Conceiving Cuba: Reproduction, Women, and the State in Post-Soviet Cuba

By Elise Andaya | Go to book overview

5
Engendered Economies and the
Dilemmas of Reproduction

Time and again, women’s reproductive dilemmas underscored a wider debate, articulated both within familial relations and in state policy, about the responsibility for nurturing children and citizens in post- Soviet Cuba. As the narratives of the previous chapter demonstrated, women attributed low fertility and high abortion rates not simply to the expense of raising children, but also to the gendered demands of balancing claims by family and the state in the complex and often fragile arrangements in which children are born and sustained. Such tensions have repercussions not only for reproductive practice in terms of fertility rates, but also for the distribution of gendered labor and the production of gendered subjectivities.

In socialist theory, state support for reproduction and the de- gendering of the productive and reproductive spheres would form the basis for new and egalitarian norms of female and male socialist citizenship, both in the home and in the workplace. In practice, as the lives of my informants showed, while women assumed many new roles and obligations outside the home, the connection between women and reproduction remained largely intact; women’s supposedly natural affinity for nurturance and reproductive labor was often tacitly reaffirmed at both the level of the state and in familial gender relations. Thus, socialism’s new woman has been produced not simply through explicit policies around labor or childcare, but also indirectly through women’s double and triple burdens as mothers, workers, and revolutionaries.

Moreover, as in other socialist states (Gal and Kligman 2000), the historic alliance between women and the state made women in many ways more dependent than men on state policy and largesse to realize the new gendered ideals. The contraction of the state therefore had gendered effects when responsibility for household reproduction was returned to the family— that is, to women.1 Observing

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