‘Feminist’ by Emilia Pardo Bazán, translated by Maria Cristina Urruela

Emilia Pardo Bazán (1851-1921) is an extraordinary figure in Spanish literature. Encouraged by her enlightened father to pursue her education and read whatever she wanted, she was an admirer of Zola and both praised and reviled for introducing Naturalism to Spain. Her ideas on feminism were extremely radical for the time (she judged Spain to be about two hundred years behind the rest of European in terms of sexual equality) and she spoke often about the need for women to receive the same access to education as men.

Pardo Bazán’s outspoken views on female emancipation were considered so scandalous that her husband finally demanded she end her career. She ended her marriage instead, and went on to become Spain’s first female university professor. Best known for her novels, Pardo Bazán also produced nearly six hundred short stories, many of which are very brief, little more than telling vignettes. In ‘Feminist’ – the title itself is a bold statement – we learn how a man has kept his doting wife in her place: on their wedding night he commanded her to put on his trousers, then told her that she would never “wear the trousers” in their relationship again. The tables are turned, though, when the man becomes an invalid, dependent on his wife’s care. Then she gets her own back by making him wear her petticoat every morning and leaving him in it while she goes about other duties, “Just so you know that now you must wear it for the rest of your life.”

First published as ‘Feminista’, translation in Torn Lace and Other Stories, The Modern Language Association of America, 1996