By Ania Terrero
Cubadebate journalist. Graduated in 2018 from the Faculty of Communication of the University of Havana.
On Twitter @AniaTerrero
July 16, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Media that accuse, simplify or ignore victims of gender-based violence; others that silence inequalities. Soap operas that show women concerned about their relationships, motherhood and only later, sometimes for professional fulfillment. Video clips with abundant shots of almost naked dancers, offering their charms to the artist in charge. Advertisements where, while they cook, wash and dream of ideal household appliances, they drive luxury cars and manage life beyond the home.
The list is long: sexist stereotypes are repeated ad nauseam in the media and cultural industries. Over and over again, patriarchal principles are naturalized [socially “acceptable”] according to which women should be beautiful, sensual and delicate, take care of household chores and children, fulfill the sexual desires of their partners and belong to men. They perpetuate, in short, other forms of abuse, although this time in a symbolic way.
In the words of the French theorist Pierre Bourdieu, symbolic violence refers to a group of meanings imposed as valid and legitimate by the patriarchal culture, which are based on male supremacy and domination and, therefore, have a close relationship with power and authority. But the conflict is more complex and has many forms.
As explained by the journalist, professor and expert in gender issues Isabel Moya, in her article From Silence to Media Show, this phenomenon implies “the reproduction in the mass media, and in general, in the cultural industries of a sexist, patriarchal, misogynist discourse that relies on prejudices and stereotypes to present reality and social processes in all areas: the productive and reproductive, the public and the private, the basis of the economic structure and the socio-cultural superstructure”.
In other words, a kind of vicious circle is produced in which the makers of these discourses validate and transmit myths and macho images which, in turn, they inherited from previous generations. By the work and grace of the latent patriarchy, stereotypes persist and are amplified as informative, audiovisual and entertainment alternatives grow.
This happens, moreover, in a world where a relatively small group of transnational companies dominate the information and entertainment market. Conglomerates such as AOL-Time Warner, Disney, Sony, News Corporation, Viacom and Bertelsmann dictate the what and the how. They decide what global audiences will see, hear and enjoy. In short, a few decide for many and influence them.
The greatest danger lies in the fact that, directly or indirectly, they tend to naturalize a gender-biased construction and a subordination scheme where women play at a disadvantage. As a result, it contributes to reproducing the causes of male violence against women and girls.
“The media establish, through their discourses, an axis of cultural matrices, where the hegemonic power is made explicit and reproduced. They constitute one of the mechanisms of reproduction of the patriarchy on the level of subjectivity,” Moya said.
In relation to the above, symbolic male violence must be analyzed in a broader context. As the journalist specializing in gender issues, Lirians Gordillo, explained to Cubadebate, feminism and gender theory had the clarity to demonstrate the interconnection between different forms of discrimination. “The relationship between patriarchy, capitalism and racism, among others, as systems of oppression, allows them to be sustained and updated,” she said.
Therefore, symbolic macho violence is accentuated and acquires particular nuances when other categories such as skin color, place of residence, sexual orientation and gender diversity are involved. It is vital to recognize these forms because they allow us to identify zones of silence where it grows and intensifies.
Abuses that are hidden from view
The first step in dismantling symbolic male violence is to learn to identify it, but this is rarely easy. It often takes more subtle forms than physical, economic, sexual and even psychological. Moreover, it happens in a world of cultures and words where norms are not always clear, where almost everything is considered valid and where, therefore, feminist demands are often assumed to be excesses or exaggerations.
This phenomenon goes beyond perhaps obvious manifestations, such as the objectification of the female body and the re-victimization of those who suffer gender-based violence. Many times, it begins in apparently simple expressions such as silence or absence. The fact that many of the inequities and discriminations that women face today do not usually appear in the media and in entertainment products is a form of abuse.
In the opinion of Lirians Gordillo, because of the fact that what is not named does not exist, removing women with diverse identities from the public stage means not seeing them as people with rights.
“In the Cuban case, we are not talking about women in an abstract concept, but about those who are marked by other features such as skin color, age, gender identity, sexual orientation or the presence of a disability. Perhaps the most absent are transsexual women, lesbian women and black women,” she said.
Addressing gender conflicts from a lack of knowledge, reproducing the stereotypes that make them possible, is as serious, if not more so. According to Isabel Moya, these issues have gone from being “what is not talked about” to being illuminated by the spotlight.
However, she explained, “the lights only illuminate some issues: violence against women, abortion, marriage between homosexuals or lesbians… But more than true light, what prevails, with its honorable exceptions, is the banal approach, the morbidness, the sensationalism that becomes yellowish in some cases. Commonplaces that support myths and stereotypes are repeated ad nauseam”.
And there goes another form of symbolic violence that is almost never evident. Sexism, prejudices and macho representations dominate a good part of the informative and leisure production in the world where we move. They validate a model where women, in more or less obvious ways, are subordinated to men, depend on them or, when they try to make a difference, are excluded. These problems do not only affect them, but also all those who break with the moulds of an essentially conservative society.
Video clips and songs that depict women as objects of desire, films that sell stories where violent men fall in love with nice girls and these girls do their best to save them from themselves, advertising that outlines the roles assigned to each sex and promotes an unattainable ideal of beauty, comedy shows that ridicule homosexual relationships, sensationalist headlines and the stereotypical treatment of gender violence that gains space in the media are just some examples of this phenomenon.
Moya mentions others: “Symbolic violence is exercised when women of the South are treated with folkloristic or xenophobic approaches; when love between women is blamed; when so-called ‘women’s issues’ are confined only to certain sections of newspapers or newsreels; when the lyrics of a song cry out to the four winds to ‘punish’ it; when the protagonist of a series for teenagers only lives for her ‘perfect physique’ and we see her multiplied in dolls, T-shirts and disposable cups”.
The persistence of a sexist language, which privileges the use of the masculine as a universal generic, evidences other forms of macho abuse in the symbolic realm, said Gordillo. This goes beyond written or oral expression and is manifested in other ways in audiovisual products. “We have to analyze what the conflicts of women and men are in series and films, in what roles they appear, and what relationships they establish between themselves,” he added.
Cuba, realities and challenges of a latent violence
Although the work of training and education on gender issues among journalists, communicators, artists and creators has already begun to bear fruit, Cuba does not escape the examples and consequences of symbolic violence.
According to Lirians Gordillo, in audiovisual production, with a few exceptions, a patriarchal representation of women persists. The usual conflicts and interests for them are still the traditional ones: family, couple relationships, aging. Even when they have an active public and professional life, the problems associated with it are subordinated to the previous ones.
As Cuban researchers have pointed out, the public arena is one of the main spaces of progress for Cuban women. “They tend to have greater participation and representation in decision-making in different spheres, but patriarchal relations still prevail within the domestic sphere. It is very curious how this reality is represented in fiction, soap operas and other products,” said the journalist.
At the same time, research on the Cuban press has detected challenges and obstacles that still limit the treatment of issues related to macho violence, human trafficking, feminist struggles, inclusive language and good ways of doing gender journalism.
The last ten years have made some differences if we are talking about symbolic violence. For Gordillo, if one analyzes the informative and entertainment production in that period, one finds more professionals within the communication interested in breaking with macho stereotypes and more communicative products that assume diversity.
This shows the possibilities of a real change and its consequences. However, he said, the majority of products continue to reproduce symbolic violence, even, sometimes, with the intention of being inclusive and not reproducing stereotypes.
According to the journalist, good intentions are not enough because the way we look, the visual codes, the construction and representation of that reality have been formed and educated from the patriarchy. “We have to unlearn many stereotypes, many representations and many macho codes. That needs knowledge, it takes a process of questioning, of getting out of comfort zones above all,” she said.
In this way, filmmakers, artists and communication professionals must combine personal preparation with the use of advisors and specialists when building works and products that approach these issues. Even in those who do not touch on gender conflicts directly, prior training is necessary because these issues usually cut across any representation of society. Alliances between academia, research, communications and artistic creation are vital.
Diversity and systematization of communication products that address male violence is another key point. “Due to its complexity, this problem cannot be analyzed in a single communicative product, once a year or in a specialized media. It is a conflict that needs to be discussed, represented and deconstructed in a systematic and diverse way,” said Gordillo.
Male violence and its expression in the symbolic realm is an urgent challenge. It limits and threatens women’s lives and their rights, but it also affects the development of the nation. Therefore, the best possible response will be one that combines social, political, legal, educational and health efforts, among others, and is articulated as a comprehensive policy. In short, the country we want to be is also at stake.
Published: Wednesday 08 July 2020 | 12:10:47 am
By Mileyda Menéndez Dávila
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Let me shut up about your silence.
Have you noticed how many times a man explains to a woman or a girl something she already knows, often in an affected tone? That attitude is a type of micro-machismo that since 2008 is identified with the term “mansplaining” (its literal translation would be “macho-explanation”), and it is a typical [form of] gender violence, a patriarchal mechanism that takes away from the value of the female experience in order to silence it.
It can be an unconscious act, transmitted for centuries through diverse cultural channels. When it is brought to their attention, some revise their attitude and try to unlearn it.
WHEN DOES IT HAPPEN?
It can happen at home, at work or in any public place, to women of any age or social status:
You tell a story and he interrupts you because he thinks he can tell it better, even if it’s an experience of your own.
In a children’s fight, the boy is first asked to explain what happened and is held responsible for what the girl involved does or says.
Male health care workers downplaying female ailments
You propose to discuss a vital issue and you are stopped with a derogatory ¨no start with your stuff¨
A service provider disregards your opinion about the problem whose solution you are going to entrust to him
When you complain about the way they treat you, they ask you if you are ¨on your days¨
When arranging a payment or service you are asked if there is not a man in the family to represent you
Your colleagues reinterpret your ideas to present them as their own, without giving you credit
You are describing something and a man interrupts you to talk about another source ¨más importante¨, without acknowledging your expertise on the subject
They refer you to deepen your publications on a subject and they don’t even notice that they are yours
In a task of your responsibility, they ask someone of a lower professional level for his judgment because he is a man!
Anatomy of the macho-explicator:
Interrupts with intimidating or arrogant gestures
Explaina in a condescending or professorial tone
Raises his voice to cancel yours
Smile with irony and dismiss your demands for respect
He doesn’t look at you when he talks, he prefers to look at another man
If you criticize him, he establishes a hostile silence
Cut the chain:
To curb male chauvinism, you must first be aware that not because it’s often right
Let him know that you perceive that attitude as violence, and that even if it’s not intentional, it hurts
Stand firm when speaking, change your tone slightly and raise your voice if necessary so that you are not cut off
Defend your position with firm arguments, without apologizing for having your own viewpoint
If they insist on explaining the obvious to you, ask questions that will show how deep your knowledge is
Support other women when you see them being silenced, both at home and in public spaces
The intention, expressed or underlying, in this type of violence is to control the woman, to deprive her of dignity, self-esteem, autonomy and voice; thus, she is modeled as an extension of the man and all her value lies in the union of beauty and utility, her “respect” for the rules that are pointed out to her, her obedience and her disposition to fulfill basic tasks: home order, accompaniment, pleasure and reproduction
Author: Victor Fowler | firstname.lastname@example.org
May 29, 2020 00:05:36
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
This is the name given to the set of attitudes, actions, expressions, speeches and devices of all kinds that aim to control, humiliate, degrade or cause physical, moral, economic, sexual or psychological suffering or harm to a woman just because of her condition. It is a constitutive characteristic of relationships of domination-submission and those who participate in the process occupy the roles of victimizer or victim.
The intention, expressed or underlying, in this type of violence is to control the woman, to deprive her of dignity, self-esteem, autonomy and voice; thus, she is modeled as an extension of man and her entire value lies in the union of beauty and utility, her “respect” for the rules that are set forth, her obedience and her willingness to fulfill basic tasks: home order, companionship, pleasure and reproduction.
The manifestations of violence against women can be either continuous or discontinuous, refined or crude, subtle or evident, charged with anger and the application of physical force (pushing, hitting) or psychological and expressed through silence, disinterest or the devaluation of what the woman thinks or feels. The above-mentioned devices cover all areas and moments in the victim’s life and are presented as a mixture in which there are – acting in conjunction – elements of prevention, “education”, surveillance, control, blackmail, discipline and punishment.
Although the extreme cases (beating, physical attack, rape or femicide) become public – thanks to the intervention of the Law and the mass media – most violence against women is “naturalized” and takes place in the public space, in situations of apparent normality, or “inside” the families, where there are no witnesses. Violence against women denies women the right to decide what kind of intervention they want or accept, what forms of social exchange and even what limits.
Examples of the above are actions with a sexual content such as compliments, unsolicited physical contact, harassment and sexual aggression; discrimination (direct or indirect, at work or otherwise) due to the status of women; threats with respect to child support or power, and the dynamics of patriarchal and androcentric authoritarianism in the family, the workplace or any place in public space and society.
Bibliography consulted (main sources)
El género en el derecho (Gender in Law). Ramiro Ávila Santamaría; Judith Salgado and Lola Valladares (compilation). Quito: Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, 2009.
Gamba, Susana- Diz, Tania. Diccionario de estudios de género y feminismos. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2007.
Jokin Azpiazu Carballo. Masculinities and feminism. Barcelona: Virus Editorial, 2017.
Straka, Ursula (coordinator). Gender violence. Caracas: Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, Posgrado Área de Derecho; Amnesty International; Reforma Judicial, 2015.
Cuadernos de género: Políticas y acciones de género. Training materials / Marta Aparicio García; Begoña Leyra Fatou and Rosario Ortega Serrano (eds.) Madrid: Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales, 2009.
The Chilean Government is preparing a set of measures to expand the network of support for women victims of gender violence from government and business bodies
April 7, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The Ministry of Women and Gender Equality in Chile reported on Monday a 70 percent increase in calls made by women to a domestic violence hotline during the first weekend under quarantine in the country following the health crisis generated by the coronavirus.
The information came to light as part of a study provided by the minister of the portfolio, Carolina Cuevas, who implemented a contingency plan that included special reinforcement of the Fono Orientación 1455 shifts, to protect women who reported being subjected to domestic violence.
The weekend before the quarantine, 532 calls were received, while in the same period, one week later, the number rose to 907. “This significant increase in calls is also a reflection of the fact that there is a need to ask for guidance and help in times when women are spending more time in our homes, possibly with our partners,” Cuevas explained.
For its part, the Public Prosecutor’s Office reported that, although reports of domestic violence have decreased by 18 percent compared to last March, reports of femicide have increased by 200 percent in the same period of time.
The Chilean government is preparing other measures to expand the network of support for women victims of gender violence, such as coordination with public agencies to safeguard care in periods of emergency, increasing the capacity of shelters and a messaging service, via SMS or WhatsApp, so that women can communicate in a “silent” manner that will be implemented in the following weeks.
Cuevas also met with the president of the employers’ union, the Confederation of Production and Commerce (CPC), Juan Sutil, to discuss the impact of the health crisis on women workers. The minister requested that companies provide formal support to women in preventing domestic violence and incorporate the issue into their permanent policies.
In this regard, a group of Chilean women legislators and feminist organizations sent a letter to President Sebastián Piñera, asking him to strengthen measures to prevent violence, to prohibit the sale of alcohol that can trigger violent acts, such as creating immediate action groups and establishing strategies for reporting violence through websites, pharmacies or supermarkets. Gael Yeomans, MP and president of Convergencia Social, said that additional measures should be taken to allow victims of gender-based violence to break out of quarantine if they need help.
Published: Saturday 29 February 2020 | 10:18:31 pm.
By Lianet Escobar Hernández email@example.com
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The cry of “guajira” is heard almost constantly in the training area of the women’s national archery team. Everyone knows that when Professor Vladimir Quintas comes to the appellation, he is calling Elizabeth Rodriguez Camilo.
The 25-year-old from Santiago is the captain of the Cuban women’s archery team and does not even wrinkle her face at the adjective that replaces her name, since she knows how fond the word is when it is pronounced by the person who was her first coach when she joined the national team, approximately eight years ago.
Rodríguez Camilo is currently the best goalkeeper in Cuba. This is guaranteed by her status as national champion, a title she has won four times in a row, and also by her results in international tournaments, including two fifth places in the Pan-American Games of Lima 2019, one in the team modality and in the mixed recurve goal.
“For me, as an athlete, it is important to have won the elite tournament of my sport so many times. That’s why I prepare myself all year long, always making my best effort to win. I don’t see the domestic competition as the highest step I have to reach, I think that at the level I’m at I have to aspire to more”, commented the young woman exclusively for JR.
For Elizabeth, that step up is certainly no different than the Olympic Games. The fact that she has never been under the five hoops is a motivation for the youngster who almost achieved her dream four years ago, and now she has the chance to make it happen again.
“For the Rio 2016 Olympics I was just a few inches away from the qualifying event, because my opponent shot very well, in the end, we went to a playoff arrow and he beat me by proximity, so I have a little thorn in my side that I hope to get out of the qualifying fight that will be in the Mexican city of Monterrey, from the 22nd to the 30th of this month.
I hope and can get the Olympic place, although I assure you I would be very happy if another one of us gets it, because that will be great for the Cuban archery. However, contrary to what happens in other sports where the country wins the ticket to the competition and not the athlete, we internally decided that whoever gets the ticket is the one who will be in Tokyo. I think that’s the fairest thing and it’s an additional stimulus that we have,” argued Rodríguez Camilo.
The untamed young woman is one of the few athletes who has the opportunity to share her training and competitions with figures with vast experience in the discipline such as the woman from Matanzas, Maidenia Sarduy, whom she accompanied in what was her first foray outside the country when she was only 18 years old.
I’m lucky enough to be on the same team as Maidenia,” he said. “Her advice, like Larissa Pagan’s, was fundamental. She helped me face my first international experience at a Central American qualifying event for Veracruz 2014, held in Medellin, Colombia, where the World Archery Championship was also held.
“There I was 33rd in individual archery and fifth place in the team. That was a competition that even scared me a little bit because of the high level I had, so it was essential to have the support of those figures,” emphasized Elizabeth.
Perhaps the most difficult thing for the Cuban Artemis is to be away from home, especially from her mother Kenya, who says it is her life and like the rest of the family supports her in all her decisions, including that of leaving the sport if her personal goals are not fulfilled.
“My particular aspiration is to finish this Olympic cycle and complete another one. Although this discipline is very long-lived, where you can be in it for years, I do want to make my family and living so far away does not make things easier for me. If I could put down roots in Havana, something that would allow me to form my family and have my mother with me, then I would gladly continue with bow and arrows under my arm, otherwise, I would say goodbye to it,” she emphasized.
February 22, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Havana, 22 February – What should a doctor tell and guide a man with erectile dysfunction or a woman with an orgasmic disorder? Until very recently, there were no practical guidelines in Cuba for dealing with this health problem.
Today there are guidelines for attending to those suffering from male and female sexual dysfunctions and disorders thanks to a research project carried out by the state-run National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), explained physician Elvia de Dios Blanco.
From 2016 to 2018, a team of 12 specialists worked on the systematization of the theoretical-methodological references that support care for sexual dysfunctions and disorders in the world and in Cuba, as well as the preparation and evaluation of the guidelines, De Dios said at the 5th Scientific-Methodological Conference of Cenesex.
In the first stage, she said, guidelines were designed for disorders of hypoactive male and female sexual desire, female orgasmic disorder, premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction, which are the most frequent requests for attention.
In the second phase, guidelines were drawn up for female sexual arousal disorders, pain disorders and vaginismus, as well as paraphilic disorders, he said at the meeting, held Feb. 20, where the institution’s scientific results were presented.
“The ones the one on erectile dysfunction, hypoactive disorder and female orgasmic disorderare published in the Cenesex magazine Sexología y Sociedad. For those pending publication, we coordinated with the Ministry of Public Health to train facilitators for each of Havana’s 15 municipalities, and then extend them to other territories,” she said.
In her opinion, medical professionals are better prepared for male sexual dysfunctions than for female ones, “because really women come very little, they have their problems and they stay with them and don’t come. That happens worldwide, not just in Cuba.
In the expert’s opinion, the Cuban guidelines differ “from the rest of the models that exist internationally in that they include sexual education in all sexual dysfunctions and specify the functions of the integral general physician as a gateway to the health system.
Doctors “must explain to people who seek care the human sexual response, its modifications in the different stages of life, with chronic diseases and with drugs,” he said.
At the same time, she said, sex education should include the presentation of masturbation as a healthy form of sexual activity and the need for privacy in sexual relations.
Education, she insisted, involves making a 20-year-old diabetic man understand that if he doesn’t take his medication, when he is 40 he can develop atherosclerosis, because his fat metabolism is affected, his vessels become hard and blood doesn’t enter his penis.
The conference unfolded a full-day program, where other results and developments were presented.
The Cuban legislative schedule foresees the presentation to the National Assembly of People’s Power (unicameral parliament) of an amendment to the Public Health Law (Law 41 of 1983) by the end of 2020, with a view to moving away from the biomedical paradigm and towards a rights-based approach.
Jurist Ivón Calaña, head of the Legal Advisory and International Relations Department of CENESEX, explained that several groups of specialists are working on different proposals. One concern is that this law must be approved before the new Family Code (planned for 2021), which would leave out some issues, including the autonomy of adolescents in matters of sexuality.
One of the aspects that the health law would include is to clearly specify abortion as a right of women to voluntarily interrupt pregnancy, a procedure that has been available safely and free of charge for more than 50 years in the country.
If the current law referred to quality of health in terms of building care centers, developing the pharmaceutical industry and training personnel, the proposal takes a qualitative leap forward by privileging primary health care as the first level of care for individuals, families and the community in a comprehensive manner.
“From this change, the patient is seen as a subject of rights and duties, because there will be a legal relationship, typical of a service provision, like any other,” he said.
One of the areas analyzed is gender-based violence, which would allow the subsequent implementation of protocols for the care of victims, mainly women and children, she said.
The proposals introduce health concepts that have been absent until now, such as autonomy, integrity, informed consent, privacy, anatomical sex change, the right to decide on the body and obstetric violence, and the right to decide on the number and spacing of children, not only for infertile couples – as is the case in the proposed text – but for all couples.
The main advances in the area of sexual rights contained in the proposal of what would be the new Family Code were presented by Manuel Vázquez, deputy director of CENESEX, who is participating in the temporary group working on the text and has had as a good practice to conduct academic debates.
“That a Family Code is proposed, but rather than a name, it is a constitutional mandate in terms of plurality to recognize and protect all families, in all their diversity, regardless of the ways in which they are structured,” he stressed.
Among other aspects, the bill proposes the elimination of the exceptionality to contract marriage before the age of 18, the recognition of marriage and de facto union, the economic regime of marriage, the change of the term parental authority to parental responsibility, the procreational will and multi- and pluri-parenthood. (2020)
Analyses of how women writers and artists describe to the public the continued danger posed in the 21st century by machismo, violence against women, sexual harassment, rape, and even femicide . These have been the focus of a Colloquium at Casa de las Americas (February 17-21) convened by its Women’s Studies Program, created in 1994 and now directed by Dr. Luisa Campuzano.
By Mireya Castañeda
February 23, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
From literature, theater and cinema, women have decided to expose with weapons as powerful as humor and satire that terrible anachronism that responds to the generic name of patriarchy.
The analysis of how women writers and artists describe to the public the continued danger represented in the 21st century by machismo, violence against women, sexual harassment, rape, and even femicide has been the central theme of a Colloquium at Casa de las Americas (February 17-21) convened by its Women’s Studies Program, created in 1994 and today directed by Dr. Luisa Campuzano.
Under the suggestive and even sarcastic title Humor, irony, parody and other women’s tricks to re/des/construct Latin American and Caribbean history and culture, the Colloquium attracted nearly forty specialists from universities in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile, Italy, Poland, Portugal and twenty from Cuba.
For our publication, Dr. Campuzano said that the Colloquium was very rich in participation and reiterated that “there is nothing like humor, like parody, irony, to remove anachronistic, ridiculous, and laughable patriarchal prejudices and that battle takes place within literature, the arts, and the theater.
The panels dealt with specific contents such as De cuerpo entero: las décimas y las canciones de Violeta Parra; Las muchachas se diverten. History and political discourse in the Latin American fiction film directed by women, or Women’s humour in political and social cabaret.
Two Cuban examples to appreciate how this serious subject is ironically treated from the stage: the monologue Yaisú by the also narrator Laidi Fernández de Juan performed by Verónica Feria, and a fragment of the piece La cita signed and performed by Andrea Doimeadiós and Verónica Feria.
But in addition to the “tricks” with which Latin American and Caribbean writers and artists put sexism and machismo in check, the Colloquium heard their impact even on many penal codes, including that of Cuba according to one of the presentations, in need of a reform that is planned for 2021 on the island.
The participants are aware of the urgent need to transcend public spaces, a debate of society in general about gender violence, sexual harassment and even cyber-bullying, beyond literature, the performing arts, and academia.
By Julio Martínez Molina
February 8, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
Three very recent films on the international scene, two of them exceptional and one of less artistic importance, are interconnected by both the sensitivity and the tenderness with which they have focused the love between two women. Their stories among the most beautiful provided by this thematic plot in the history of the screen. And to affirm it on a slope that has illuminated masterpieces like Carol and wonders like Disobedience is no small thing.
There are certain gay films with male characters who emulate rabbits in their animalistic urge to fornicate at all times, in any space, with anyone, through the vicissitudes of many bodily fluids and little love. On the other hand, these three stories of lesbian romance stand out in contrast, by celebrating the union of a couple with the understanding of an absolute physical and mental communion, one that dispenses with third parties. Then there’s the finding in the person loved the supreme enjoyment in the physical and spiritual, the acceptance of the other with all its burden of differences, their respect as a human being. This does not imply the overflow of eroticism and passion inherent in every bond that also possesses flesh and desire, manifested in the plots of these three filmic pieces bordered by intense sexual passages.
The first two are the Spanish Elisa and Marcela (Isabel Coixet, 2019) and the French Portrait of a Woman on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019); the other is the English The Secret of the Bees (Annabel Jankel, 2018). All of them have been directed by women and perhaps that is where the depth of the formation of the six central characters and their human richness lies; fundamentally the complicity in the approach to their sentimental and moral universes.
Co-written and directed by the Catalan Coixet, Elisa and Marcela, is based on true events that took place in primitive Spain, the first homosexual marriage in the history of that country. It occurred in 1901 by two Galician girls, albeit under the premise of a lie: one of them disguised herself as a man. Although it is still valid today, as they could never undo it, in the absence or flight of their spouses.
Teachers Elisa (Natalia de Molina, in another of the notable compositions of a career in ascent) and Marcela (Greta Fernández, the revelation actress of the moment in the Spanish Peninsula) fight at arm’s length to maintain their relationship in a patriarchal scene of ecclesiastical omnipotence. It is still far from being prepared in the psychological and cultural orders to metabolize such a bond. Misunderstood, rejected and ridiculed, the two young women must leave three countries on two continents in order to continue to be together.
The kernel of the story has to be peeled off in the lyricism by which Coixet approaches a love story. It’s shaped, seen and told from the presupposition of that incomparable beauty arising from loving and honoring being the object of veneration and desire. The intimate scenes of the two central characters are carefully beautiful, and they testify to their mime, to the carnality and spirituality of their passion, to the joint desire to please and love each other; in spite of the hatred and ignorance that hangs over both of them. De Molina and Fernandez, especially the first one, were great.
The visual splendor of black and white photography, great in several shots of interiors, enhances the film.
Portrait of a Woman on Fire, is sensory as the three previous works of its director, garments the model gradualness through which Sciamma works the romantic attraction of its protagonists. In the first hour of the film, which is calm in its progression and full of details, references and subtleties (those furtive or frontal glances of Héloïse, the lady to be painted, towards Marianne, the painter!
The two are also in conflict with each other. It was 1770 and the beautiful young bourgeois Héloïse had to be painted, in order to send the canvas to the rich Milanese man who was to marry her. Marianne represents, there is no other, given the time and the conventions, an episode that – although probably the most important thing in her life and never forgotten by her – has to be closed within itself once the lady travels to Italy with her husband.
Noémi Merlant (Marianne) and Adèle Haenel (Héloïse) compose two memorable characterizations. This is decisive in the sense of capturing their characters’ attempt to curb an instantaneous drive and the vehemence with which they accept it and give themselves over to the love affair after realizing how futile the commitment is. The stylization of Portrait of a Woman on Fire is largely due to the observation of the bodies and the close-ups. It’s pure filmic visual poetry that dialogues and transmutes with the pictorial space of the story. Thanks to the mailbox of Claire Mathom, the director of photography.
Despite being weighed down by dramatic and visually mellifluous decisions in the resolution, as well as appeals to misplaced magical realism and less nuance, The Secret of the Bees is also another tender female story. It is the 1950s in a rural Scotland that does not forgive the “lesbian” Dr. Jean (Anna Paquin, in a work of introversion unaccustomed to the actress in recent times), much less its clandestine union with the young worker Lydia (Holliday Grainger). The relationship between the two, despite their desire for anonymity, will be revealed in the air of a closed atmosphere of intolerance.
In director Jankel’s eyes, this love is marked by tenderness. Although the observation of the two women’s intimate space never reaches the degree of visual sophistication of the films of La Coixet and La Sciamma, such scenes are also very beautiful. Perhaps they are less stylized, but not all of them need to be assumed in such a way.
By Dixie Edith
Cuban journalist and professor at the Faculty of Communication of the University of Havana.
On Twitter @Dixiedith
January 16, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
From a bad joke to sexism is only one step removed. Evidence abounds; it is enough to review, even as the crow flies, various communication spaces, in any format. But what happens when the dubious attempt of a joke, as if that were not enough, makes a crime acceptable?
The question is neither banal nor exaggerated. A few days ago, a group of students from the Communications Department at the University of Havana, had just finished their semester of studies on gender. They were debating via WhatsApp about the photo that accompanies this text. “But what is this?”, some asked. “Doesn’t anyone realize this nonsense?”, asked others.
The photo captured the pictograms that point to a public bathroom located in the new recreational space of the capital’s coast, at the intersection of 1st and 70th streets, in Playa municipality. The figures show a man sneaking a look at a woman, above what looks like the wall that divides the two stalls. And here, the frustrated attempt at a “joke” came and went.
We are no longer talking about old hats: top hats for them and full of flowers or lace for them; or stereotypical film characters showing the gallant and the maiden, the flamenca and the bullfighter. Not even of those other attempts at “creativity” that appeal to phallic symbols, heels or ties, or any other topic tinged with sexism, by the work and grace of the macho tradition that pursues us.
Now we are also witnessing incitement to an act that is punishable under our laws. And, as if this were not enough, it not only positions women once again as the subject – the “natural” victim – of hegemonic masculinity, but also places all men in the position of violators of the law, of victimizers. This is called symbolic violence.
In the opinion of Yamila González Ferrer, a lawyer and expert on gender and family issues, “when what this image is showing occurs, we are dealing with a crime of harassment, provided for in Article 303 of the Criminal Code, which refers to sexual outrage”. But, for her, the most serious thing in this particular case is that “this type of symbolism is used in a public place”.
The aforementioned Article 303 has three subparagraphs, which propose sanctions of up to “three months’ imprisonment” or a “fine of one hundred to three hundred pesos“ for those who harass other persons “with sexual requirements”; offend “modesty or good manners with obscene exhibitions or acts”, or produces or puts into circulation “publications, recordings, cinematographic or magnetic tapes, recordings, photographs or other objects that are obscene, tending to pervert or degrade customs”.
If I were to make a dynamic or evolving interpretation of the law,” says Yamila, “then subparagraph c of that offense of sexual abuse could be applied perfectly well to that case.
Another lawyer, Dr. Arlín Pérez Duarte, agrees with her, in this case an experienced criminal lawyer. In her opinion, this last section applies in this case from what she calls an “analogical interpretation” of the law, since it “appeals to the effects provoked”. The specialist says that, in this matter, “from the point of view of rights, there is a lot of room for improvement”.
For example, criminal implications could be sought from so-called voyeurism or, or as we say jokingly, peeping, which in the eyes of the law is considered a form of outrage or a crime against honor. Although traditionally this type of infraction in Cuba is not punished as a crime, but more as a contravention,. However, in the opinion of the penalist, in this case “it has a greater scope, since it is in an institution that provides a public service”. In other words, it goes beyond affecting an individual person.
The world of signage to label the doors of public toilets and bathrooms serves as a preview of what we will find inside. But it is an soup where multiple proposals are cooked. There are designs that move, between the thorny waters of good and bad taste, the vulgar and really creative. In this unfortunate case, to put more spice to the broth, the half-assed sign also violates Article 40 of the recently approved Constitution of the Republic, which defends human dignity; Article 43, which condemns gender violence in all its forms and Article 48, which defends the right to privacy. And we could continue looking.
Currently, many public discussions around the world are occupied with how to achieve more inclusive signage and urban spaces that do not reproduce those stereotypes that our patriarchal societies have imposed on women and men. There is talk, for example, of unisex toilets, which serve them equally, which would also help not to humiliate or discriminate against other people who have different sexual orientations and gender identities.
If we still find signs like the one in the above mentioned photo, it is clear that we are still far from those other controversies. The unfortunate thing is that the case is not unique. The same students who questioned and argued about the 1st and 70th signs also claimed to have seen similar pictograms in other establishments, especially in the self-employed sector.
As with advertising, urban design, intentionally or not, helps to perpetuate ideas through graphic codes and creative nods. And because machismo is so naturalized in our lives, we often find it hard to identify that behind those seemingly innocent jokes is a deeply violent, threatening message that, according to García Márquez, could become the advertised chronicle of a crime of harassment.
By Hortensia Hernández
Friday, January 5, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
Considered one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, Tina Modotti (Udine, Italy; August 17, 1896 – Mexico City, Mexico January 5, 1942) was a communist militant and worked for the party in Mexico, the Soviet Union, Spain, Germany and Italy. Self-taught, she spoke four languages and learned the photograph trade from the famous photographer Edward Weston.
She was a woman with a short but intense life who surely went much further than she could have imagined when she was going through a childhood full of hardships, in Udine, northern Italy. She had to work from the age of 12 as a textile factory worker to help her mother provide for herself and her siblings while waiting to raise money to catch up with her father and older sister, who had migrated to the United States city of Los Angeles
In North America, Modotti worked as a dressmaker and, in her spare time, performed within an amateur theater group. She got some roles in Hollywood silent films, an activity that could not last after the arrival of the sound cinema, which would reveal her bad English and strong Italian accent.
When she was very young, she married a poet and painter, but she soon became a widow. This brought her closer to the artistic world and it was there that she met the photographer Edward Weston. With him she first worked as a model and then as an assistant, learning how to handle the camera and the developing process and taking her first steps as a photographer.
Modotti and Weston became a couple and moved to Mexico. There, through photography, which portrays a people in the midst of a revolutionary upheaval, they approach what would be their other great passion: politics.
Her love life united her with three successive communist leaders: Mexican Xavier Guerrero, who was Rivera’s assistant. They formed part of the revolutionary movement through the Mexican Union of Artists (UMA), made up of Diego himself, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Charles Chaplin, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Frida Kahlo and others.
In 1928, she met Julio Antonio Mella, a member of the Cuban Communist Party, with whom she worked in the “Hands Off Nicaragua” committee, for the freedom of Antonio Gramsci, the Argentinean leader Rodolfo Ghioldi, and in the collection of signatures for the freedom of Nicolás Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzzeti. Mella was murdered a year later and Modotti was expelled, accused of being an accomplice to the attempted assassination of Mexican President Pascual Ortiz Rubio.
Her third partner was the Italian Eneas Sormenti, with whom she became a member of the first Italian anti-fascist committee. They met in Mexico and met again in Moscow, where both were members of the Communist Party.
The Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska, in her biography of Modotti, entitled “Tinísima”, describes her as “a subject in search of a militant and documentary art, which tries to reconcile the aesthetic and political vanguard. A woman in search of identities through all kinds of instruments: the gaze, the word and the action”.
Tina died on 5 January 1942 of a heart attack while traveling in a taxi, although there is also the suspicion that she may have been murdered. On her tombstone in Mexico City’s cemetery is a verse dedicated to her by Pablo Neruda.
Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti, better known as Tina Modotti, at the age of 17 emigrated to the United States to catch up with her father and older sister, who already lived there. In 1921s she met Edward Weston and in 1922 she arrived in Mexico to bury her first husband Roubaix de L’Abrie Richey. In Mexico, she met and became close friends with Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Blanca Luz Brum, Nahui Ollin, Maria Tereza Montoya and Frida Kahlo. she became a member of the Mexican Communist Party in 1927. She actively supported the struggle of Augusto Cesar Sandino and helped found the first Italian anti-fascist committee. In 1928 he met Julio Antonio Mella, a Cuban student leader, when the committee in support of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti was formed.
She was known for her controversial nude photos and for the particular look she reflected in the photographs she took of Mexico. She would later witness Mella’s murder. In 1930, she was falsely accused of conspiring to assassinate Pascual Ortiz Rubio, then president of Mexico, for which she was arrested. Thanks to Diego Rivera’s help, she was released but expelled from the country.
She arrived in Germany in the mid-1930s, traveled to the Soviet Union and met again with Vittorio Vidali, whom she had met in Mexico. She participated in the International Red Relief. In 1934 she left for Spain. During the Spanish Civil War, she enlisted in the Fifth Regiment and worked in the International Brigades, under the name of Maria until the end of the war. Margarita Nelken, in one of the several praises given to her activity, tells how she cared for the children who arrived in Almeria after the exodus from the town of Malaga which was harassed during the journey on foot by the bombing of the Franco forces.
Figure 1. Tona Modotte at her exhibtion in the National University Library, 1929. Photo taken from Margaret Hooks, Tine Modotti, Photography and Revolutionary, London, Pandora, 1993)
In 1939 she returned as an asylum seeker to Mexico, where she continued her political activity, through the Giuseppe Garibaldi Antifascist Alliance . In 1940, President Lazaro Cardenas canceed her expulsion. She died on January 5, 1942. In the book “Tina”, Pino Cacucci mentions a possible murder of Tina Modotti, which has always been a controversy since there was no autopsy.
Along with Weston, she was a mentor to Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska wrote a biographical novel entitled “Tinísima”. Victor Hugo Rascon Banda wrote a play called “Tina Modotti”.
Modotti’s interest in her work was a reflection of her ideological commitment to the most vulnerable social groups. She worked as an editor and photographer for the magazine Mexican Folkways and the newspaper El Machete in 1924, and this work would lead her to be considered as a precursor of critical photojournalism in Mexico. Achieving an immediate identification with Mexico and its inhabitants that is reflected in her work.
Her work was captured by artists such as Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, who between the years 1927-1930 entrusted her with the task of photographing their works. This work represents]ed a certain historical value, which testifies to the realization of the works of these two Mexican muralists.
According to Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Tina Modotti had two periods: the romantic and the revolutionary. In the first, influenced by Weston, where she photographed flowers, objects and architectural details and the second emerged in Mexico, beginning her relationship with the Mexican muralist movement. She aimed to portray the work of these artists emphasizing details such as workers and indigenous people, in addition to her independent work, capturing images of indigenous and mestizo people and documenting the social struggle of the less privileged with great care in the composition and assembly of the scenes, but without poses or forced attitudes.
There is a period of transition in which she produced some of her most memorable photos, such as the hands of a farmer holding a shovel or the hands of a washerwoman.