Three smiling men hug each other, posing before the purple writing on a white wall that reads “Nosotras” — the feminine construction of us in Spanish.
That disjointed image marked the agreement between factions within the Podemos party, with a view to the primary elections in the Community of Madrid. This is the portrait of a tormented political negotiation, capturing the party’s candidates, Iñigo Errejón and Ramón Espinar, alongside their leader, Pablo Iglesias. Three influential men, no women.
Symbols matter. Feminists know this, and again they did not hide their displeasure. Here’s what the image says without saying it: There’s no other choice because there are no female candidates. Women don’t play the role they should in Podemos, and that’s why they’re not in the picture.
A group of Madrid feminists within Podemos put out a statement saying they are tired of the “sexist and vertical dynamics of the party,” laying out their intention “to challenge the rules for the formation of the primaries’ lists, which rule out the participation of feminist women belonging to the circles and the base of Podemos.”
The Podemos Madrid feminist circle pointed out that “it is no coincidence that the majority of the secretaries-general who won the latest internal elections were men” (just four women out of 17 leaders). The purple party’s policy too often excludes women. In fact, Podemos struggles to handle its relationship with the feminist movements, often relying on “projects designed to favor candidates who are already in the list, the majority of whom are men,” they said.
But can a picture really undermine a political party’s coherence on equality? The primaries rules are certainly opposed to the document that the feminists presented during the latest congress in Vistalegre. That same document, which promised to widen the participation of women in public and political life, was enthusiastically voted and approved by everyone in the party. That’s one reason so many people are wondering where that bottom-up idea of equality has gone. Also, the invisibility of women doesn’t square with the concept of feminizing politics supported by Podemos, at least in words, or with its support for the global women’s strike on March 8.
This loss of credibility could jeopardize Podemos’ chances of winning the regional and municipal elections in 2019, which is a precondition for defeating the right-wing in the next general elections. What’s happening these days will hardly convince current Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena to run for another term.
Carmena is the person who embodied change during her administration. While men were sealing the deal for the primaries, she earned the ruling of the court that rejected the appeal of the big power companies which were excluded from the supply of electricity to the city of Madrid — an €82 million deal — for refusing to produce it with renewable resources.
With clear reference to Iglesias, Errejón and Espinar, the feminist caucus claimed that “the comrades need to take a step back, so that women can take one ahead.” This is the only way to make our society advance. “Feminist politics is not about saying ‘we’re feminists’ — it’s about bringing about a radical change in order to make politics more equal, human and diversified, more ecologic and, of course, supportive.” It sounds nice, but apparently it’s not so easy.
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