Term Paper: Spanish Women and Values Within the Turn

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Spanish Women and Values

Within the turn of the twentieth century, Spanish women have spread to the fields that were greatly overrun by men. Cinematography, authorship, and activism have welcomed women in their embrace -- though not without some hardship on the way. This can be owed to the changing and non-changing class and social values of Spanish families after the poignant historical eras of both the Spanish Civil War and the Franco-rule dominating Spain around the mid-1900s.

Post-Franco era has gradually given way to a democratic Spain, and by 1976, this led to the alteration of Spanish values, most notably a view of gender roles within the scope of society (Perez). In the light of politics, film, literature, and other media, society has given way in allowing for female activists, directors, and authors to let their voices be heard. This does not necessarily mean that these feminist voices have taken over the patriarchal values of the Spanish household, however; through an upstanding moral obligation to their families and households, they still retain their proper place in the family.

The feminist movement in Spain began in the early 1900s, even amidst the Civil War, and ultimately riding through the Franco-rule. Because of such conflicting historical events, feminism was a stunted cause, taking secondary priority to that of the class struggle that deluged Spain over the years (Davies). At the turn of the twentieth century, feminist Spain branched off from its Western neighbors; the post-modern Spain was anxious to emphasize a difference between their post-modernism and the West's own interpretations thereof (Labanyi). The creative works of the women during the twentieth century show the constant social struggle, with underlying concepts that tackle the roles of men and women in the household. Distinct female voices were heard in the fields of literature and film, though there is still that holdback and return to patriarchal values.

1. Film Direction and Media Leadership

The Spanish film industry saw the beginning of a rise of female directors. The seat of the film director has largely been a "man's seat" (nationally and internationally), though the vanguard of women such as Ana Mariscal and Rosario Pi changed this ideology (Millan). By the 1980s, the director's seat opened up to allow the vision of leading women such as Pilar Miro and Josefina Molina. At the end of the twentieth century, the successes of Iciar Bollain and Patricia Ferreira gave more voice to women in the public spheres of influence. In addition to their spheres of influence, these women also took their roles in the household to a proper place, with the household role of women different from that of men.

Pilar Miro's ambition over directing film has led her to the study of journalism and cinema, one which garnered a degree in screenwriting at the Escuela Oficial de Cinematografia in Madrid; the first female to have ever done so (Millan). Under the Franco regime, Miro worked at Spain's only television network -- Television Espanola. Her directing debut, while met with objections -- at the time, directing was not an appropriate woman's activity (Millan) -- began in 1976, at the end of the Franco rule with La peticion. Her first film created huge controversy at the time with its sex scenes and out-of-the-mold female characters, like that of Teresa. Consecutively, Miro broke boundaries once more by directing the piece de scandale that became her second film, El crimen de Cuenca, which was released in 1979 (Millan). While censorship was not at hand and the film itself premiered with huge success at the box office, the government arrested Miro; the justification for this arrest being El crimen's notable slander regarding the Civil Guard.

The charges were evidently dropped, but as a director, Miro fought her way through her directed pieces, sometimes focusing on the strong, independent women. By 1982, Pilar Miro was named the General Director of Cinema by Felipe Gonzalez's first administration (Millan). In this newly-appointed position, Miro took a more political and activist standpoint in the defense of cinematic rights. There was no doubt that Miro was an influential voice in the film industry.

Similarly, Josefina Molina also fought her battles, earning her a spotlight as a vanguard of the female directing voice. While Miro graduated at the Escuela Oficial Cinematografia in Madrid for screenwriting, it was Molina who first earned the degree in directing at the same school. Molina's first film Funcion de noche (1981) revolutionized Spanish cinema with its freshly "reformatted" documentary, uncovering different views of the Spanish daily lifestyle (Millan). Her subsequent documentaries also yielded the depiction of women during the years of the Franco regime. Molina showed the social and idealized conditioning faced by women during their married years, displaying the difficulties of each scenario.

By the 1990s, the boom of the female director came in effect in Spain. The likes of Rosa Verges, Isabel Coixet, and Eva Lesmes would be names seen in the Spanish film circle. Actress-turned-director Iciar Bollain's fim -- Hola, oestas sola? (1995) -- juxtaposed the lives of single women with those of bachelors; a commentary on the country's social problems (Millan). Film critic-turned-director Patricia Ferreira followed Molina's footsteps, actively making documentaries at the turn of the century. Ferreira's focus, however, differed from her colleagues who dealt with feministic topics. Instead, her 2000 film Se quien eres covered a politically-changing Spain, from the Franco regime to the entrance of democracy.

It is evident that these women have distinct voices, and in most respects, they also have political and cultural influence. Their intents, however, do not stray far from their personal lifestyles. Miro's work, while opinionated and controversial, does not make it a point to tell women's stories for the sheer fact of breaking out of the patriarchal household. In fact, while she does not mind this line of feminist-type storytelling, her characters are "complex, contradictory and even unlikable," deemed to show the overall view of a woman's life struggling between the familial place and the changing outside world (Pilar).

I don't think about cinema from the viewpoint of a woman; I think about it from the viewpoint of a director. I'm not interested specifically in telling women's stories, although I do not reject them; what interests me is to tell stories…What is clear for me is that I do not begin with predetermined women's issues in mind; people are what interest me. -- Pilar Miro (Millan)

Molina's documentaries depict the daily lives of Spanish couples and families. Her films show the breadth of couples during the Franco years; the ideologies that men and women were conditioned to believing about the household were especially startling (Millan). In this situation, she showed the difficulties of breaking from ideology, even with the change into democracy. Married couples were her main interest, and in the 90's, she returned to the social problems of the Spanish household, of the patriarchal hierarchy that she and other contemporary women faced in society.

Bollain gives the same viewpoint, that a director's chair is no different, whether it is accommodating a man or a woman. As far as the women's social standing in Spain goes, Bollain actually comments on the problems of the Spanish household and the societal pressures given to women who even think of leaving their husbands. Post-Franco regime, women have become more vocal regarding their abusive husbands, though while the general democratic, independent idea is to ultimately leave the household, Bollain has a different solution in mind. Instead, her suggestion not so much points out that the woman should leave the household, but to send these abusive men to a re-education center for abuse, in hopes that the men will change their ways and the women can return to a more peaceful household (Millan). No leaving would be necessary, man or woman.

Meanwhile, Ferreira comments on the similarities of the contemporary female voice and the past female voice. Among her contemporary female directors, Ferreira was the quietest about her struggles as a female amongst the competition.

Yes, a woman finds more obstacles in her way…I would dare say that twenty years ago it was easier. At that time, there were so few women in my profession that they always considered you a curiosity, an oddity, you were someone who was tolerated -- a demonstration of their liberal character. Now we've gone from being curiosities to being the competition. And that's as far as we have been able to get. Perhaps this just means that everything continues more or less as before. -- Patricia Ferreira (Millan)

For Ferreira, the workplace hasn't changed much; neither has the household.

2. Gothic Literature and Feminist Fiction

Female authors spanned various genres, though there is a particularly strong focus on the gothic novels pre- and post-Franco era. With the political unease, the civil war that tore the nation, and the decades of dictatorship during the 1930s to the 1970s, the typical gothic novel evolved to a neo-gothic style (Perez). Feminist undertones became much more frequent in neo-gothic literature. The social reorganization… [END OF PREVIEW]

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