- Gender and Feminism: New Directions in Cuban Studies
The four essays in this dossier examine complimentary aspects of women’s subordination in contemporary Cuba. Taken together, they allow readers to appreciate the broad landscape of women’s disadvantage as well as circumstances under which gender is constructed and reconstructed. The essays also contain strong common threads. All argue that the official ideology of equality veils growing gendered inequalities, and the Raulista economic transformation has further aggravated gendered inequalities. Taking into account gender and power and gendered power, the dossier offers new readings of post-Soviet Cuban history. The dossier lays the foundation for comparative studies of gendered power and Cuban women’s advantages and disadvantages in a cross-country framework.
Gender studies and research on women’s oppression in Cuba have been hamstrung by the official inclination to focus almost exclusively on the achievements, the logros, of the Cuban Revolution, and to hide its flaws. Writers who have explored gendered inequalities tread softly. The authors of the essays in this dossier have broken out of that cage. They say what they think needs to be said, and in a forthright manner. Their theoretical frameworks are sophisticated. Their research breaks new ground in Cuban gender studies. Their analysis rests on critical thinking.
The dossier, taken together, is greater than the sum of its parts. The authors analyze very different aspects of the inequality of Cuban women vis-à-vis men. Ailynn Torres Santana examines changes in women’s economic well-being. Diosnara Ortega González explores how women construct, understand, and perform gender in and through life narratives (relatos). Elena Fernández Torres analyzes how the justice system discriminates against women by assuming gender equality, thereby overlooking social realities. Anamary Maqueira Linares compares gendered readings of Marxist political economy in Cuba to international feminist debates. The differences in these authors’ subject matter and methodology portray the broad landscape of gendered oppressions and women’s inequality in contemporary Cuba. As one peer reviewer wrote, the diversity of topics enables us to triangulate, providing a greater appreciation of the causes and effects of male dominance and female disadvantage.
The four essays also contain strong common threads. All emphasize the [End Page 3] interplay of gender, class, “race,” and territorial differences, and the similarities among Cuban women today: in short, the intersectionality of women’s oppression. All argue that an official ideology of equality veils growing inequalities and allows those inequalities to fester. All, bar one, argue that the Raulista economic transformation has aggravated gender inequalities. All are explicitly feminist, and all call for changes in government policy to redress the intensification of female disadvantage. Taken together, the four essays offer a new reading of post-Soviet Cuban history. A reading that takes into account gender and, as Diosnara Ortega González argues, demonstrates the gendered construction of power in Cuba.
Ailynn Torres Santana’s “Regímenes de bienestar en Cuba: Mujeres y desigualdades,” delves into how the Raulista economic reforms have worked to the disadvantage of women in the labor force, in state and household provision of welfare or well-being, and in women’s economic situations overall. She explores the causes and effects of women’s underrepresentation in the private sector, the most lucrative branch of Cuba’s new economy. Her essay also describes how private-sector regulations and the draft Constitution of 2019 undermine rights and protections associated with maternity leave and family care. For women, these are ominous signs. The conclusions of her analysis are striking—and worrisome. She shows that in contemporary Cuba, women, particularly single heads of household, are overrepresented in the lower-income groups and among the poor. Cuban policy makers need to pay attention to Torres Santana’s essay. It is a wakeup call.
In “Cubanas en transición: Un acercamiento a la estabilización/desestabilización del género y la política desde sus relatos temporales,” Diosnara Ortega González makes valuable theoretical contributions to our understanding of gender and oral history. In the tradition of Judith Butler, she argues that gender is a struggle over power and that gender is performed. The continuities and changes (estabilización and desestabilización) in...