(cont. from p.2)
do except produce children.
Now there is so much work to be done in Cuba--new lands to be cultivated,
factories to be built, classes to be taught--that anyone who can work
is a treasure. Women are valuable people because the whole country
needs them, not just because men like them.
The Women's Federation does not crusade to establish the emancipation
or equality of women. Instead, its main function is to implement government
work policies which operate on the assumption of equality. The Federation
organizes vcluntary work brigades, helps unemployed women find jobs,
and trains students going into the fields. It also runs excellent
day nurseries for pre-school children during work hours.
A strict division of labor is maintained in Cuba under the direction
of the men- men drive tractors and cut the cane, while women roll
cigars, run the nurseries, and plant coffee. (It is true that cane
cutting is too difficult for most women, but driving a tractor is
not. Why should there be no men in the nurseries?)
These exclusionary practices may be a source of conflict in the future,
but they are not now. Women are by no means restricted to low status
jobs. Before, professional women were mainly teachers. Now, a third
of the new teacher trainees are men, while nearly half of the medical
students are women. In the sugar mill we visited, one of the ten or
fifteen foremen was a woman. In the Faculty of Technology at the University
a third of the students are women. There were virtually none before.
Women are also active in local block clubs, the militia, and the Party;
many are judges in the Popular Courts.
the work relationships between men and women have changed very rapidly,
sexual relationships are changing more slowly. Women have been trained
for a long time to judge their worth by how well they can please men
as sexual objects. (Cuban fashion magazines are very much like our
own) In Havana, around hotels particularly, there was no shortage
of women wearing high heels, tight skirts, no girdles and shiny cloth,
in the standard Latin ''sexy" style. Many women have not yet
discovered that they are already valuable; there is no need to wear
uncomfortable shoes any more. And the Cuban men I watched
responded to the traditional flirtations in traditional ways, maintaining
the women's dependence on approval from men.
Marriage is not being eliminated. Cuban young people marry at a fairly
early age 17 to 19 and are producing children prolifically.
Contraceptives are available but aren't as popular as they are here,
for a couple of reasons. First, the island is under-populated, a result
of a century of uprisings and police retaliation. Second., mothers needn't
choose between having children and continuing their public lives because
of the nursery system run by the Women's Federation.
However, marriages are dissolved more often and more easily than before.
The revolution often separates couples for several months or years while
one partner is sent to a distant part of the island to do voluntary
work, teach, or go to school. It is becoming more common, according
to one of our guides for each to find a new partner until the old arrangement
can be resumed. Sometimes the new partner is preferred and the previous
marriage is dissolved.
Changes in women's roles in Cuba--in the value of being female--are
closely related to changes in the Cubans' concept of the ideal person.
I suspect that as the ideal of the New Socialist Man (consistent, hardworking
and cooperative) comes to replace the ideal of the Guerillero (adventuresome,
(cont. on p. 8)
have been numerous suggestions, ever since last summer, that a
national radical women's meeting be called The Chicago women's
coordinating committee is interested in knowing what women all
over the country think. Do you want a conference? If so, when,
where, and how would you like to see it organzed? We will try
to let you know more in the next newsletter.