Molding “Economic Woman”: Conflicting Portrayals of Women’s Economic Roles in Magazines Published During the Franco Dictatorship
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This dissertation explores how the depiction of gender-differentiated economic roles in women’s magazines contributed to shaping Spanish women as economic actors during the first 30 years of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1968). The analysis focuses on eight publications: Y, Revista para la Mujer and Teresa, published by the Sección Femenina (Women’s Section) of Spain’s fascist Falange party; Senda and Para Nosotras, published by the women’s wing of the lay religious group Acción Católica (Catholic Action); and commercial magazines El Hogar y la Moda, Marisol, Ama, and Telva. My interdisciplinary methodology combines a close reading of these magazines with an analysis of relevant economic data from this historical period. This approach sheds new light on the conflict between magazines’ idealized rhetoric, which centered primarily around models of feminine domesticity and motherhood, and the desperate economic circumstances that many Spanish women endured under Francoist rule.
The years immediately following Spain’s brutal Civil War (1936-1939) were marked by violent repression and devastating material conditions, which were exacerbated by the Franco regime’s failed attempts to achieve economic self-sufficiency. In my analysis of magazines published during the 1940s, I track the discursive strategies that editors used in an attempt to shift the blame for the country’s post-war economic woes away from the regime and onto women. I then explore how magazines’ discourses evolved in the 1950s and 1960s, as the regime began to embrace more liberal economic policies and reopen Spain to international trade. I demonstrate how comparatively more permissive models of economic womanhood appeared in the magazines of the 1950s in the context of Spain’s reentry into global society. But I argue that a reactionary backlash arose in the magazines of the 1960s as more and more women began to actually embrace economic opportunities and identities that fell outside traditional norms.
Throughout this work, my analysis draws attention to the numerous contradictions that existed, both between women’s magazines’ messages and their readers lived experiences, and within magazines’ discourses themselves. I therefore challenge previous readings of these popular media texts as straightforward propaganda tools, arguing instead that they served as a crucial site in an ongoing struggle for cultural hegemony in Francoist Spain. While magazines’ editors sought to reinforce a dominant narrative regarding women’s roles in Spanish society against the looming threat of potential counter-narratives, I argue that their attempts were not entirely successful. Rather, I demonstrate how didactic elements like fictional dialogues, and collaborative components like advice columns, enabled provocative queries, and even dissent, to enter into and disrupt the discursive exchange between editors and readers.
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