Masculinity in Cuba

Yenisel Rodriguez

Photo: Elio Delgado

Presented at the last book fair held in Cuba was one of the first studies on masculinity produced by Cuban academia.

A few weeks prior I had learned through some friends about the aims of Estudios de Masculinidad (Studies of Masculinity):

– “It’s a complement to feminism because it’s centered on the sociocultural universe of men.”

– “It doesn’t pose masculinity against femininity as does gender studies. It studies men just as they are… from within. It seeks to leave male prejudices and biases behind.”

That was how my friends talked about the matter.

“Great!” I told myself. Finally “someone” realizes that men are much more than domineering sex maniacs. Now we will be able to express — without fear of whipping up feminist suspicions — our concerns about the subtle discrimination and marginalization that we too suffer.

The situation is such that I sometimes think that one expects us to pay for all the historical horrors of patriarchy, and with no right in the least to complain. Sinners and saints, all to the fiery stakes.

Has anyone ever wondered what happens to those men who confront their own and others’ machismo daily?

One afternoon a male friend asked me to mediate an argument that was going on — for more than half an hour — around the sexist thoughts of the bricklayer who was working for my neighbors. The dispute was over the rights of men and women.

I wasn’t qualified to fulfill the role of judge, nevertheless from the beginning I allied with my friend’s anti-sexist critique.

The bricklayer spoke, and hearing him I recognized some of the validity of his arguments. He complained about the abuse meted out against him at certain times by his wife. Beyond some of the criticisms that he made, his defensive attitude was legitimate to some degree.

At that precise moment I remembered the launching of “Macho, varon, masculino. Estudios de masculinidad en Cuba” (Man, Male, Masculine: Studies of Masculinity in Cuba), by the doctor in historical sciences Julio Caesar Gonzales Pages. In my friend’s eyes and those of the bricklayer I could see expectations. They promised to buy the book before continuing the discussion. Plus it was a good way out of that mess for me.

I too bought the book and began reading it. To my surprise, I didn’t make it to page 15 before my expectations had already turned to ashes. From the very beginning, this book by Dr. Cesar was misleading as to the authentic character and the logic of masculinity. If we fall for these errors in the study of what is masculine, it’s almost inevitable that men will end up in the defendant’s seat.

“Hey, this book is lame,” my friend yelled at me the next day, passing in front of my house.

His comment brought the bricklayer to my mind. I imagined him reading the text at home, laying down and making a Herculean effort not to fall asleep after such a long day. I pictured him reading with the intention of being able to validate some of the ideas that I expressed that day, yet he would only discover diatribes and questions.

I went back to the room to confirm my ideas. In the book’s index I re-read:

– “Fear of feminism”
– “Visualizing violence”
– “Where does male honor come from?”
– “Masculinity and violence or the violence of masculinity?”

As well as things like: “Violence, violence and more violence.”

Since then, my friend and the bricklayer have joined in complaining to me, as have many others, about the need for real studies to be conducted in Cuban academia by those who needn’t effusively demonstrate the absence of women’s blood on our hands in order to be able to be heard.

Adam also needs a song of momentous liberation in times of women’s liberation, a song that begins by praising his beauty.