Tamara Rendón: “Their goal is to paralyze us as women who contribute to Socialism"

Tamara Rendón: “Their goal is to paralyze us as women who contribute to Socialism"
Fecha de publicación: 
25 September 2020
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Tamara Rendón is not an expert on gender issues. She is not lobbying for any campaign or specific initiative. She is just a Cuban, professional and revolutionary women whose sole goal is to contribute with the construction of an increasingly just and equitable society.

These were reasons enough to make this Cuban woman the target of cyberbullying in social networks.

Would you consider yourself a feminist? Why?

Yes, I am a feminist. In my daily routine, I champion every action encouraging equal rights of women and gender equity both online and offline. I reject every instrumentalization of violence against women and girls, which can be diverse; namely, symbolic, psychological, economic, patrimonial, territorial, institutional, sexual, workplace and physical. From my position as communicator, I contribute to the combat against patriarchy and sexist violence, which can be exercised in public or private contexts, sometimes both develop simultaneously.

I have attended further training courses and workshops for journalists as we, communicators, need to be prepared to shoulder our responsibility in changing mindsets making distinctions, or patterns and cultural creations on gender roles and macho postures in our society. It is our responsibility not to replicate gender stereotypes. We must use inclusive language, not sexist, as we can exclude through messages or been excluded after false masculine generics and thus realize that we are involved in expressions showing the unequal relationship between men and women. We must also make visible the empowerment of Cuban women in our society as well as the challenges ahead to achieve full equality. That is the best way for me to fight as a feminist communicator.

You recently shared in your Facebook account a negative experience you had in a group named Feministas Cubanas (Cuban Feminists). Can you tell us what happened?

I decided to join this group because I felt attracted by its name: Feministas cubanas (Women only) and yes, I felt identified with the cause. I shared two posts: one involving an apk related to home services, where my boyfriend and I placed an order sharing 50% of the total cost and the administrator questioned me this action had nothing to do with feminism.

Something similar occurred with my second post, which was about what was being done by the Cuban Union of Informaticians in favor of gender equity with concrete projects and actions meant to achieving a digital inclusion for women and girls in rural and urban areas; not to mention the training for a safe internet, against cyberbullying, among other violent expressions happening in social networks. In the text, the alliances with others powerful, inclusive institutions such as FMC (Cuban Women Federation), UPEC (Union of Cuban Journalists) and OPJM (José Martí Pioneer Organization) were highlighted in the post as well.

When I showed my disapproval before such biased analysis on gender-based issues in this group, I was silenced (something some members of the group accused the Cuban government of doing), the administrator, Sandra Abdallah-Álvarez Ramírez, banned me. In other words, she used violence against me without prior dialogue or warning.

Why did you think it was important to socialize these initiatives there?

Bringing visibility to what Cuban women do every day to improve our nation as well as portraying all social projects that institutions put in motion to favor the development of women while eradicating the patriarchal system is paramount in this true feminist struggle. Of course, I was “out of place” in a group where there were several double-standard women who only understand the concept of feminism if related to discrediting the Revolution in the case of gender, which can be improved. But the Revolution has been crucial to fight male chauvinism and promote equal rights in Cuba, especially those involving women and girls.

You have made clear your disagreement with the administrators’ answers on their reasons to veto your posts. In your perspective, what are the real causes?

Yes, I did. I posted on my Facebook profile as an act of self-defense. I could not do it any different after being banned from the group and without a Comprehensive Law against Gender Violence in Cuba. As we know how political and macho violence operates, after my complaint, other people —allegedly feminists, renowned Anti-Cuban, and pro-imperialists— pounced on me with offenses, arrogance, manipulated theories, mockeries. I was the target of all sorts of offenses aiming at discrediting me as a feminist and as a woman by reproaching me why I had talked about what had happened publicly, which led to cyberbullying, the same kind of bullying they apparently reject in any media accessible to them, which “have sheltered so many women under attack by the (Cuban) regime.”

Some of the most powerful feminist initiatives in Cuba have focused on the creation of new forms of masculinities. Do you believe it is important and necessary that men also commit themselves to eradicate patriarchy with all the pressure on our shoulders and theirs?

The Revolution, which has worked so much in search of social justice, is called upon the formation of new masculinities in common values of equity such as responsible fatherhood, and against traditionally assigned gender roles, prejudice, stigma or ways of proceeding, which discriminate on grounds of gender. The Revolution has never excluded nor abandoned anyone. If we are really looking for a change and equality relationship between men and women, everyone shall be included. Feminism is not against men, but against male chauvinism, patriarchy, socially and culturally built on the basis of preconceptions and a favorable environment to replicate them. We can overcome these issues from awareness-raising and collective education. That is the way the Ibero-American and African Masculinities Network is doing with a very intense social activism in Cuba contributing with tools and urging men to find out how much they can lose, how much it may hurt others and themselves, the hegemonic masculinity.

Amid all this debate, you said that, at the beginning, you did not agree with the standpoint of the text Revictimizada mil veces —published by Granma newspaper— on the media manipulation of genres issues, which aimed to fracture the Cuban society as you thought it downplayed somehow the necessary defense of those subjects in your viewpoint. However, you affirm this experience made you understand the purpose of the article. What is your viewpoint right now?

Cuba is living under permanent imperial siege since the triumph of the Revolution. That logical fear of “playing in favor of the enemy” sometimes freezes us and information gaps show up, which do more harm and favor Yankees’ tricks as they lead to the lack of trust in journalism and institutions and the absence of our ideas in discussions where the truth of Cuba is on the line.

At first, I thought this denounce published in Granma could minimize the need to raise awareness on genre violence in our media. It is a fact that the Revolution has guaranteed the respect for several rights of women such as abortion, employment, education and health etc…but much remains to be done against patriarchy. In this regard, the enemy cannot stop our work as journalists and feminist.

After this experience on the internet, I understood better the purpose of the article published in Granma on the instrumentalization of the feminist causes with political purposes to destroy the Revolution and its achievements in favor of genre equity. It is known that Capitalism is as oppressive as patriarchy. To preserve the achievement of the Revolution in the genre equity field, it is necessary to denounce the media war, which viciously uses a just cause to earn the trust of people —authentically concerned about this issue— to influence the public opinion inside and outside Cuba.

The discredit of organizations and institution working within the Revolution or committed to the Revolution —being one of them the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC)— has been one of top priorities for those media undermining the Cuban social project. However, you have defended that the Federation of Cuban Women is actually feminist. Why?  

The FMC has been historically feminist. This organization has fought against male oppression and has achieved the empowerment of Cuban women. We are now present in the public sphere and take less orders from patriarch at home, workplaces, or wherever comes the macho dictates. The FMC has fostered crucial legal changes in search of the rights of women since the triumph of the Revolution such as the Family Code and Cuba’s Constitution in 1976, which helped women to leave prostitution and gave them new opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Women were either literate or literacy tutors, militiawomen, thanks to FMC. This organization also achieved guarantees relating to the protection of motherhood, ranging from access to health services, 12-months’ maternity leave, and more recently, the parental leave; not to mention the day-care centers which certainly helped women to return to paid work, among other things. The FMC set us free, gave us dignity! We have our own feminist conception, inherited from Vilma and Fidel: the socialist one. Nonetheless, and despite having reached so many achievements that feminists worldwide are still dreaming about, the absent of the term in its policies is used against the FMC and the Revolution itself.  

From that perspective, what else would you ask the Federation of Cuban Women? Or better, what would you do as a member of such organization to face today’s challenges?

I would ask the FMC for new methods and styles of work that lead to achieving broader communication with young people, their codes and formats, so we can be more influential in Cubans’ daily life. Of course, as a communicator, I cannot overlook the challenges of the digital era and the new spaces and possibilities of action: a new apk promoting a challenge in the social network, dignifying and defending us from those who treat us like objects, like that of “family and product.” I would ask the organization to be our selfie, especially where we are cyberbullied: the social networks. I would love that my organization creates its own groups to identify cyberbullies on the internet. The FMC, along with other organizations, should marry its development options to our times. New entrepreneurs shall be trained. Teleworking shall be promoted and encouraged as well as the equitable sharing of housework, or the digital marketing —so popular today—, which may be protected against the very used sexualization of women in the e-commerce world. The FMC must warn about sexting and defend their victims, and foster virtual forum debates on the issue or other interesting subjects for Cuban women. I may ask them to continue training people in correspondence with the equitable nature of our social system. The FMC must be represented by the action of so many women, everywhere. It must be a heard, active voice in discussions on soap operas, comedy shows, video clips, or comments on some tourism products’ advertising.

I, as member of the FMC, will continue struggling against genre violence in both the real and digital world. I will continue growing as a professional in order to spread better the feminist cause.

As a revolutionary, feminist woman, what would you like to see in the Cuban press to face this media war and simultaneously, be part of the struggle for a true and total gender equity in our nation?

It is essential to show the things Cuban women do in our daily life to build a better world and nation. Many of us work in traditionally men-dominated jobs. Our television, radio, newspapers should portray the face and voice of women: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual, queer, without any discrimination. We should voice the new concerns of this new generation of women, our achievements but also our handicaps to reach the full dignity of every individual.

In our press, the violence against women must be addressed without succumbing to gossips, morbid details that re-victimize or tabloidism; we must educate people on the rights of the LGBTIQ community; we shall promote the need to typify femicide as a crime and a Comprehensive Law against Genre Violence, with legal punishment to those who attack the morally, psychologically and physically the integrity of groups offended by macho postures. Similarly, a cultural change is needed to denaturalize practices and concepts encouraging violence.

If we do not, we would be ceding space and audience to those using these challenges in Socialism to question and undermine it, making use of media financed by the same who violates us on daily basis.

Just like you, other women have been victims of cyberbullying in recent days. What do you think it is, behind the scene, the real goal of this media war?

Their goal is to paralyze us as women who contribute to the success of Socialism, as a developing nation. Their goal is to spread fear and silence us, to usurp authority over us, like male chauvinism does.

What sort of feminism is proposed in groups of Facebook and digital “media” where your posts were silenced and attacked you?

In terms of gender equity, personal attacks are political. Why do they ignore and discredit the role of Cuban institutions —which are doing so many thoughtful things for gender equity, opportunities and possibilities for both men and women, instead of working together to meet the challenges ahead? In these cases, a blind feminism is proposed to us, a feminism deviated from the Cuban history, the struggle that preceded us and we continue today; a kind of feminism that follows the orders capitalist patriarchs. This is a kind of feminism that bullies those who reject their patterns, which silences and violates with the help of media terror, every feminist, revolutionary voice. The only alternative to this feminism is the discredit to the Revolution and I reject it! Women must be heard and must debate, break heteronormative taboos. We shall all portray this is a just, ever-growing Revolution. We cannot play their game.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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