With Clitoris and With Rights / Yoani Sánchez

mujer_cubanaAt times with good intentions – other times with not so good – someone tries to silence my complaints about the machismo in my country, telling me, “Cuban women don’t have it so badly… those in some African nations, where they are subjected to ablation, are worse off.” As an argument it’s a low blow, it hurts me in the groin, connects me to the cry of a defenseless teenager, mutilated, subjected to that ordeal by her own family. But the rights of women should not be reduced only to the power to maintain their physical integrity and to defend their biological capacity to experience pleasure. The clitoris is not the only thing we can lose, there is a long list of social, economic and political possibilities, which are also snatched from us.

As I live in a country where the paths of civic protest have been severed and demonized, I dare to offer in this blog a list of the violations that still persist against women.

  • They do not allow us to establish our own women’s organizations, where we can unite and represent ourselves. Groups that are not channels of transmission from the government to the citizens, as sadly happens with the Federation of Cuban Women.
  • When they speak of women in the political class, it’s clear that they don’t have any real power but are there to fulfill quotas or assignments by gender.
  • The icon of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) – the only organization of this kind permitted by law – shows a figure with a rifle on her shoulder in clear allusion to the mother as soldier, to the female as a piece of the warring conflict cooked up from above.
  • The absence in the national press of reporting about domestic violence does not eliminate its real presence. Silence does not stop the aggressor from hitting. In the pages of our newspapers there should also be these stories of abuse, because otherwise we are not going to understand that we have a serious problem of assaults, silenced within the walls of so many homes.
  • Where can a wife go when she is beaten by her husband? Why are there no shelters or why doesn’t the media publicize the locations of these refuges for battered women?
  • Buying disposable diapers is almost a luxury in this society. Most new mothers still have to spend a good part of their time washing baby clothes by hand. Every emancipation needs a material infrastructure of freedom, otherwise it will remain so only in slogans and mottoes.
  • The high prices of all the products needed for motherhood and pregnancy are also a factor that influences the low birth rate. A crib with mattress costs the equivalent of $90 U.S. in a country where the average monthly salary doesn’t exceed $20.
  • The child support that a father must provide for his children after a divorce – as stipulated by law – doesn’t exceed, in many cases, the equivalent of $3 monthly, which leaves a woman economically powerless to raise her children.
  • The extremely high prices of food relative to wages keep Cuban women chained to the stove while performing economic pirouettes to put a plate of food on the table. It is the women and not the political-economic system that performs a daily miracle so that Cuban families eat, more or less well or more or less badly.
  • After so many slogans about emancipation and equality, we Cuban women are left with a double workday and dozens of cumbersome bureaucratic tasks. It’s enough to go outside to see the effects of this excess load: most women over forty have bitter faces, make no plans for the future, do not go out with their women friends to a bar, and have no escape from their family and the tedium.
  • When a woman decides to criticize the government, she is immediately reminded who wears the skirt; they accuse her of immorality, infidelity to her husband, being manipulated by some male mind, and call her “prostitute,” “cocky,” “hooker,” as many discriminating cutting insults as they can imagine.
  • You can’t try to liberate a specific social group in a society gripped by the lack of rights. To be a woman in the Cuba of today is to suffer these lacks twice.

In short, we want to have a clitoris and rights, to feel pleasure and to speak our opinions, to be known for our skirts, but especially for our ideas.

8 March 2012