Women’s Studies in Cuba

Granma International

womenOne of the priorities of more than a few institutions and research centers in Cuba has been to promote the dissemination of studies about women. Taking these debates beyond the walls of academia is fundamental to communication in a world which must become increasingly inclusive.

Dr. Isabel Moya Richard, president of the José Martí International Journalism Institute’s Gender and Communication Studies faculty, shared her opinions on the subject.

How are Gender Studies faring in Cuba at this time?

I think this is a very good time because reflection has begun to develop from within. The creation of 33 Women’s Studies faculties, the existence of a Gender Studies Masters program and the Federation of Cuban Women’s Center for Studies of Women, have been developing knowledge through investigations which allow for our own analysis of the Cuban reality.

Also beginning to be noted is an incipient bibliography, making available the thinking of Cuban researchers on these issues. On some questions we are even fairly advanced, such as in the study of masculinities.

How has the post-graduate course Gender and Communication contributed to better understanding of the issues?

The course emerged in 2002 and was a result, in the first place, of the sensitivity of Guillermo Cabrera, director of the Institute at that time, which hosted the Gender and Communication faculty. We began with smaller efforts. Later we were able to develop this course, from which more than 200 persons from Latin America and Spain have graduated, allowing for the development of other workshops and seminars. The course is one of the many activities we carry out.

Women function in a world in which the male point of view predominates in social relations. How will the moment arrive when a female point of view exists as well?

The problem is not to propose a world from the masculine or feminine point of view. The great challenge – what feminism really aspires to – is to see a world for human beings, with recognition of diversity, of the multiple ways that being a man or a women can be structured.

I believe that the obligatory mandates, about what it means to be a woman or a man, are the big problem of contemporary society. In practice, we see that there are different ways to assume it [gender identity]. These approaches must be developed based on the opportunities, the interests, the desires of people, not by strict cultural mandates. Therein lies the importance of the media providing debate of these issues.

At times, the efforts of the media are very simplistic. It is either a superwoman who is practically impossible to emulate, doesn’t provide an example to anyone because she doesn’t have her own life, or the model of a woman who must renounce having a family to be successful, or on the other hand, maternity as something obligatory and forced. These frameworks don’t lead anywhere.

What responsibility do media professionals have?

I think they must present this reality as a problem. On certain dates we interview magnificent, marvelous, self-sacrificing women, but the way maternity is experienced is not presented as a problem. Why do so few men care for their children from the age of six months to a year, when they have the same benefits?

Women, unfortunately, can also be machistas, because this is an ideology present in society. We have been educated this way.

At times, it is believed that, given the accomplishments Cuban women have achieved in public life, equality has been achieved. We have advanced a great deal in political participation. As a country, we have the second greatest number of female parliamentarians in the world, but there is a cultural challenge which is much more difficult to overcome. There is an extensive cultural scaffolding, which permeates everything from the home to the mass media, continuing to shape us in the traditional way. That is why it is important to present as a problem the specific case of Cuba, where so much has been accomplished and there are problems which other countries don’t have.