Another Joyless March 8th

Ladies in White being arrested for trying to walk down the street with gladiolas.

By Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES – Messages are received in every possible way; people feel like we need to wish each other a happy International Women’s Day.

A friend tells me it’s just an excuse to remember the blessing it is to have each other in our lives. Another says that women are the most beautiful flower, and this comes with a hundred corny stickers with red roses and an explosion of stars. A neighbor gives me loads of compliments and wishes me “a wonderful day”.

There are plenty of happy wishes along my morning walk, which are because people feel they need to, because it’s the day, it pretty much sounds like its coming from a tape recorder and not from human beings. Then there’s the opportunists that take the day to leave their sweet-talking blubber all over you, with all of their lust that makes my stomach turn: “Happy women’s day”, with their eyes staring at any part of my body, biting their lower lip or sticking their tongue out, and then demanding a response, for me not to be so rude.

I don’t doubt the sincere wishes from people I know, I know they are wishing me the best from their heart, because I also want the same for them. But I find it amazing how a day of struggle has become so trivial. How, despite these struggles, we continue to carry old shackles such as objectification, alleged weakness, the obligation to do what’s expected of us. Believing that March 8th is a day of hollow wishes, is to go against its very essence. But beyond that, doing this just proves a complete lack of empathy, especially this year.

The world is going crazy, some of you will tell me that it’s always been like this, and you’re right, but we aren’t talking about rhetoric this time, we are witnessing a threat we haven’t seen in years. On top of that, the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC) – the organization that is supposed to represent us – hasn’t taken a public stance against a powerful country’s invasion of a smaller country. I haven’t seen NO TO THE RUSSIAN INVASION posters anywhere, nor have they officially announced their solidarity with Ukrainian women; so we can’t believe them at all when they shout “Down with Imperialism”. Imperialism isn’t a country.

Cuba is in chaos. There’s so much that needs to be sorted out on a political, domestic, social, economic, cultural level, that good wishes are like a drop of rain in a sea of rage. Last year, there were over thirty femicides and we continue without shelters for women who suffer abuse. Life has become even more precarious between the pandemic and currency reform.

Women are alone at the head of many families, trying to survive, torn between looking after their children and their parents, women of all ages who must deal with work, lines, shortages, inflation, abandonment, a lack of privacy in their homes…

July 11th last year revolutionized everything: the number of female political prisoners, of women separated from their children, Right now there are hundreds of families suffering because of unfair sentences. We have witnessed growing police violence; we can see this in videos on this day and more recent ones. The Government has forced most activists to leave the country, and the ones who stay here are being constantly harassed, threatened, and attacked.

The high number of women in Cuban Parliament continue to fail in representing us. The animal protection community, where women are the majority, continue to lack legal protection, stigmatization from society and a lack of resources to help the growing number of stray animals on the street.

Young women prefer to leave the country, to seek new horizons. Pictures of migrant caravans are shocking: lots of them are women, with their families, who prefer to cross the Darien Gap, Rio Grande, sell the little they have to pay traffickers for their journey.

The Damas de Blanco can’t walk down the street with flowers, they are taken away as if they were holding weapons.

There’s not a lot to celebrate with so many people suffering. The progress Cuban women have made has been thanks to their struggle, nobody’s ever given them anything, with the Revolution or before the Revolution. This is the way it’ll be with everything we still need to fight for.

Read more by Irina Echarry here.