Article by Emily Scheuer, University of Mary Washington, December 2013
The short documentary about La Sección Femenina (The Women’s Section), produced by the documentary series “Paisajes de la Historia” (“Landscapes of History”) and shown on RTVE (a Spanish public radio and television service), centers around La Sección Femenina which was an institution of women founded in 1934 during the Falange fascist political movement in Spain. This documentary explains the history of La Sección Femenina beginning with the death of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the leader and founder of the Falange political movement in Spain to the dissolution of the institution in 1977.
The documentary opens in the fall of 1939 with the Falangists carrying the casket of José Antonio in a 10-day funeral procession from Alicante to El Escorial close to Madrid. The documentary mixes commentary about the La Sección Femenina from contemporary scholars and participants in the organization with information about the life and contributions of Pilar Primo de Rivera, the sister of José Antonio Primo de Rivera and leader of La Sección Femenina.
La Sección Femenina became an official institution in 1937 where women were instructed on Francoist patriotic and social morals. Neither José Antonio nor the majority of the Falangists supported the idea of an “active” woman in politics, therefore, La Sección Femenina was designed for the woman to establish her “place” or “role” in society as being primarily in the household, and it was up to these women to teach future generations how to be exemplary mothers and housewives. La Sección Femenina also assumed roles of support and social service for Spanish soldiers and the civilian population during the Spanish civil war. Finally, the organization emphasized the importance of musical folklore in its teachings to maintain unity among members and perform dances to show dedication to the country.
The documentary explains how Pilar Primo de Rivera encouraged women to act quietly and in the background, and also how according to the documentary, Pilar credited the Falangist political movement with making women cleaner, children healthier, homes tidier, and towns happier. She even denied women’s intellectual capability saying that women lacked creative talent and could do no more than interpret what men gave to them. The documentary focuses on this role of women as being good mothers or wives, submissive and sacrificial, not speaking out of turn and serving men. They were queens of the home and needed to conform to this role. Towards the end of the documentary, it explains that La Sección Femenina was necessary during its particular time period as it gave structure and rules for women during the Falangist political movement to follow, and it began to dissolve once women realized their rights and ability to have a voice and started to fight for them.
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