By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — I had patiently been waiting for March 8th to write about women’s valor, although in reality it could have been any day. That which many people don’t appreciate or pretend not to see but which is there, always spontaneously showing its vital presence. And when I say “valor”, it’s important to understand that this is more than courage.
Machista, sexist and partriarchal attitudes which are still heard from time to time, seem so empty. Recognizing how much discrimination still exists and how much women put up with is worse yet, as it goes beyond redemptive laws and projects, out of dependence or just tradition.
Which man isn’t a little bit machista? I have to admit I am. But, I fight against this (cultural only?) backwardness, which pressures us in our inner and outer circles, which can, however, be overcome or minimized by adopting a constructive and conscious attitude. It’s a constant fair and extremely productive battle both for the women around us and for the men who fight it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
I’ve been married to a woman for 4 years, who by chance “isn’t emancipated”. She doesn’t work for wages, but works at home looking after the children and doing domestic chores. If she doesn’t go out and work it’s not because I’ve stopped her from doing so, that’s been her choice. She is 28 years old, she was like this when I met her and for now, she wants to carry on like this: it’s her life plan and she feels useful and recognized because of it.
If she decides to dedicate herself to doing something more than what she does already, I would whole-heartedly support her. I have even encouraged her to do so. I have picked up on her knack for painting and maybe when the kids have grown up a little more, I’ll be able to convince her to spend her time painting. She won’t do it beforehand.
I know how to do everything at home, but I must confess that I only assiduously give attention to my two-year-old baby and make a meal here and there. But, I can become a super househusband if I need to, I’m not kidding! And I’ve needed to lots of times! I must clarify that my previous wife had studied at university while she was married to me and then went out to work. I felt just as comfortable in that relationship. My experience in both marriages on either end of the spectrum has only proven to me that people have different life projects and that “emanicipation” is being able to choose to work which is a right, not a mandatory goal.
However, on such a special day like International Women’s Day I want to highlight the fact that I live surrounded by women: I grew up as the only boy in my family, with my two sisters; my mother has always been close to me ever since I was born; I have my wife, who I love very much and who I feel matches well with me, and at home I’m the father of two beautiful little women, who are 8 and 2 years old.
Many of you will remember when I was arrested for three days last November that it was my wife Idalis who reported on my situation. I had entrusted her with this mission and I was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to do it because of her character: she is very nervous and shy. Even so, I trusted her and she exceeded my expectations. Her courage moved me as did her conviction when she resisted a strong dose of manipulation which she received when she went to the jail to try and unsuccessfully see me.
They even threatened to arrest her right there on the spot, which would have meant the kids would be left alone, while they told her that I would be locked up for a long time. They also threatened to harm her family financially and blame her for it. Everything so she would stop informing online media platforms. However, she stood firm and continued to denounce my arrest.
It just so happened that we had run out of money at home during those days, there wasn’t any water because the aqueduct was broken and there wasn’t even credit on the cellphone. Friends and colleagues who supported her weren’t in shortage, which still moves me and I am eternally grateful.
It was only once I was back at home that my strong Idalia collapsed. She spent several weeks with her nerves burnt out, as if she had held in all her fear, pain and anger because of her impotence, for when she could suffer them. I looked after her with the same care I always do, but this time with a touch of great pride, until she recovered.
Very little is said of all the evil that authoritarianism causes, not only in Cuba but in any country that suffers from it. What ended up being published was only the tip of a huge iceberg which remains hidden in dark memories.
My sick mother, who is obese, who has heart disease, high blood pressure, who had just recovered from a bad spell just before, really worried me, to the point that my strength was rattled at times, but for a few seconds only luckily. But, she was just as strong. Now, even though she sometimes tells me that she would prefer I was living in exile, her missing me, than running the risks I do here by her side for being a decent human being and saying what I think, I already know how brave she is and she has never censored me.
This is what our women are, stronger than what they seem and more capable of what even they think they can do. I believe in equal rights for all human beings, even when they are inevitably different. I believe that social limits shouldn’t exist, of any kind, that hinder women’s or any human being’s development.
Machismo still exists both in men and women and it will take a long time for it to be completely corrected, maybe never, but a lot has been done and we need to keep fighting for more. Every right and opportunity is a little step to make up for what men have done to women, as they are the creators of life. It’s a more than a holy task.