Will there ever be a man's day?
Conversation with Dr. Julio César González Pagés,
general coordinator of the Ibero-American and
African Masculinities Network
Yenia Silva Correa
DESPITE huge efforts and legislation
approved by the Revolution to create gender equality
in society, men and women believe that equality is
still something quite distant.
been overcome since the 1960’s.
With the aim of reducing this
distance, Cuba is working intensively not only to
put women at the fore —a task that started with the
founding of the Federation of Cuban Women— but also
to include men in the task of adopting attitudes and
opinions which contribute to equality.
Dr. Julio César González Pagés,
general coordinator of the Ibero-American and
African Masculinities Network (RIAM) states, "All
the transformations of the 1960's, female
empowerment, the fact that women in Cuba have rights
that are still being considered in other parts of
Latin America, mean that, in the social context, men
are assuming new ways of relating to women and thus
helping women in wanting men to change."
While the network initially included
only a few countries, its remit has spread to
various regions and is bearing fruit within Cuba,
including the Masculinities Study Conference in
November, which will examine the topic of
Masculinities and Old Age; and the creation of an
Athletes for Nonviolence Network.
"In 2006 we took on the task of
creating this website and joined another network at
the University of Barcelona. At first there were six
or seven countries, and now there are 32 of us from
Ibero-America, eight from Africa and 93 universities
and organizations in the network," he says.
Although RIAM has no physical
headquarters, through its virtual location (www.redmasculinidades.com),
it has always presented good practices which can be
applied in different parts of the region, as well as
exploring current problems.
"One of the issues most sought on
the website is nonviolence. How, from diverse
backgrounds, can we design programs for men on
nonviolence? We have seen the possibility of
transformation in two major areas: music and sport,"
González Pagés noted.
In just seven years since it was
established, the RIAM network has entered the sphere
of serious academic study and has drawn together
millions of men.
"The network has offered Cuba the
opportunity to become a center and a leader on the
issue at a continental level, and on account of what
we are achieving, we have become internationally
ADVANTAGES OF A HIGH LEVEL OF
Starting out from a very simple
definition of masculinity —the socio-cultural
perception of a series of characteristics and
attributes generally believed to come with being a
man—González Pagés prefers to speak of masculinities
in the plural, not only because of the different
ways these are manifested within one individual, but
also in Cuba and other countries of the region.
On account of a shared historical
and cultural background, both in Latin America and
in Cuba, masculinity — and its hyperbolic form of
machismo— manifests itself in a similar way in
these countries, with certain differences.
"In Latin America there are many
places where it is impossible to remove machismo
from discourse and behavior," he states. "We have
the huge advantage of being a country where people
are highly educated and it is easier to modify the
discourse because there are more ways of unlearning
DOES LEGISLATION HELP?
"In Cuba, all the most important
laws providing equality between men and women have
been adopted. We have succeeded in legislating for
equality, but in a cultural context we laugh at
Cuba revolutionized the whole of
Latin America with its Family Code in 1976. It is
currently being revised, but the problem has been
putting it into practice.
"The change we are hoping for is
that the solidarity proposed as a challenge in the
1970s in the family and workplace context, should be
extended in the 21st century to culture and
education and that men should play a more active
Although research on masculinity in
Cuba still has many areas to cover and go hand-in-hand
with the Federation of Cuban Women, Dr. González
Pagés, an expert who sits on various United Nations
bodies related to gender violence, is convinced that
women’s social emancipation in Cuba has helped to
modify male behavior.
"Masculinity has been changing since
the 1960’s, a time when in reality men and women
were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Such extreme
attitudes no longer exist.
"All positive statistics relating to
women in Cuba lead to men having more respect for
women. While we cannot as yet sing siren songs, or
believe we have reached our goal, it doubtless helps
that women want to see a change in men.
"We need to recognize that all these
years of transformation for women have had a
positive influence on what we are doing now.
"What we hope for in social terms is
to break down the cultural barriers which either
remove or give opportunities based on biological
"When that time arrives, every day
can be as much hers as his. Meanwhile, we need to
know what citizens we want: men and women who assume
their masculinity and femininity with the awareness
that their rights must be the same."