24 Hours Are Not The Life Of A Woman

For 24 hours everything will be done to stall women’s grievances. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 March 2018 — The grandmother was beaten by her spouse, the mother lost the sight of an eye from the fist of a drunken husband and she sometimes goes out in the street with sunglasses to hide the bruises. She is one more, among millions of Cuban women, of the many who have come to believe that in the “genetics lottery” they lost, carrying two X chromosomes.

This March 8, as a parenthesis in their routine, when these women go out in the street they will only find smiles. “Congratulations on Women’s Day” they will read on the mural at their workplace, the same place where the male bosses oversee the female employes and the only ones who manage the company’s vehicles are, coincidentally, men.

At mid afternoon they will stop working to share a piece of cake decorated with pink flowers and accompanied by croquettes, which they themselves have prepared the night before. A few words from the director, a man, will end with applause and will give way to the reading of the names of the “outstanding women workers.”

After the party, the honorees themselves will have to clear the table, clean the floor and take the dirty dishes home because “scrubbing is a woman’s thing.” They will watch the clock, but the date doesn’t matter. Today they also have to cook, pick up the children at school and clean.

This March 8, as a parenthesis in their routine, when these women go out to the street they will only find smiles

Down the street, the obscene stalker who, every day, launches some lascivious comment, for this day will have some corny compliment about how ugly “the world would be without women.” He will repeat his cynical words while leaning over a little to see if he can catch “a flash of thigh” under the skirts of the women passing by.

The sullen neighbor, who threw her daughter out of the house because she was pregnant before the age of 20, will be in charge of placing the sign inside the elevator greeting all the “federated and revolutionary women” living in the building.

The teenage girl, who is teased in her classroom because her mother “has had three husbands,” will read the statement at the party organized in a hallway of the apartment house. The daughter of the president of the Committee of the Revolution, who works as a prostitute to support her two children, will be in charge of hanging up balloons and handing out flowers.

The male official who lives on a high floor will talk about the Cuban women whose example should be imitated but will eliminate from the list all those the official discourse finds “uncomfortable.” The male resident who leads the surveillance operation against a dissident who lives nearby, will speak of “the delicacy” of women and “the respect they deserve.”

The owner of the private restaurant on the corner will give a flower to each female employee and tell her that today they have a 12-hour day because “there are a lot reservations for the celebration.” The woman who scrubs will get her rose in the kitchen so that she does not have to appear in the customer area of the premises, “because she does not have the necessary physical presence,” he explains.

At the premises of the neighborhood Federation of Cuban Women, a strongly perfumed female official will remember Fidel Castro, as the “leader who emancipated Cuban women”

When the restaurant opens to the public, the tables will be filled quickly and whenever someone asks for the bill, the male waiters will solicitously and smilingly hand it to the man at the table. “He is the one who has the money, of course,” says one of them, wearing a white shirt with a crooked black bow tie around his neck.

At the premises of the neighborhood Federation of Cuban Women, a strongly perfumed female official will remember Fidel Castro, as the “leader who emancipated Cuban women” and end her long tirade with a thunderous “Commander in Chief, at your orders!”

For 24 hours, everything will be designed to stall women’s grievances, to hide behind the celebrations the serious problems that run through society in terms of gender discrimination, lack of equity, sexual harassment and the disparity of economic opportunities between men and women.

The fanfare will extinguish the demands and the official events will try to mask the reality. While millions of women in the world take to the streets to demand their rights and many others join a work stoppage as a sign of dissatisfaction, this March 8, Cuban women will wear a gag composed of bouquets of flowers and cloying postcards.


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