Violence: Need for further awareness-raising

By Helen Hernández Hormilla /

The recently announced measures to fight sexist, vulgar, male-chauvinistic stereotypes on local radio and television have sparked controversy.

«Developed by the government-run Cuban Institute of Music, the actions involve even sanctions and are intended for artists and senior officials alike,» said its president Orlando Vistel.

He told Granma daily newspaper that there is a need to curb the dissemination of music and audiovisual materials that portray women as sexual objects.

He added that legal standards under preparation will also cover recreational facilities, schools, means of transportation, etc.

Speaking at a session of the local parliament last December, Danilo Sirio, president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT), had indicated that offensive video-clips would no longer be shown on television.

The new Cuban television policy also includes the suppression of scenes containing naked bodies, explicit sex, and homosexual love expressions.

Gender and media experts believe that the idea is to raise further awareness among cultural institutions and the general public.

Attention has so far been focused on music, drama and humor shows rather than on public-good messages and newsreels, which continue to be marked by sexist discourse.

Ups and downs

Isabel Moya, editor-in-chief at Women publishing house, highlighted the need to implement a code of ethics to fight discrimination and violence in the mass media and to bridge the gender gap in society.

«There should be cross-cutting gender indicators for local television,» stressed Danae Diéguez, a film professor at the College of Arts (ISA).

«Censuring female nude is quite a simplistic action; feminism has always favored sexual freedom,» Moya recalled.

«Only gender-conscious people can make a difference between women shown as objects of desire and as subjects of pleasure,» Diéguez emphasized.

«Sexist messages can range from omissions to mere words,» reporter Lirians Gordillo remarked.

TV show director Magda González thinks that there should be no regulation in writing, but well-designed, forward-looking training actions as well as multidisciplinary discussions and reflections.

Gordillo feels that the current regulation is evidently inconsistent due to the lack of information on feminism and academic gender studies in Cuba .

«Women are now playing leading roles in television and radio news and shows, but the approach continues to be male-chauvinistic and prejudice-plagued,» Diéguez commented.

«The idea should not be to ban the exhibition of video-clips and other materials that degrade women, but to promote critical assessment,» Gordillo noted.

Moya is of the view that the representation of men and women should never be reduced to sexual objects and that women should not be portrayed as weak, insecure beings always dependent on and subordinated to men.

«There is a need to fight symbolic violence on a permanent basis,» Diéguez said.

«We should try to strike a balance between artistic freedom and editorial policy,» González stressed. «Gender considerations should always be based on scientific evidence,» she added.

«We should not forget that patriarchal culture leads to male-chauvinistic aggression and low self-esteem,» Moya remarked.

«Something that is apparently harmless is helping reproduce a canon that public policies and social leaders are now questioning,» she concluded.

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