One of the most notable contributions the independence process has made to Catalan literature is the creation of the genre in which white men with social prestige and moral authority dedicate themselves to comparing, via Twitter, the press, radio and television, the situation Catalonia is suffering through with that of a battered woman.
Different types of oppression can have similar dynamics that perpetuate them, or arguments to justify or normalise them which follow the same mental patterns. So, the hegemonic Spanish identity, just like masculinity, has at its disposition all the instruments of a state, including brute strength, which allows it to impose a vision of the world in which any alternative identity is perceived as undesirable, that it alters the natural order of things and that, what's more, is based on hatred of this order. We often hear that independence supporters hate Spain, just as they accuse us feminists of hating men. They also blame the victim, as shown by the narrative that the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution is more the fault of Puigdemont's government than Rajoy's.
Although there are elements, then, which could make you think that the comparison between Catalonia and a battered woman is appropriate, the reality is much more complex. Discrimination for reasons of gender, like those for reasons of race, class, sexual orientation, gender expression or disability, are closely linked to specific contexts which generate their own acts of violence, of greater or lesser intensity, for those who fall into these categories. It's not just that a Catalan man and a Catalan woman aren't mistreated in the same way, it's that the pain caused by these two situations, Catalan and female, are not comparable (there's an interesting topic which is the Catalan woman, which creates new vulnerabilities as a result of the dovetailing of the two categories).
Moreover, different forms of discrimination coexist in our society and, as such, different forms of privilege. That means that we can be discriminated in one area but privileged in another. I've suffered sexual assaults because I'm a woman and insults because I'm Catalan, but I've not experienced racism, and I can go into any metro station because I'm not a wheelchair user. History tells us that the nation is experienced in different ways based on the gender of its inhabitants.
The roles of the nation-woman fit with those of the woman-person: the nation has been conceived of as a mother who has to be defended by her sons (rather than children)
From Europe to Asia, we find examples of how the nation has been thought of as a woman, just like the land which was sighted for conquest, or which was to be defended from the enemy. However, as women, we often occupy a subordinate role within the nation. In other words, we're praised at the same time as we're clobbered. Often the roles of the nation-woman fit with those of the woman-person: the nation has been conceived of as a mother who has to be defended by her sons (rather than children); the "Orient" was, for Western explorers, a mysterious maiden to discover, control and penetrate. It's significant that, in our current era, the narrative over the Catalonia-woman conceives of her as battered. Forgetting, for example, that the independence movement has used mechanisms which could be considered as coming from the female domain of the traditional masculine/feminine model. Some of the strategies for organising the referendum and resisting the later repression have been based in the usage of informal networks and in the continuous attentiveness.
In colonial and/or national conflicts, the usage of women by the representatives of the opposing sides has been normal. They can be used as bounty: during the police repression on 1st October, various women reported sexual assaults or misogynistic insults. Another case is the message on Spain's Civil Guard's online forum warning that Catalan men should watch out that their wives and girlfriends don't end up pregnant with Civil Guard agents.
In other cases, the sexism matters to the extent to which it can harm the opponent, not to improve the well-being of women. Following this logic, it makes sense to describe Spanish writers as super-macho in televised debates with no female participants. Or to say that PP (Popular Party) leader in Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, is sexist and at the same time call CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) deputies bitches, whores and old bags for refusing to invest Artur Mas as president or for proposing the use of menstrual cups (or any idea from the CUP, as if David Fernàndez, Benet Salellas and other men in the party didn't agree).
Pro-independence Catalan feminists are aware that the liberation of the nation doesn't mean the liberation of women, and as such many of them work a great deal for the two processes to go hand in hand
These situations have posed great dilemmas for the women and/or feminists involved in the movements for national liberation: they've had to fight against the sexism within one of the institutions they're using to fight against an external oppressor. How do I feel, as an independence-supporting Catalan woman, against the uncritical idolising of Julian Assange, one of the few international allies of the Catalan cause, but who offered work to the engineer fired by Google for having stated that women were biologically inferior to men in the field of science? Pro-independence Catalan feminists are aware that the liberation of the nation doesn't mean the liberation of women, and as such many of them work a great deal for the two processes to go hand in hand. And some have tried to use the Catalan independence process to raise awareness about the oppression we female Catalans suffer, knowing that suffering one form of oppression doesn't have to make you more open to understanding other forms.
Sometimes, to be a feminist independence-supporter means questioning other feminists. Some of those on the pro-union side or staying in the middle have tended to present the independence movement as a conflict between one man, Puigdemont, and another man, Rajoy, and have sold an alternative reality in which if Manuela Carmena, Ada Colau, Carme Forcadell and Anna Gabriel were leading, we would be living in a federal Spain populated by unicorns pooping out rainbows. Obviously, national conflicts cannot be understood without the masculine domain, but reducing them to the category of men against men hides what kind of men they are. In our case, we see the multiple, overlapping relationships of domination and submission from the complex Spanish national hierarchy.
So, any white Catalan gentleman with social prestige and moral authority who wants to find creative similes to illustrate what the Catalan nation is going through, should take into account to what extent those similes benefit a significant part of the Catalan population. If they consider that the situation of women is unjust, they should ask themselves, first of all, what they do every day to improve it. If they don't know where to start, they should ask independence-supporting feminists and put themselves at their service to construct a feminist Catalan Republic. And, in the meantime, they should shut up.