Las lecciones de feminismo que nos dejó Concepción Arenal

Las lecciones de feminismo que nos dejó Concepción Arenal

Hoy se celebra el aniversario del nacimiento de la escritora, periodista y activista gallega, una de las precursoras de la lucha por los derechos sociales en la España del siglo XIX
31 enero, 2019
María De Castro
  • Feminismo

Las lecciones de feminismo que nos dejó Concepción Arenal

María De Castro
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El feminismo es un tema que sigue levantando ampollas en pleno siglo XXI. Para comprobarlo basta con repasar las polémicas que se produjeron en la última edición de Operación Triunfo, las airadas reacciones al último anuncio de Gillette o muchas de las discusiones familiares que se producen cada año en las cenas familiares de Nochebuena.

Si ahora el debate público es enorme, cuesta imaginar cómo sería la vida de una mujer feminista en nuestro país hace dos siglos. La figura de Concepción Arenal, cuyo aniversario de celebra hoy, arroja algo de luz en ese sentido. Nacida el 31 de enero de 1820 en Ferrol, la vida de Concepción Arenal estuvo marcada de manera determinante por la muerte de su padre cuando ella solo tenía nueve años. Ángel Arenal, un destacado militar liberal, falleció en prisión tras oponerse al régimen absolutista de Fernando VII. Desde entonces, la percepción de la injusticia se incrustó para siempre en la conciencia de su hija, que orientó su vida a la defensa de los más desfavorecidos.

Pero para defender a los demás, primero tuvo que luchar por abrirse camino en una sociedad que percibía las inclinaciones intelectuales de las mujeres como una obscena anomalía. Desde pequeña tuvo clara su vocación por la abogacía, pero se encontró con un muro inquebrantable: la prohibición de que las mujeres recibieran formación universitaria. Lo esquivó disfrazándose de hombre para poder asistir como oyente a la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Central de Madrid. Tuvo que cortarse el pelo y ocultar su identidad envuelta en una levita, una capa y un sombrero de copa. Pero su llamativo aspecto desató sospechas y pronto fue descubierta. Su expulsión de la universidad era inminente.

«¿El hombre más inepto es superior a la mujer más inteligente?»

Sin embargo, la obstinación de su carácter se impuso una vez más y logró llegar a un trato con el rector de la universidad. Si aprobaba un examen podría seguir asistiendo como oyente. Los resultados fueron incontestables y a la universidad no le quedó más remedio que dejarla asistir a las lecciones. Cada día entraba en el aula escoltada por un bedel y se sentaba en un lugar apartado del resto de sus compañeros, pero absorbió los conocimientos necesarios para convertirse en la voz de los sin voz.

La primera obra de Concepción Arenal sobre los derechos de la mujer es "La mujer del porvenir" (1869)
La primera obra de Concepción Arenal sobre los derechos de la mujer es «La mujer del porvenir» (1869)

Y así, Arenal empezó a abrir debates inusitados en una España todavía adormecida. En 1863 se convirtió en la primera visitadora de cárceles femeninas, un puesto reservado hasta entonces a los hombres. Fue cesada apenas dos años después, tras publicar un ensayo titulado ‘Cartas a los delincuentes’, en el que defendía la necesidad de reformar el Código Penal. Esta nueva zancadilla, lejos de desanimarla, le animó a seguir escribiendo y en 1869 publicó ‘La Mujer del Porvenir’, texto en el que defendía el acceso de la mujer a la educación y desmontaba las teorías que promulgan la superioridad masculina en función de criterios biológicos.

Tras esa obra, llegaron muchas otros como ‘Estado actual de la mujer en España’ o ‘La mujer trabajadora’, donde advertía que la emancipación social de las mujeres sería una utopía hasta que éstas no pudieran acceder en igualdad de condiciones al mercado laboral y dejaran de depender de sus maridos. En el texto también critica la disparidad de salarios entre hombres y mujeres en la industria española.

Su obra trazó la senda de una lucha feminista que recuperarán décadas después figuras como Clara Campoamor o Federica Montseny. Ahora, que el debate feminista agita la agenda política en nuestro país, es el momento de recordar a una de sus precursoras más inspiradoras.


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