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    The Serious Issue of Machismo

    Cuba: The Serious Issue of Machismo

    March 25, 2013

    Veronica Vega

    vega1HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago, the partner of a friend of mine

    started beating her up in the middle of the street in the presence of

    several other people they knew. I wasn't there at the time, but I

    learned that my husband was the only person who ran over to defend her.

    Why didn't those other people take action? This was because of the

    notion here in Cuba that "no one should get in between a husband and

    wife." People feel that if you defend the woman, she might end up

    getting back together with her husband, which means you would have

    gotten involved for nothing.

    Given men's physical advantage (evident in the case of my friend's

    partner), a basic issue of injustice apparently becomes blurred when a

    sexual relationship is involved. The sense of compassion slows down. It

    becomes cloudy, paralyzed.

    Since I read about how the rape of women is common in India, and about

    the recent scandal involving the death of one victim (raped by several

    men in a moving bus), I wondered what causes this tacit conspiracy, that

    internal collapse that enables such brutality and shame.

    I doubt whether such a level of violence could be reached in Cuba. I

    think that culturally the status of women here is somewhat higher. I say

    "somewhat" because the self-concept of the object of (sexual) value

    among ordinary Cuba women — through which they hope to solve their

    economic problems — is a discredit as a human being.

    Here on the island, at least we have the advantage of not being dragged

    along by absurd fundamentalist burdens that have nothing to do with true

    religion. Instead of providing knowledge, these only contribute to worse

    forms of ignorance and suffering.

    Nevertheless, I've touched and sensed a macho substrate in our society

    too. It poses itself as a dangerous potential in the present as well as

    a future legacy. Of course the generations to come — with models

    established by reggaeton whereby they've "liberated" women by confining

    them to the role of object — are ideal disciples of machismo.

    What can a woman aspire to if — as stated in the popular song "Quimba pa

    que suene" — "it" (their sexual organ) "is the nicest thing you have."

    What laws don't solve

    I recently learned that another female friend of mine was physically

    assaulted by her brother-in-law. With the evidence of the crime all over

    her body, she went to the police station and reported him. The case was

    processed and the assailant went to trial. What was his sentence? …a

    one-hundred peso fine (about $4 USD).

    Paradoxically, the writer Angel Santiesteban's five-year prison sentence

    for domestic violence was recently upheld. Undoubtedly, the

    controversial author of the blog "Los hijos que nadie quiso" is not

    serving time only for exhibiting remnants of machismo.

    The same rigor of exception was shown in the case of the young man who

    died on a hunger strike in Santiago de Cuba. He was also accused of

    domestic violence against a dark background with political overtones.

    An acquaintance who was a social worker referred me to a very

    representative case. This involved a girl who went to school with clear

    signs of sexual abuse on her body. The wall of impunity consisted of

    there being no complaints by the family or any action taken by the

    police to investigate the situation. The matter was diluted amid rumors

    of disapproval.

    Fortunately, here in Cuba we don't see as much explicit violence against

    women as that suffered in distant India, the Middle East or in nearby

    Mexico, where shameful rates of female murder are accumulating. But we

    mustn't forget that machismo is a monster that's too close to home.

    I myself knew a girl who tried to report her father, who was sexually

    abusing her. The authority's response was that this was a "family problem."

    I have friends who have been raped and didn't report the crime because

    they had had a relationship with the aggressor. Is the boundary that

    establishes consent (the yes or the no in that act) pointless to the law?

    Others renounce that idea out of the mere shame of making the matter

    public, the bureaucratic treatment expected and a general lack of faith

    in the viability of justice.

    How we conspire with machismo

    For some time, being an involuntary viewer of telenovelas that people

    rent, I've noticed that these are full of recurring rape scenes.

    It's obvious that they proliferate because of the demand for them. This

    doesn't surprise me, because even apparently sensitive male friends have

    confessed to me of being excited over some rape scene (of a beautiful


    I reply to them that what triggers their fantasies isn't like what

    happens in real life.

    One time, years ago, in the middle of the night, I was awakened by the

    cries of a girl being raped in a particularly painful manner. I yelled

    out the window to alert more people, but the only ones who came outside

    to help her were my partner at that time and me.

    She was a teenager who was with two men and another girl in a dark side

    street. We immediately knew she was the victim from the look of fear on

    her face and her evident pain (she was having problems walking), as well

    as the aggressive reaction by the group.

    My partner and I couldn't do much by ourselves. I could never understand

    why none of our neighbors joined us. Were they all really asleep? The

    teenager walked away in the darkness with her aggressors, though I

    didn't know if she was being threatened. Nor do I know if the dreadful

    act was completed further away, in an even more isolated place where no

    one could hear her screams.

    Yet those sounds remained in my subconscious for months, with the full

    weight of her horror and despair. No film has ever caused that same

    effect in me.

    The mass media condition much of how we interpret the world. I'm of the

    opinion that pornography contributes miles of bad for yards or blocks of

    relativist freedom.

    I don't know who said it, but there's a powerful phrase that goes:

    "Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice." In most cases of

    sexual psychopaths I've seen on the TV program CSI, the murderers are

    consumers of pornography and Viagra.

    The myth of sexuality as an unmistakable and irreplaceable source of

    happiness — far from creating peace and understanding — alters the

    entire biological and social order.

    The result isn't only these sexual predators. Men and women when feeling

    the inexorable weight of age become depressed and therefore seek

    momentary palliatives, fictitious extensions of youth.

    Given men's physical advantage (evident in the case of my friend's

    partner), a basic issue of injustice apparently becomes blurred when a

    sexual relationship is involved. The sense of compassion slows down. It

    becomes cloudy, paralyzed.

    I'm not criticizing alternatives such as surgery and other methods if

    these are needed (and one can afford them). I'm talking about how

    despite this, change continues to occur, yet there's no implant,

    face-lift or pill that will allow one to accept the emotional and real

    weight of time. This is a serious problem.

    Young people also fall victim to this with their archetypes of

    prefabricated beauty and even prefabricated molds of sexual behavior.

    It's curious that in many reggaeton posters, the male singers appear

    between two (always stylish) women, while these guys — without complexes

    — tend to be a little overweight. Simplified: the man can be whatever,

    but the women — to be desirable — can't be fat.

    Being "desirable" is a double-edged privilege. I've seen reggaeton

    videos (including the popular Calle 13), in which the subliminal visual

    treatment of females isn't much different from a punch, "a whack over

    the head," a rape.

    Our responsibility

    I've always said that machismo only survives thanks to women. Mothers

    raise their children to be sexist, girlfriends and wives hold on their

    delicate shoulders an empire that would collapse if they would just take

    a step outside the circle.

    I always think back to those words of Marti: "Rebel, oh, women, against

    these shameful seductions, behold, before giving yourself, if someone

    want to acquire you like an orange, to be enjoyed or thrown away, or if

    they love you sweetly, penetratingly, spiritually and tenderly, without

    shock, without domination or obsessions of desire, if someone seeks in

    you more than just the beautiful beast…"

    Saying that current-day education inculcates respect for women is

    official fanfare that goes against a high percentage of media

    propaganda. But machismo, as we know, condemns both sexes equally,

    although the most obvious victims are women.

    The Tao says:

    A great kingdom must be like the lowland toward which all streams flow.

    It must be the point at which converge all things under heaven.

    It must represent the role of the female in dealing with all things

    under heaven.

    The female, through her calmness, overcomes the male; because of her

    calmness she is situated below.

    "Calmness" here isn't passivity or weakness, but serenity and balance,

    as opposed to the virile impulse that sexist heredity interprets as

    strength but which is really slavery. That which dominates us can't be

    called power. Power is something we control.

    This mean we should "control" but not "repress." Repression has nothing

    to do with calmness as there's an internal movement of resistance.

    In Cuba, through ignorance and/or idiosyncrasy, people confuse desire

    with vigor, and anger with courage. This is also immature and it has

    serious consequences.

    When I think about the sad incident my friend experienced, again and

    again I come to the same conclusions:

    1. The excuses of those who refused to help her are all masks of the

    same face: machismo? Cowardice, laziness, selfishness.

    2. Respect for women's bodies ends when they're interpreted as sexual

    objects. And here begins another form of violence. The boundary between

    the physical and sexual aggression is less than a millimeter.

    3. Those who don't come to the aid of woman being beaten by a man

    because she's his partner are assuming that his sexual right over her

    potentially involves risk. They consider this natural.

    Fortunately, here in Cuba we don't see as much explicit violence against

    women as that suffered in distant India, the Middle East or in nearby

    Mexico, where shameful rates of female murder are accumulating.

    But we mustn't forget that machismo is a monster that's too close to

    home. It breathes along with all of us and feeds on not only acts and

    omissions but also on any form of indifference.

    And let's not forget that most violence occurs within our four walls,

    victims rarely appeal to justice, and even the recorded statistics of

    these crimes aren't published here in Cuba.

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