- Am I that Body? Seccion Femenina de la FET and the Struggle for the Institution of Physical Education and Competitive Sports for Women in Franco's Spain
- Journal of Social History
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 39, Number 4, Summer 2006
- pp. 989-1010
- View Citation
- Additional Information
- Purchase/rental options available:
The Feminine Section of the Spanish Falange (Sección Femenina de la FET - SF), founded in June 1934, was for almost four decades the official women's organization of Franco's Spain, reaching in its height a total of 680,000 members. Yet despite its impressive size and diverse activities, the organization received little attention from historians. A number of new works have been published recently which attempt to redress the balance. This is achieved mainly through an in-depth examination of the experiences of a small number of SF members at a local level, and the relations of those members with the larger women's population in their provinces. Yet an analysis looking at the formulation and implementation of policy at a macro level is still missing. When issues of policy were addressed at such a level in the past, this was done for the most part through an examination of legislation and formal rhetoric. The current paper will look at one such aspect of national policy, namely, the promotion of physical education and competitive sport for women.
Like in the cases of Italian Fascism and German Nazism, the SF saw in sport a tool for creating healthier future mothers and imposing on women discipline and group consciousness. The policy in this field aimed to expose the largest number of young girls and women to basic sporting activities through compulsory classes of physical education (PE) within schools, the youth movement, university and the work place. However, it also created a space where pride, nurturing and even public exposure of the female body were acceptable. The article looks at the struggle for the institution of female sports carried against the wishes of most of the Church hierarchy and of many educators and some parents; at the training of PE instructors as young and attractive agents working in an often hostile environment; and the way in which the SF capitalized on the uniqueness of its policy in this field in order to highlight its distinctiveness from other groups within the Francoist coalition.