Talking about Gender Relations in Cuba

Dariela Aquique

On Neptuno St. in Havana. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 21 — US professor Ted Henken, who is doing work on gender and the online media, developed a questionnaire for some of us Havana Times bloggers to give our opinions.

As the subject of gender relations in Cuba is truly attractive and deals with topics that I haven’t touched on in my posts, I wanted to share some of my views regarding certain focuses in the professor’s survey.

He asked how we characterized gender relations in Cuba, what are the particular issues related to this that are confronting the country, and what relationship we saw between gender, politics and public life. Later on he asked about the phenomenon of machismo on the island.

What I replied concerning gender relations in Cuba was that I don’t think this is the focal point of our society. Domestic violence and some discrimination do exist, but not on an alarming scale if we compare here to Latin America or some Muslim cultures.

To be honest, I don’t think Cuba is one of the Latin American countries that has experienced sexism in its cruelest expressions.

Independently of whether some macho manifestations endure, undoubtedly remnants of a Latino idiosyncrasy here, I think women in Cuba are fairly independent and possess a great sense of emancipation by nature.

It should be noted, however, that the revolutionary process in the country has promoted the integration of women into all spheres of society.

Likewise, major efforts such as the Literacy Campaign and mass organizations like the “Jovenes Rebeldes” (Young Rebels) that were created in the early years, pulled women from out of their homes to turn them into workers, students and militia members in an effort to make equal rights between women and men a reality.

This doesn’t mean that sometimes we haven’t been victims of discrimination against occupying certain positions, for example. The greatest proportion of men continues to exist in the ministries, government, etc. (but this happens all over the world).

With respect to the Cuba of the past, from my perspective there is a key example: pimping, which exists in societies that are basically macho, and occurs due to the inability demonstrated by women to confront the difficult and old profession of prostitution by themselves.

In today’s Cuba, prostitutes who have pimps do so purely for pleasure and suffer from a total subversion of values. Here, women don’t have to depend on men economically, nor does our culture or society simplify life for females.

I think that despite all of this, the greatest issue of gender facing the country is the increase of prostitution, the result of the disastrous state of our economy. Here there exists the formula: weak economic base = deformed superstructure.

Currently there is a proliferation of meretriciousness, mainly among girls, who with the goal of leaving the country or to improve the quality of their lives give up their careers and engage in prostitution and even pornography.

As the “skills” are exercised mainly with foreigners, many tourists hold negative images of Cuban women. Here is where the relationship between gender, politics and public life begins to become a little distorted.

This contrasts with the government’s desperate attempts to always portray its’ pretty side to the world through its official media.

To do so, they talk about the large percentages of women professionals and intellectuals in the country, the role of women in society, and their equal rights and duties with respect to men – even in national defense.

These statistics help in the implementation of policy. However one never hears of scandals involving the corruption of minors, pornography or prostitution. The secrecy and double standards — that bacillus hosted for more than half a century in Cuban society — show where gender, politics and public life lose their connection.

Among other issues that I discussed in the study, these were some of the aspects among the so many others involved with the issue of gender relations in Cuba.


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

Dariela Aquique has 233 posts and counting. See all posts by Dariela Aquique

2 thoughts on “Talking about Gender Relations in Cuba

  • Gender equality will start emerging when those who use prostitutes are arrested and charged with a crime.

  • There is another element of gender relations worth noting in Cuba. As a result of the Cuban mindset that Cuban women are generally more beautiful than say haitian women, Cuban women tend to spend more time and resource focused on maintaining their physical appearance. This, despite fewer resources and greater sacrifices to do so. For example, a cuban woman is more likely to get her hair tinted leaving no money left over for other household necesities than say a woman from Honduras. Cuban men encourage this misdirection of scant resources through their machista preference that cuban women look good, even if it means not eating that day. Appearances, rather than say, scholastic achievement or other non-physical measures of attraction are disproportionately important in Cuban society. Once a woman reaches a certain age, and no longer is willing or able to be measured by her physical attributes, her value in Cuban society diminishes significantly. As a result, to be taken seriously as a middle age woman in Cuba, a woman must have extraordinary attributes in other areas. This paradox exists all over the world and especially throughout Latin America. It stands out in Cuba.

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