European Feminisms, 1700-1950: A Political History

By Karen Offen | Go to book overview

11
More Feminisms in National Settings

Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Sweden

The question is often posed as to whether the Nazi phenomenon in Germany was unique or whether it simply offers an extreme case of more general European cultural developments. This historical survey of feminisms with respect to the major political events of the times should make it clear that there were a number of parallel developments, and that a central concern for those who organized rightwing movements of a nationalist sort, including fascist and nationalsocialist movements, and those who supported these movements, was to put a stop to feminist aspirations and to channel women's movements for their own ends. Their commitment to male dominance and their hostility to feminism is deliberate, sustained, and central to their common projects.

Attempts to preserve male hegemony in European settings figured significantly in the development of both aggressive and defensive nationalisms, as well as fascisms, as is revealed by case studies of two small, predominantly Catholic countries, Portugal and Ireland, and a far larger nation, Spain. Where aggressively right-wing movements were muted, and where the hold of Catholicism was less significant, and the society more secularized, feminists had an easier time, as the case of Sweden will suggest. In most of these cases, but especially in Spain and Sweden, feminist approaches were confronted with both opposition from and co-optation by social democratic and communist activists, enthusiastic about the experiment in reshaping sexual relations in the USSR and emboldened by the Third International's attempt, at least theoretically, to export the Russian model.


PORTUGAL

In the rural, Catholic nation of Portugal, the First Republic replaced an old monarchical state in 1910, at which point a tiny but enthusiastic or

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