The Machismo of Cuba’s Sports Commentators

Yenisel Perez Rodriguez

HAVANA TIMES — The broadcasts of the London Olympics on Cuban national television were nuanced with biased opinions concerning sexual identity in sports.

The most discriminatory opinions were reveled even in sports that excluded the participation of men. A very telling example was the coverage of synchronized swimming.

One commentator suggested that synchronized swimming wasn’t a sport for men. He asserted that in this sport what’s important is to highlight physical beauty as well as artistic-athletic virtues. This observation suggests that male beauty doesn’t exist and that it’s impossible for men to engage in sports and art at the same time.

But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be fooled; this was just the tip of the iceberg.

One could note that these sports commentators were indirectly responding to the pressures being exerted by movements against gender discrimination active in Cuba.

This is a complex process whereby commentators see themselves as being forced to gradually contain their notions about sports, ones with which they could continue creating seas of social damage.

Opinions of these types are reserved to the most bigoted broadcasters, ones who haven’t even been brought into the debate yet.

When one of those sports is democratized, we then see how their artful comments disappear. This happened with Greco-Roman-style and free-style wrestling. Today Cuban sports commentators praise the democratization of those sports.

However this isn’t the same with women’s boxing. The absence of a social consensus concerning the suitability of women’s participation in this sport allows for less consistency among the commentators with regard to their views on gender equality in boxing.

Today they consider it “too violent” for women. This flippancy when it comes to expressing an opinion about the abilities of men and women brings with it a sea of contradictions among the same commentators.

It’s paradoxical that what stands out when you think about the inclusion of women in boxing is the high level of physical violence of the sport, while in the case of men some people are calling for the elimination of the protective headgear, as they seek to make the sport more appealing.

In a general sense it’s symptomatic that sports commentators can so efficiently discover those spaces in which public debate is absent and therefore feel that they’re permitted to unload their prejudices in these areas.

With women’s boxing they make use of their feelings of patriarchal overprotection, which in earlier times were triggered when people first thought about women playing baseball. Now that we have a women’s baseball league, it would be a sin to exhibit such impatience.

But let’s get back to the topic of men discriminating in sports…

In this case, our sports commentators make use of low intensity homophobia. Their sights are aimed at synchronized swimming and gymnastics. For these commentators, it’s unthinkable that a man could base his athletic expertise on the sensual and artistic virtue of his body in dance.