Gender studies to change current realities

By Helen Hernández Hormilla /

Gender studies are now being undertaken by new social-science graduates on the island.

After two decades of research along these lines, experts feel that the gender approach is currently being applied from a wider range of perspectives.

Issues like gender violence, paternity, race, migration, communication, art, sports, sexuality, masculinity, leadership, household chores, and family care are being addressed on the basis that gender is actually mainstreamed into all of them as socially, culturally and/or historically constructed roles.

The Federation of Cuban Women has for over 20 years promoted the establishment of Women’s Chairs at universities throughout the country, seeking to organize under- and post-graduate courses on gender issues.

Norma Vasallo, director of the Women’s Chair at the University of Havana , highlighted the importance of these courses from a theoretical and professional point of view.

On the other hand, the Women’s Study Program under implementation by Casa de Las Américas, the Mirta Aguirre Gender Chair at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism, the Iberian-American and African Network on Masculinity (RIAM), and the Group on Equity at the University of Oriente in Santiago de Cuba are also promoting gender studies by young graduates.

Other initiatives

Gender contents have so far been integrated into social-science curricula only as alternative subjects.

Students often complain about lack of bibliographical materials and opportunities to submit their works at scientific events and publications.

In an effort to redress this trend, newly graduated psychologists have set up the Psychology and Gender Group at the University of Havana .

Dalia Virgilí, one of its coordinators, told SEMlac that the idea is to develop further research into gender issues, as well as training, awareness-raising and information-dissemination actions, including an electronic bulletin.

Back in the 1980s, these studies were first conducted by researchers like Luisa Campuzano, Marta Núñez, Mirta Rodríguez, Susana Montero, Mirta Yáñez, Niurka Pérez, Teresa Díaz, Norma Vasallo, and Julio C. González.

«It is really difficult to do research work (into gender issues), especially by young people who lack experience,» said Rachel Alfonso, an expert working for the Higher Education Training Center at the University of Havana .

«We, at the Psychology and Gender Group, are now focusing on business leadership, social imagery, and behavioral-change methodologies,» she added.

«We are implementing participatory processes to deal with gender inequalities,» Virgilí indicated.

Moving from theory to practice

«New researchers are trying to link university professors and feminist activists,» stressed Danae C. Diéguez, a professor at the College of Arts (ISA).

Men researchers under 40 years of age have embarked on gender studies, especially those working for the Cuban Masculinity Forum and RIAM.

Historians Dayron Oliva, Yonnier Angulo and Daniel A. Fernández, and sociologist Carlos E. Rodríguez made major contributions to Pagés’ Macho varón masculino (Macho Men), a book published in 2010.

«RIAM has organized workshops on violence, music, sports and feminism, designed mainly for young people, said Oliva Hernández, a professor of Cuban culture at ISA.

Yulexis Almeida and Sandra Álvarez have specialized in race and gender; Magela Romero and Aida Torralbas, in male-chauvinistic violence; Yamila González, Danae C. Diéguez, and Yanetsi Pino, in cultural studies; and Lirians Gordillo and Karina Escalona, in gender and communication.

«Gender has been incorporated into social research mainly after it was included in political discourse and international scholarships and projects,» Diéguez recalled.

«The gender theory is not easily accepted because it has not been integrated into university curricula and also because it questions the patriarchal culture that has unfortunately provided the basis for training,» Vasallo concluded.

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