard anyone mention her hair or her makeup for probably a decade,” Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake, told USA Today in 2012. “It’s not the voters driving this at all, they could care less. It’s reporters.”

Despite all the backlash she’s received over the years, what really amazes me about Hillary is her resiliency. She dons a suit of armor every day in the bureaucratic battlefield known as America’s capital.

Hillary doesn’t keep her secrets of political vitality to herself, she often shares them with women around the country. In February of this year, she told a crowd of ambitious young women at NYU, “It’s important to learn how to take criticism seriously, but not personally.”

“Critics can be your best friends if you listen to them, and learn from them, but don’t get dragged down by them.”

In the spirit of the World Cup, a football analogy seems fitting.

Preparing for another run at presidency in 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton is like a goalie during a penalty kick: cool, calm and collected.

Written by Kayla Brandon
Picture credits: Angela Radulescu and Carlos Gomez

Refusing choice of birth control to employees is not ok

IT SEEMS SILLY in 2014 to still have to explain why an employee’s right to choose her contraceptive has to be protected. Yet, recent events show that this is still not an accepted and respected principle.

 

The Supreme Court of the United States, creatively called SCOTUS in Washington slang, ruled on June 30 that Hobby Lobby, a company with more than 500 shops across the USA owned by hardcore Christian Green family, has the right to refuse paying for certain kinds of contraception under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to its employees if these contrast its religious beliefs. The ACA already allows an opt-out option to non-profit and religious organisations.

 

The sentence on the case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., was approved with a majority 5-4, with all female judges voting against it. It effectively allows for-profit companies to refuse coverage of healthcare plans on religious grounds, and could be use as a precedent to actually opt out of any other law, except tax laws, were it to interfere with religious beliefs.

 

This ruling carries heavy economic, political and cultural implications, and none of these are good news for those who do believe in freedom of choice. Under the ACA, contraception is seen as a necessary provision included in the healthcare plan employers have to guarantee their workers. The reasons for this seem obvious, as family planning is not only beneficial for the economy, but it also protects a woman’s health, allowing her autonomy in deciding what to do with her life, and effectively decreases the number of abortions, since contraception prevents unwanted pregnancies. Not all contraceptive are the same, however, and some people have a hard time understanding this.

 

The birth control pill is one of the most common form of contraceptive but it is not the only option, and it does not suit everyone. Other women prefer IUDs, which are instead inserted internally to prevent fertilisation of the egg. Those, along with the morning after pill, are part of those contraceptive opposed by Christian believers, including Hobby Lobby ‘s owners, because they are “abortifacient,” as in they expel the fertilised egg to prevent pregnancy, a fact absolutely not supported by science.

 

In fact, all contraceptive, including the morning after pill, work with the principle of preventing the attachment of the egg to the uterus wall, which may or may not happen even when having unprotected sex. The religious grounds to reject contraception are, from a scientific perspective, virtually non-existent, unless the real matter at hand is not abortion, but having sex for reasons other than procreation.

 

Let’s get one thing straight: women of all ages and relationship status use some form of contraception when they are sexually active, fertile and want to avoid pregnancy or using condoms. Providing the free contraception of choice is not about helping 18 years old sleeping around, but it means helping 40 years old women with two children working two jobs to enjoy a healthy relationship with their husbands without having to worry about putting into this world a new mouth to feed.

 

It is simply not acceptable for a for-profit company to refuse women their right to choose the most suitable form of contraception. The SCOTUS ruling allows a private, money-making business to dictate employees’ individual, private choices. Internet commentators on conservative websites pointed out that Hobby Lobby is not an evil company, but actually offers a minimum wage higher than the national one – a whole 14$ an hour instead of 7.25$, and suggest that the negative comments regarding the ruling are negatively affecting the image of a company that does hold its employees’ best interests as high as its religious principles.

 

Apparently, employee meetings start with a prayer from the Bible, and interpersonal conflict are solved by looking at the Bible, and generally speaking the Green family runs its business according to principles in the Bible. No doubt that a book written more than two thousand years ago is a great blueprint to run a business in the digital 21st century world, but it is unclear how highlighting the ways in which the Green family imposes its religious beliefs on its employees does much to defend its image.

 

Regardless, offering a higher minimum wage than normal is not a reason to look the other way when basic individual rights and freedoms are at stake. Workers’ rights in the US are much less protected than in Europe, but there should be at least an understanding that working for a company does not mean embracing the company’s values as your own just because they pay you at the end of the month.

 

You are not selling your soul, you are merely employing your skills for the profit of a business. Your job should not define who you are and what you do when you are not working there. Having your boss decide whether you have access to healthcare plan is pretty much the farthest thing there is to ensure human dignity and justice.

Written by Sofia Lotto Persio
Image credit: American Life League 

Finally, an honest tampon ad

FOR TOO LONG, Adverts aimed at women’s monthly periods have  managed to expertly avoid the point of their product entirely. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that the first thing that pops to mind when mine arrives each month  is not that I should really take up samba dancing, or horse riding, or reach for the tightest white clothes I can find. At twenty three, I’m also embarrassed to say that I’ve still not reached that stage of puberty yet where that blue water comes out instead of all the blood and uteral lining [SOON.]

Finally, comes a company not afraid to embrace the gross, uncomfortable and unfairly inevitable realities of menstruation, and turn them hilariously back on themselves. HelloFlo (the same people who brought  us “Camp Gyno” in the summer of last year) have this month released their second ad:  “First Moon Party”. Though only arriving to YouTube two weeks ago, the video has already had over 20 million hits, and growing.

The ad tells the story of a little girl who, in a desperate bid to catch up with her already menstruating friends, fakes her first period with red nail polish. While her two confidantes completely buy into it, her mother is less convinced – pointing out “real periods don’t have glitter”. Instead of calling out her daughter, she decides to completely embarrass her by throwing her a (you guessed it) ‘First Moon Party’. Hilarity and period puns ensue.

The company releases the advert to highlight the ‘one of a kind service’ they provide. HelloFlo produce  ‘care packages’ containing tampons, pads and candy for “the good, the bad and the ugly” moments of monthly agony. Their twitter bio reads “the average woman has her period more than 350 times in her life. We handle everything but the cramps”.

Even if you ignore the product advertised, the message put across by the company is invaluable. For too long, period problems (which has affected quite a sizable chunk of our general population since, oh, the dawn of time) have been a subject of shame: covered up with euphemisms, smiling women dancing the night – and their cramps, presumably – away in clubs, and a weird emphasis on whether or not your pad has ‘wings’ (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!).

These ads come somewhere between the on-screen ignorance of the customers you’re attempting to target, and the cold hard science leaving most preteen girls baffled and terrified (I still remember them telling us in school how much blood we’d lose monthly, measured in teaspoons. Teaspoons.  All I could think – all I still think – was “who measures that?! and HOW?!”). This takes one of the most awkward and often distressing elements of growing up for young girls and makes it funny, open and – in the case of little miss moon party – desirable.

Somewhere between silence and shame, has come HelloFlo – building a bridge for young girls everywhere to enter adult life with a little bit of honesty, humour, and glittery period magic worthy of a vagician.

Words by Rachel Barr
Photo: SquidHead

Gender fluidity is the new black

Jens Dresling
BY WINNING THIS year’s Eurovision Song Contest Conchita Wurst did not only put gender at the top of the agenda. The triumph of the 25-year-old Austrian drag act makes way for a – for some – new concept; gender fluidity.

Social anthropologists along with sociologists and other scholars doing research on gender have for years argued that gender should be perceived as a spectrum rather than a static category.

According to the Executive Director of Gender Spectrum, Stephanie Hill, it is necessary to distinguish between sex and gender. While sex is biological and includes physical attributions, gender is the complex interrelationship between one’s physical traits and one’s internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither as well as one’s outward presentations and behavior related to that perception. In short, gender is a social spectrum and thus way more complicated than the category of the biological sex.

Wurst’s real name is Tom Neuwirth. When Tom puts on eyelashes and wick he becomes his female persona and is referred to as “she”. In other words, Wurst is a clue to what gender fluidity might look like in practice.

While Putin and his administration continue to express homophobic views and put forward anti-gay policies, it seems like Europe is moving in a more liberal direction, making way for a broader understanding of gender and identity. 

Collecting the trophy on stage Wurst said: “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are — we are unity and we are unstoppable.”

After her victory Wurst told reporters that she felt Europe had taken a stand by voting her the winner. No doubt her triumph shows progress in liberal attitudes among Europeans. Wurst added that she hopes gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people around the world are getting stronger in their fight for human rights.

While Putin and his administration continue to express homophobic views and put forward anti-gay policies, it seems like Europe is moving in a more liberal direction, making way for a broader understanding of gender and identity.

Now, let us celebrate the triumph of Wurst. A triumph of tolerance.

 

By Sofie Ejdrup Larsen
Photo Credit Jens Dresling

Spanish abortion law: step back in time

The Spanish conservative government led by Mariano Rajoy has recently decided to reform the national abortion law. In light of the permanently ongoing pro-life or pro-choice debate, Adriana Díaz Martín-Zamorano analyses the status quo of abortion in Spain as well as the possible consequences that could emerge from the controversial new legislation.

When a Spanish woman was pregnant in 1980 and wanted to have an abortion she would face two options: travel abroad to countries which allowed abortion, such as the United Kingdom, or have a secret abortion. Thirty years later, in 2010, the government passed legislation that allowed a woman to have an abortion in Spain with the Ley de Salud Sexual y Reproductiva e Interrupción Voluntaria del Embarazo (Law of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy). But the current ruling conservative party, Partido Popular (PP), led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, has recently decided to take a step back in time in terms of women’s rights and amend this legislation.

Abortion as a crime
In most European countries abortion is a right. 20 out of the 28 Member States of the EU, including Germany, France, The Netherlands, Greece or Italy, allow women to legally abort their pregnancy without providing any specific reason within a certain limited amount of time –usually between the 12th and the 14th  weeks of pregnancy. Since 2010, that has also been the case in Spain, but the national Council of Ministers approved on the 20th December of 2013 a new system. Ley para la Protección de la Vida del Concebido y de los Derechos de la Mujer Embarazada (Law for the Protection of Life of the Conceived and the Rights of the Pregnant Woman), criminalises abortion, excluding a couple of scenarios such as rape and risk to the woman’s health. In addition, this ‘severe risk’ for the woman’s health has to be recognised by a medical report signed by two different doctors –up until now only one signature was required. Furthermore, the signatory can’t perform the abortion or even work in the same clinic where the procedure would take place.

Right now, only five countries in the EU – Poland, Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Poland – have similar legislation on abortion. In fact, in the UK and Cyprus the range measures are way wider than the new amended Spanish law and include significant criteria, such as fetal deformation, which is reflected in the current abortion legislation in Spain and would be eliminated by the changes. Nevertheless, in other Member States, like Malta or Ireland, abortion is even more restricted. For instance, in Malta abortion is banned and Ireland has only reformed its abortion law recently in order to include suicide risk as a factor. The conservative decision creates further distance between Spain and its neighbouring countries while turning it into the only state in the EU that has carried out a structural reform of its abortion law to harden its conditions in the recent years.

A step back in women’s rights that enhances social and economic inequality
The truth is that strict rules around abortion did not seem odd or outdated during the Spanish transition to democracy from Franco’s dictatorship, but these measures now seem reactionary in an established democracy: a trip back in a time machine and a clear step back in women’s rights. Furthermore, the draft law does not only represent a symbolic decrease in rights, it can also have highly negative social consequences and enhance inequality in economic terms. If the parliamentary procedure approves the reform, Spanish women who need or want to have an abortion will have to travel to countries where abortion is legal or have a secret abortion in Spain. While the first possibility is strictly related to personal income thus enhancing economic inequalities, since not everyone can afford travelling abroad to go through such process; the alternative choice is often performed under dangerous conditions and consequently threatens women’s lives.

Pro-life or pro-choice?
In light of the ongoing abortion debate –pro-life or pro-choice-, what is clear is that the focus of the abortion reform is on the foetus to be born ahead of the woman’s right to choose. The conservative Spanish Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who has launched the controversial law, claimed that ‘we can’t make the life of a foetus to be born depend on a woman’s will’. The Minister also understands that illegal abortions will have penal consequences for the doctor and not for the woman by justifying that woman is a ‘victim’ of abortion, an argument that has been labelled by some feminist groups as ‘paternalist’. Gallardón also defends that the main reason this new law has been carried out is mainly to fulfil ‘an electoral commitment’.

The public reaction towards the new legislation has been polarised. On the one hand, Christian institutions, such as the Spanish Episcopal Conference, presided by Madrid’s archbishop, Antonio María Rouco Varela, have expressed their satisfaction for the ‘improvement’ in the abortion law because it is important to ‘support both in theory and in practice the right to life’. On the other hand, several feminist associations have successfully organised demonstrations in the largest Spanish cities, like Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla, as well as in European cities, such as London, Dublin and Lisbon, calling for the dropping of the abortion draft. Last week Madrid’s Feminist Movement hosted a demonstration attended by around 15,000 citizens holding rue and parsley branches up in their hands –two plants traditionally used to interrupt pregnancy. The spokesperson of Madrid’s Feminist Movement, Laura Montero, declared to the press agency Efe that the greatest problem is that ‘women who don’t have money are condemned to insecure abortion which can lead them to death’. The opposition to the reform has not only been heard in the streets, but also on a political level: critical voices from the main opposition party, Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), rejected motions presented from local governments –even some ruled by the conservative party- and fierce debates in the European Parliament (EP) have divided left-wing and liberal parties against right-wing and Eurosceptic parties.

The unpopularity of the abortion reform shows that it would be appropriate for the Spanish government to reconsider the viability of carrying out such restrictive measures in the 21st century. However, for the moment, the Minister of Justice has given ‘his word’ that protests will not prevent his commitment to fulfil the electoral programme in terms of regulating the rights of pregnant women and the child to be born.