The Changes Of The Situation Of Women As Presented In Three Cuban Films Essay, Research Paper
The Changes of the Situation of Women as Presented in Three Cuban Films
The Cuban revolution has brought about great change for women. Prior to Castro?s reign, women mainly had lives that revolved around the household, and very few had professional jobs. Also, they were traditionally seen as subordinate to men in political and social situations. Gradually, women became more active outside of the household and started to participate in revolutionary pursuits, as well as take care of the family. Along with the revolutionary ideals of social equality in Cuba, came a strong women?s rights movement? a struggle against the historical structures of machismo. Although much has been accomplished to better the gender discrimination and sexism, women in Cuba are still in a situation where they have to sacrifice themselves. As we see in three films from throughout the post-revolutionary period, the situation has changed, but not improved for the women of Cuba.
In Mihail Kalatozov?s 1964 film, I am Cuba, the second vignette comments most about the situation of women. There are many shots of scantily clad women that suggest the importance of physical beauty. The story begins in at a hotel with Cuban women participating in a bathing suit contest, while rich tourists watch. The viewer already notices how the Cuban women are being degraded for the satisfaction of the Americans. As the story progresses, we see the protagonist, Maria, get proposed to, something that does not make her very happy. It seems as if she would rather work and be single than the wife of a revolutionary. Next, in the nightclub, Maria, or now named Betty to be more American, is introduced to some American men who like her for her beauty. We know that she is highly sexualized by the ?portrait? one of them draws of her that is really a picture of a breast. While she is dancing with the men, we get to see Maria?s emotional state. She is frantically thrown around; she has no control over the situation, and we can see the despair on her face. This scene shows how much Maria feels trapped as a woman in Cuba. Later, when she brings a man home for money, she is not ashamed of the muddy barrio in which she lives. In fact, she takes extra care of the growing plant outside of her house. This demonstrates her hope for the future. As the man leaves, he takes her crucifix, and her self-respect. Her fiance returns to find the man leaving the exploited Maria. In this film we realize how really desperate the women of this time are. Maria, a sex object, has no voice throughout the film. She is trapped in a world controlled by men and foreigners. She is forced to alter her identity and sell her body to live in her own country comfortably, yet still impoverished.
The next film was made after the revolution began to bring more social equality to Cuba. Pastor Vega?s film, Portrait of Teresa (1979), displays a mother?s struggle between her family and her duties as a ?good revolutionary.? During this time, the feminist movement is sweeping the country and more women are working and going to college. The revolution brought on more ways for women to be active in the government and arts. Teresa wants very badly to have a job and do extra revolutionary activities, while taking care of three sons and an inconsiderate husband. She realizes that this cannot work unless her husband decides to accept her commitment to her profession. Throughout the film, she is presented with many discouragements. Besides her husband being sexist, her mother and friends tell her also that she cannot have all of these things at once. Sexism within her workplace is apparent when we see the directors board of all men and mostly women workers. Also, while Teresa and her male partner are being interviewed, the interviewer comments on her looks and asks about her husband, while her partner is asked about actual production. These are all comments on the place that women held in society. They are free to participate in everything as equal comrades to men, but in reality they are still viewed as subordinate to men. The machismo structure is confronted in the final scene, where Teresa asks her husband if he would take her back if she cheated on him. She leaves him after realizing that he would never understand her fight for women?s equality.
In the most recent film, Carlos Marcovich?s 1997, ?Who the Hell is Yuliet,? we see a modern perspective of women in Cuba. Most women work and start college and also get married. Yuliet is a young prostitute who works upholding Havana?s sex-tourism reputation. She has grown up with out a father and was raped at 14. Throughout the film, we see that men are highly sexualized to Yuliet; she uses them and has no problems using her body. We learn that for only one dollar a day, she sells her body to foreign men. This horrible situation shows just how desperate the Cuban women of today really are. Although the country has worked through the revolution to improve equality in the workplace, Cuban women still hold a social stigma that represses them from being successful. The film displays Cuba as an infamously erotic country that continues to exploit women. This is exemplified by Yuliet?s decision to stay in Cuba instead of being a model in Mexico. Sex has been such an emotionless part of her life that she would see no difference in modeling and selling sex. We also see this theme again while she is dancing sensually with a blank expression on her face. Yuliet represents Cuban women who have a hard edge and little aspirations because of gender expectations. This recent film shows explicitly that there has been no successive improvement in the situation of women since the revolution.