Cuba’s New “Feminist” Culture Inspectors

Veronica Vega

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES – A lawyer told me, very seriously, that Decree-Law 349 is one of the measures that has been conceived to respond to demands of including regulation in the new Constitution, which guarantees that Cuban women’s rights are respected.

Her remark left me speechless. My mind went blank, as you say. I must admit that people’s naivety really surprises me. Naivety in the sense that they choose to continue to trust whatever they read/hear in our official media.

Not because they don’t hear, or because they resist giving credit to, but because they don’t compare it to any other version. Not even to our bleak reality, and even to our common sense which is extremely underestimated.

There is no article or clause in the entire document that is now being debated, even among artists linked to state institutions, that mentions women.

Articles 3.1 and 4.1 set out violations relating to the use of movies and music “with pornographic, violent content with sexist, vulgar, discriminatory and obscene language, as well as discrimination because of skin color, sexual orientation, disability or anything else that harms human dignity, or attacks the healthy development of children and teenagers, artistic performances that incite violence, violating permitted sound and noise levels or the abusive use of electrical devices or means.”

This is the most positive synthesis of the decree-law and if only this were the true nature of what led to its conception in the first place. The rest directly focusses on delegitimizing the authority of artists and home owners in relation to “offering artistic services”, and measures such as fines, confiscating equipment and a blurry “other belongings”.

Reggaeton is the music genre that fits Articles 3.1 and 4.1 outline. And it’s true that it does present women as an object of crude sexual gratification, using a language that is violent and pornographic a lot of the time.

And in spite of “art” today being a dynamic quality, which is constantly evolving, we can’t deny that reggaeton music videos figure among the least creative in terms of aesthetics and concept.

Yes, the contents of these videos could harm human diginity and their dissemination does attack the healthy development of children and teenagers.

However, it’s also true that reggaeton has been (and continues to be) mediatized to death. It is accepted and promoted by the Cuban State’s very own institutions.

Like all artistic content that is subject to promotion, every song’s lyrics is carefully scrutinized not only by Culture’s watchmen, but also by “national security”.

Regulations about the act of bothering others by playing music at an inappropriate volume, already existed in Cuba’s Penal Code, and anyone who was willing to defend civil behavior could have called on them, reporting this act in person to the nearest national police station, without having to go to a “culture” inspector.

If the laws that have been in force for decades were applied regularly and had become habit, no driver would put music on at inadmissable volumes in their vehicle, and passengers would know the risk of “abusively using electronic devices”.

You don’t have to be that bright to deduce that 349 wasn’t conceived to have a side effect against machistas, mysogynists and other opponents of women’s integrity or dignity.

They are even stripping us of our right to use national symbols, and they are voiding our sacred right to organize a viewing and share art, no matter how real it is, in our own homes. It doesn’t matter whether the product we are sharing manages to immerse us in a “state of disinterestedness, where things reveal themselves in their greatest purity.” (Schopenhauer)

That is to say, it doesn’t matter whether the artistic event redeems, educates, regenerates… only the legal capacity of the person who is performing and/or offering it as a service matters.

It was a law that was conceived with a clear target on the heart of the independent artistic movement, read here: artists, the self-employed, or anyone who dares to brandish the flag of emancipation (of speech or economic).

In spite of revising the (official and alternative) cultural options that are available on the island, which are undoubtedly necessary; in spite of the dangerous trivialization and social decline that we can see, right now decree-law 349 has made protecting our individual freedom urgent, so that we can then defend our right to an art and laws that defend the physical and moral integrity of women, teenage and young girls.   

Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: I believe that truth has power and the word can and should be an extension of the truth. I think that is also the role of Art and the media. I consider myself an artist, but above all, a seeker and defender of the Truth as an essential element of what sustains human existence and consciousness. I believe that Cuba can and must change and that websites like Havana Times contribute to that necessary change.



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