I don’t consider myself a feminist because I try to avoid reactionary attitudes. That is to say, feminism in opposition to machismo seems too easy to me when in really my rights as a human being go far beyond my gender. Among some of my acquaintances, however, the issue is less complex: I am a feminist. We have a natural tendency to throw into the sack of the known anything that we do not understand, the extreme generalization of the exceptions that don’t fit the statistics.
In Cuba machismo works like racism, for the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party it simply “doesn’t exist.” In her book, The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir studied the points of convergence between the segregation suffered by black people and women; half a century later my country is living proof of her thesis. Among the “not racists” are those who assert that “not all blacks are the same” or this aberration, “this black man has a white soul.” Among the “no machismos” we find another version of the same phenomenon, “the woman is like us.” In other words, “men” are the species, and “we women” resemble them.
The other day I went to a party far from Central Havana and got lost on the way, one of the guests recognized me on the street and as he was in a taxi, he picked me up. When I got in he was in a lively conversation with the driver that I didn’t want to interrupt. The dialog went more or less like this:
“But man, I don’t let her go out alone. Why does she need to be running around out there by herself?”
“Sometimes when I get home from work, I knock her around a little, just in case.” I suppose this comment was a joke, but I can’t prove it. And then he added, “Later she stands in front of the mirror and I tell her, ‘You see? I’m better looking than you.’”
It hit me like a brick, not only because of the bad taste of what appeared to be a joke, but for the fact that they both ignored my presence in the back of the car, big time. When we got to the house where the party was, the guy who had recognized me turned to me and asked, “Claudia, do you happen to have any money? You pay, I don’t have the exact change.”
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.