HAVANA TIMES — With Aylee Ibañez’s documentary La corrupcion de la memoria (The Corruption of Memory) — consisting of the testimony of a young girl who was raped by her uncle, the capital city’s showing of “Calladita no te ves mas bonita”* (When you’re silent you’re not prettier) came to a conclusion.
The exhibition, which kicked off in the city of Holguin, “focused on the family to raise awareness in Cuba about violence against women.”
This was facilitated by a panel of speakers, a display of paintings by 14 artists and a concert with a host of different musicians. All of this took place on December 21 at Havana’s Riviera Cinema.
This was under the overall coordination and curation of Paulina Marquez Perez, whose “motivation began two years ago with the exhibit ‘Mirar desde la sospecha’ (Looking with Suspicion) sponsored by the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) and now thanks to the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Grupo de Reflexion y Solidaridad.”
Led by psychologist and blogger Sandra Alvarez, the panel discussed its criteria and research findings concerning this form of violence. This led to a discussion with the audience, which while small in numbers was given the opportunity to question, debate and share points of view.
Attorney Majela Romero explained: “Psychological violence is less visible than other forms. Sometimes we don’t know how to distinguish between violence and cultural traditions. Symbolic violence conceals power relations that seem legitimate. Violence is reproduced when society focuses on other issues (such as) verbal and written communication that is produced and reproduced. It becomes routinized, normalized.”
Alluding to what’s socially recognized, the panelist pointed out that: “Women exist to satisfy their partner sexually and to be faithful. They’re here to look pretty… while they belong to men and are required to obey them.”
Danae Dieguez (a professor at the Instituto Superior de Arte and a film researcher) explained: “The most that Cuban cinema has achieved is to represent physical violence against women – not question it…. Our cinema needs to speak to reality, people expect it. There’s a group of filmmakers who are trying to distance themselves from the norm.” She added that there should be a decolonization of the Western view as the model for cinema.
Referring to assumptions of Cuban society, she said: “Women after the age of 40 are useless. A woman has to be attractive, perfect, good wives, good mothers and good daughters.”
Journalist Helen Hernandez illustrated to us the omission and concealment of women in the visual arts. She said it’s believed that “photography is not a specialty for women.
“Only two women have made feature films in Cuba. Writings (literature) have revealed how the epic of the construction of the ‘new man’ didn’t give them opportunities,” she asserted. Hernandez noted that with regard to Cuban narratives, “there are women in positions of power as writers, and they’re autonomous, but they are called into question.”
In addition, Helen said there is “violence between women who are related,” with this existing as a generational struggle. She argued about physical violence and who “the role of the victim is complicated by creating emotional bonds with the perpetrator.”
During the debate:
“There exists economic violence. Women live with extremely high levels of stress. Fatherhood doesn’t respond to this. Women are mothers and fathers, with two and three jobs as they participate in the underground economy. Women also face the domestic chores, but they have created strategies for survival and for dealing with violence. “
The panel responded:
“Lewd harassment and abuse pay tribute to a patriarchal and androcentric culture.”
“The Cuban justice system has holes in this regard. It re-victimizes women. It’s difficult to prove psychological violence.”
Audience members stated several times that when people say feminism, “Cuban women are the ones who best understand what this means.”
“We want to be neither Sappho nor Messalina. There are other ways to be human and free,” said Helen.
*The phrase is used in a positive way in Cuba.