Academic journal article Cuban Studies

The Study of Masculinities in Cuba

Academic journal article Cuban Studies

The Study of Masculinities in Cuba

Article excerpt

Gender studies have made it possible to expose various forms of discrimination that have historically placed women in disadvantageous positions. This has been the focus of analysis at international and national meetings, events, and conferences involving academics and heads of state and government in implementing programs promoting equality between men and women. States have taken a special interest in the situation of women when drawing up social policy.1

Cuba's position on this issue over the past fifty years has been proactive nationally and internationally. This can be seen more recently from Cuba's support for the UN Beijing Declaration (1995) and its own decree establishing the National Follow-Up Action Plan (1997) for the agreements reached at Beijing; at the 2000 Millennium Conference, Cuba expressed adherence to its goals and commitments for 2015 related to reducing forms of gender discrimination, and this has been reflected in state policy.2 In the academic sphere, studies in Cuba have revealed the costs and implications for women, ranging from limitations on political participation and difficulty of access to positions of power to effects on sexual and reproductive health, excess responsibility, restricted autonomy, and anxiety.3

Contrary to this, theoretical and methodological approaches that could validate men as an object of study and state policy have not been systematized or consolidated. There appears to be an institutionalized assumption that nothing is the matter with men, even when men are central to many social and health issues, and it is recognized that change must involve them. This contradiction arises from an approach that considers man superior to woman and that treats man as the standard of what it is to be a human being.4

Overcoming this has gradually become a shared challenge. Many feminists have noted that man cannot continue to be the ideal or goal of change, certainly not the man generally found on our streets. The road to equality must lead us to think of masculinity and femininity in a different way: to construct inclusive, integrationist, and emancipating alternatives that will liberate us from the established and the institutionalized; provoke fewer misunderstandings; and dignify the differences that have been the basis of exclusions among women, men and women, and men.

With these concerns as a focus, the study of masculinities has been gaining recognition as a pertinent and legitimate subject; and methodologies of professional intervention have been put into practice, the premises of which are an examination of daily life and the need for change toward relations of equality. There have been well-recognized authors in this field internationally, whose work on violence, paternity, identity, health and sickness, and homosexuality has contributed to demystifying masculine invulnerability by making visible the social and health problems that affect men.

Vulnerability to accidents is a clear example. Men are the most frequent protagonists and victims of accidents. Many men, above all young men, die in traffic accidents resulting from extreme and risky behaviors that have been converted into ''rites'' of male reaffirmation, competition, and rivalry. Among children, too, the accident rate for boys is far higher than it is for girls. And violence is one of the most common ''solution strategies'' that men adopted in their conflicts with women and with other men.

Men possess limited psychological resources for dealing in a healthy way with their states of anxiety marked by disorientation, impotence, and the impossibility of expressing their discomfort and complaints. Correspondingly, men more than women adopt addictive-evasive behaviors, which are often alcohol related. On average, men die seven years earlier than women. Cerebrovascular accidents, cancer, and suicide are the three main causes of death in the male population, and men also employ more frequently lethal means for suicide than women. …

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