It has been less than a year since voters elected a Parliament with a record number of women for Spain — 139 out of 350 lawmakers. Within Podemos, which has become Spain’s third-largest party, women make up almost half of female lawmakers. In Spain’s regions, far-left women now serve as mayors in both Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s two largest cities.
But women say they still face big obstacles as they try to make their way in Spanish politics, still predominantly a man’s world. Sexual harassment aside — and it is common — among the problems most commonly cited by women is that men expect their female colleagues to share their views, not have opinions of their own.
“It’s not just about having more women in politics, but also about allowing women to take whatever line they want in their politics,” said Anna Gabriel, a lawmaker from a Catalan far-left party known by its acronym of CUP.
Last year, Ms. Gabriel and female colleagues held a public meeting under the headline “We haven’t come to look good,” to denounce the sexist response to their electoral progress.
During the meeting, each woman in turn read out from a podium some of the choicer insults she had received on the job. They ranged from demeaning comments about their physical appearance to more aggressive insults.
Ms. Gabriel said that, despite her party’s efforts to denounce sexism in politics, she and her colleagues continued to be subjected to attacks that almost invariably mix political criticism with personal insults.
“What we hear has to do with our political stance, but the comments almost always include something about our bodies, sexuality, sexual lives and whether we’re beautiful or not,” she said.
That kind of discourse would of course be familiar to women the world over. The issue of sexism in politics or other pursuits is by no means limited to Spain.
Most prominently it surfaced in the United States last year, when Donald J. Trump was elected president despite a leaked tape in which he bragged about grabbing women.
Last week, a Polish member of the European Union Parliament, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, said during a debate: “Of course women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent.”
In Spain, in January, a judge from the Spanish supreme court, Antonio Salas, sparked outrage after he joined an online debate about the problem of gender violence to argue that “if women had the same physical strength as men, this would not happen.”
Many of the misogynistic attacks have been delivered through social media. Last April, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, a former conservative government spokesman and secretary of state, used Twitter to contrast the looks of Inés Arrimadas, whom he described as “physically attractive as a young female,” with what he called her “political inconsistency.”
Ms. Arrimadas is one of the leading politicians of Ciudanos, or Citizens, another party that won its first seats in the Spanish parliament in late 2015. She responded with a Tweet of her own, saying that “we’re continuing to work so that these proofs of anachronistic machismo become each time more residual.”
Since taking office as Barcelona’s mayor in 2015, Ada Colau has been subject to several sexist insults. Félix de Azúa, a member of the Royal Spanish Academy, the cultural body that is the guardian of the Spanish language, publicly urged Ms. Colau to sell fish in the market rather than run a major city.
Ms. Colau was also told by a local official of the conservative Popular Party, Óscar Bermán, that she was brainless and should be cleaning floors.
In September, the Popular Party suspended Mr. Bermán from office for two years for his comments. The Royal Academy, however, took no disciplinary action against Mr. de Azúa and said that he was not available for further comment.
While deploring such insults, Ms. Colau said that she was proud to have given Barcelona its first City Hall administration with an openly feminist agenda, committed to fighting not only sexism but also domestic violence.
“The sad reality is that sexist comments remain absolutely normal, also in the Spanish media, but that such criticism of women is the most visible but least dangerous part of the problem,” Ms. Colau said in an interview last year. “Dozens of women are killed in Spain every year — and that is a fact and reality.”
Last year, 44 women were killed as a result of domestic violence in Spain, which was the lowest figure since such crimes were first recorded in 2003. Still, protests have recently been held in Madrid to denounce gender violence, as well as to support eight women from an association in northwestern Galicia, who started a hunger strike on Feb. 9 to protest the muted political response to gender crimes.
To observe International Women’s Day on Wednesday, Spanish women, like those elsewhere, were urged to halt their work for 30 minutes. Feminist associations also planned protests in Madrid and other cities, during which participants were urged to dress in black as a symbolic act of mourning against domestic violence and inequality in Spanish society.
Ms. Colau entered politics after working as an activist fighting housing evictions. She said that she had suffered far worse attacks as an activist than as mayor, including sexual harassment.
She never reported such attacks to the police because, she said, “like a lot of other women, I wasn’t confident that it could be resolved judicially — and also because of the social stigma.”
Ms. Rodríguez, the Podemos leader in Andalusia, said she hoped her lawsuit would break “the feeling of impunity” among a large section of the male corporate establishment.
“I felt treated like a source of amusement for people who somehow feel superior not only in terms of gender, but also because of their age and social class,” she said. “If somebody feels he can have such an attitude toward me, imagine how that person might behave with a woman who actually works and gets paid by him.”