Sociology: The Shift from Gender Inequality to Equality in Cuba

Sociology: The Shift from Gender Inequality to Equality in Cuba

The Shift from Gender Inequality to Equality in Cuba Cuba is a small island located 90 miles off the coast of Key West, FL. Cuba has a rich history and culture. The female aspect in particular is very interesting. As Americans we don’t know about or are subjected to the socialistic economy and struggles of the Cuban citizen. The struggles for women in particular have been exacerbated by the “special period,” which started in the 1990’s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union (Toro-Morn, Roschelle and Facio 2002).

At that point, trade with the Soviet Union became minimal and almost came to a complete halt. However, women have made significant progress since the revolution in 1959 (Cuba solidarity campaign 2003). Cuba’s strive to shift from female gender inequality to equality can be examined through sociological research and concepts. Before the revolution emphasis on women was virtually non-existent. Since Cuba was an island that was colonialized and run by Europeans, the system was very similar to that of the United States.

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Women were stereotyped by men and the role of the housewife was where women were believed to belong. Today, women enjoy a different role, which has allowed hem to have a life outside of the home (Cuba solidarity campaign 2003). I will explore the female perspective and the shifts from inequality to equality (which in some of these cases are over represented and not a reality), through the research of sociologists in education, politics, race and the effects of globalization on work in Cuba.

Many theorists have debated that education is important in promoting feelings of nationalism and aiding the development of national society, constituted of citizens from different regions who would know the same history and speak a common anguage (Ramirez and Boli 1987) in (Giddens, Duneir, Appelbaum, Carr 2011 :334). This is related to Conflict theory, in which education is used as an instrument of elite domination (Schaefer 2009). In other words, the dominant ideology, which is a set of cultural beliefs and practices that help maintain powerful interests, is implemented.

These include, but are not limited to, social economic and political interests (Schaefer 2009). Castro may have been interested in promoting this idea. Prior to 1959 education and career aspirations were a male preserve. The majority of women did not reach the ixth grade in schools and in rural areas illiteracy rates were the highest among women (Cuba solidarity campaign 2003). When Castro introduced his socialistic government, he urged for women to Join the revolution. In 1960 The Federation of Cuban Women or the FMC (Federacion de la MuJer Cubana) was created and organized masses of women house by house in the cities and countryside.

During this time, the FMC organized the drive against illiteracy and set up schools for peasant women (Toro-Morn et al. 2002). Schooling became fully funded by the government and women were able to enjoy the benefits of education. Educational inequality in the U. S. has been shown to be reproduced in the classroom through sociological research. Studies document that teachers interact differently with their male and female students. This is part of the hidden curriculum, which are traits of behaviors or attitudes that are learned at school but not included within the formal curriculum, such as gender differences (Giddens et al. 011:338). For example, a study showed that boys received more teacher attention and instructional time than girls did. This was due in part to the fact that boys were more demanding than irls (American Association of University Women 1992) in (Giddens et al. 2011:255). Another study showed that even when boys did not voluntarily participate in class, teachers were more likely to solicit information from them than from girls. When girls called out answers without raising their hand, to draw attention to themselves, they were reprimanded (Sadker and Sadker 1994) in (Giddens et al. 2011:255).

This differential treatment of boys and girls perpetuates stereotypic gender-role behavior. Girls are trained to be quiet, well behaved and turn to others for answers, while boys are encouraged to be inquisitive, outspoken and ctive problem solvers (Giddens et al. 2011:255). In Cuba, these stereotypes are frowned upon and the equal status of women in society is reinforced in schools by a number of means. For example, there is a promotion of awareness in young people on the importance of equal opportunities. Another tactic used to eliminate traditional stereotypes, is the use of positive female images which show their equality with men.

They also ensure that male and female students have equal chances of Joining courses at all levels. As a consequence, women are outperforming men in higher education. This is seen through statistical ata which indicates that 62% of all university students are women and 49. 5% of graduates with higher degrees are also women. Although, at the other end of the scale, 63% of students who have enrolled on courses for underachieving or disaffected youngsters are female (Cuba solidarity campaign 2003). Race is described as di fferences in human physical characteristics used to categorize large numbers of individuals (Giddens et al. 2011:270).

Gender is the social expectations about behavior regarded as appropriate for the members of each sex (Giddens et al. 2011:241). Black women share the legacy of past discrimination gainst members of minority groups and women in general (Giddens at al. 2011:296). They are subject to a “matrix of domination,” where black women are multiply disadvantaged on the basis of their color, their sex and their class position. When these three factors interact, they reinforce and intensify each other (Giddens et al 2011:263). Jim Crow style laws had been popular in Cuba before the revolution and left a legacy that has not been easily overcome.

Maritza Rodriguez, a teacher in Cuba, complains that there is a lack of opportunities for her as a black woman to get ahead professionally. Rodriguez states: “in 2005 1 completed a master’s degree, and now I’d like to write a book. ” But her ambition alone is not enough to overcome financial difficulties, poor access to sources and a limited network of contacts (Grogg 2010). Rodriguez is also aware that on occasion she is treated differently while out in public. She says: “They look at me suspiciously because I’m black and I’m not all dressed up. It doesn’t occur to them that I’m a professional.

That’s a form of discrimination” (Grogg 2010). Racialization is the process by which understandings of race are used to classify ndividuals or groups of people (Giddens et al. 2011:271). Racialization is an important factor in reproducing patterns of power and inequality. Historically, whites have used blacks through an exploitive relationship (Schaefer 2009). Including the treatment and perception of the black woman (Toro-Morn et al. 2002). Racialization has allowed for tourism to classify the black woman as a sexual object and perpetuate stereotypes about black women.

It is also another form of discrimination prevalent to Afro-Cuban women. Through touristic advertising Black women are depicted sexually to attract tourists. Desiderio Navarro, a writer and ultural activist in Cuba, used images to illustrate what he argues is a racist ad campaign designed to attract foreign tourists to Cuba through post cards, posters and billboards showing young black women on the beach. The women are dressed provocatively and they are alone. For Navarro, this is an underlying message that these women are available and being “sold” as sex objects (Grogg 2010).

Additionally, other research shows that men from Canada, Mexico, Spain and Western Europe seek out black women because they have internalized stereotypes of the “exotic dark-skinned overly sexualized woman” (Toro- Morn et al. 002) I believe that Conflict Theory, which states that vested interests perpetuate racial inequality through economic exploitation, best explains the experiences of Afro- Cuban women (Giddens et al. 2011). For example, racial profiling allows arbitrary action based on race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than on the individuals behavior.

In turn, this keeps minorities in low-paying Jobs and supplies the dominant group with cheap labor (Schaefer 2009). Despite the hardships they face, Afro-Cuban women have made significant progress and are found in the professional community including, education, health and cience. They are also making the community aware of the contemporary problems and striving for equality. A black feminism has come about, which is a strand of feminist theory that highlights the multiple disadvantages of gender, class and race that shape the experiences of non-white women (Giddens 2011:263).

Groups like La Cofradia de la Negritud (The Black Guild) have prompted public debate that seeks to bring attention to the Afro-Cuban woman initiative (Grogg 2010). Politics is the means by which power is employed to influence the nature and content of governmental activities (Giddens et al. 011:363). Cuba resembles totalitarianism, which involves virtually complete government control and surveillance over all aspects of a societys social and political life (Schaefer 2009). This can be seen in Cuba’s government in the way they control their party.

In 1974 Fidel Castro focused on the lack of women’s representation in party and state leadership structures and established gender equality as a goal (Luciak 2005). As a result, there were quotas put in place or reservation of seats for women, which required females to participate in decision making parties. Cuban officials, however, are reluctant to acknowledge the existence of governmental initiatives to advance women in politics. In their mind, such an acknowledgement would imply a critique of the revolution itself (Luciak 2005).

Power is the ability of individuals or members of a group to achieve aims or further the interests they hold (Giddens 2011:363). Theories on power suggest that women can achieve authority through institutionalized power (or government) that is recognized by the people over whom it is exercised. However, this power is limited (Schaefer 2009). Women are political participants at the national level in Cuba and therefore better represented. In 2003, representation levels reached a historic high with 36%, putting Cuba into a select group of countries that can claim more than 30% female representation in parliament (Luciak 2005).

This means that the female opinion and strength is taken into consideration at the national level. However, this is not the case at the local level. Women’s representation in parliament was consistently 10% higher than at the local level (Luciak 2005). Even though women in Cuba are represented at a national level and hold positions in arliament, very few hold positions with important decision-making power in top state and party structures (Luciak 2005). A glass ceiling, which is a promotion barrier that prevents a woman’s upward mobility within an organization (Giddens et al. 011:251). The glass ceiling is particularly problematic for women who work in male dominated fields. It is important for women and minorities to break through the glass ceiling and obtain high ranking Jobs. Once a person who is a minority (such as a woman) is in a high ranking position, it is more likely that other minorities can achieve a top position s well (Giddens et al. 2011:253). In the Council of State, a key decision making party, women’s representation is about half of that of the National Assembly.

In order to get into the Council of State, one must be nominated by the National candidate Commission, which composes their list from members of the National Assembly. The Commission insists that if they are considering a man and a woman with equal merits, they choose the woman. However, the low numbers of women in this party reflects that not very many women are meeting the criteria or have the credentials that male leaders consider necessary o occupy the key positions of power (Luciak 2005). Globalization is the development of social and economic relationships stretching worldwide (Giddens et al. 2011:467).

Political changes are a driving force of globalization (Schaefer 2009). When relations between countries deteriorate, such as what happened between the Soviet Union and Cuba, how a society and its leaders respond to a crisis can play a decisive role in whether they thrive or fail (Giddens et al. 2011:470). In the developing world, it is not possible to remain a solely socialist economy. Cuba has made an attempt to Join the global market. However, there is still global inequality in Cuba that reflects Conflict Theory, which describes globalization as an increasing economic gulf between developed and developing countries.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the embargo placed on Cuba on behalf of the U. S has made it difficult for Cuba to thrive. The Cuban government has turned to tourism and now has a mixed economic system, where capitalism and socialism meet. This has eroded female progress previously made. While people who live outside of these touristic areas continue to earn meager salaries, paid in pesos, tourist workers earn U. S. dollars. The imbalance has caused many women to migrate to the city to try to find work. But because it is illegal to migrate for this purpose it is hard to obtain a legitimate Job.

This has led to an informal economy, which are economic transactions carried on outside the sphere of orthodox paid employment (Giddens et al. 2011:382). A lot of the women turn to sex work in the tourist area. The state argues that women choose prostitution solely to purchase unnecessary consumer goods, many Cubans reported that it is a means to procure food and essential subsistence products (Toro-Morn et al. 2002). Social change, an alteration in basic structures of a social group or society, has re- molded the role of the woman in Cuba (Giddens et al. 2011:468).

The social change has stemmed from relative (Economic) deprivation, which consists of conscious feelings of negative discrepancy between legitimate expectations and present actualities (Schaefer 2009). This type of social change reflects the functionalist theory that social change must contribute to society’s stability and that modest adjustments must be made to accommodate social change (Giddens et al. 2011). These all relate to the current situation Cuban women confront (Toro-Morn et al. 002) Women with degrees are making less money than those in the tourist sector.

A waitress at a beach resort makes more money than a surgeon or university professor. Therefore, women are taking up Jobs within the touristic realm while having degrees in law, medicine, science etc. The tourism economy has led to a severe problem of under employment in which workers are frequently over qualified for their Jobs (Toro-Morn et al. 2002). In the Journal article “Gender, Work and Family in Cuba”, Laura, a college educated public relations consultant left her Job as a professor to work in the tourist sector. When she applied for the Job she was told that she was over qualified, but they still gave her the Job (Toro-Morn et al. 002). The shift from inequality to equality started in the early 1960’s and Cuban women have experienced a wave of change that affects their lives in different ways. Education was made available to all women and there is a conscious effort that prevents gender inequalities to take place in schools. Sociologically, education helps to diffuse language, history and a sense of nationalism. Black women, although assumed to be equal through laws and government, are susceptible to iscrimination. Because of their race, gender and class they are more likely to be mistreated socially.

Through touristic advertising, Afro-Cuban women are depicted as sexual objects. This type of discrimination has roots in conflict theory, which explains that a group exploits another based on race in order to make a profit. However, Afro- Cuban women have made progress due to the revolution and continue to seek equality. Women in Cuba are also prominent in politics, where they have reached high levels of participation. When compared to other nations, Cuba stands out as one f the countries with the highest percentage of female membership in government.

Unfortunately, women in Cuba are usually denied upward mobility, or promotion, due to a “glass ceiling. ” The positions that are high ranking and have decision making power are most often given to men. Lastly, the effects of globalization on the Cuban economy has allowed for the erosion of female progress. Tourism and the use of U. S. dollars has driven women with professional degrees to leave their careers in order to pursue a better paying Job in the touristic sector. Additionally, many other women have turned to sex work to stay afloat.

These assimilations reflect functionalist theory, where social change contributes to societal stability and adjustments make way for the social change. I believe that in order for the citizens and women in Cuba to become truly equal, a public forum and freedom of speech needs to be implemented. Education seems to be the only area of Cuban life in which women are truly equal. Blacks are not able to discuss racial injustices publicly, because racism is not recognized as a social problem by the government. According to the regime, racism was abolished along with gender inequality.

Blacks have only recently been allowed to brush the subject of racial inequality. While there is an emphasis on female political participation, it appears to be forced and arbitrary. Women should be allowed into decision making positions in order to encourage other women to Join government. The most problematic situation in Cuba is the force of globalization. Cuba must Join the rest of the world in trade and find viable partnerships in order to balance out the economy and improve quality of life for its citizens. Only time will tell which direction the Cuban government and economy will take.

from Nandarnold

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