During the XX century American and Cuban women fight for freedom and equal rights with men. The feminist movement of the 1960s expressed ideology held by most women around the world as they knew their sacrifices would be acknowledged and valued by their children. The 1960s were marked the awakening of the American women fighting for equal rights and opportunities, sexual liberation and personal identity. In spite of the fact that the feminist movement of the 1960s is considered a movement of a middle class women such women writers and feminists as Fanny Flagg vividly portrays that Cuban and Cuban-American women took an active part in this movement. The feminist movement of Cuban women can be identified as ‘feminist consciousness’ marked by raising awareness of the problems and inequality women were faced with.
In the book “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” Fannie Flagg describes participation and struggle of Cuban women against social inequality and male dominance. The main concerns of women included racial and national differences, domestic violence, lesbian relations, class differences and discrimination. Cuban and Cuban American women were the most unprotected category which experienced violence. It is thus proper that feminists, who have done most to expose the problem, continue to urge its identification as one particular expression of masculinity and male violence against women. Using the female characters, Ninny Threadgoode, Idgie Threadgoode, Ruth Jamison etc., Flagg describes new ideas held by Cuban women against oppression and domestic abuse. Not only does this claim constrain the possible acceptable explanations of sexual abuse, but it also sets the agenda for any solution, especially in recommending long-term and radical changes in the respective status of men and women. Taking into account Cuban and American cultures, it is possible to say women were faced with similar problems within institution of family, namely sexual and physical abuse. Through the character of Evelyn Couch Fannie Flagg portrays that women fought for equal rights and government protection from domestic violence. Cuban women were not passive observers but active participants in social relations. R. Dunbar-Ortiz was “leader of the feminist movement” who played a dominant role in Cuban feminist movement (Dunbar-Ortiz 2002).
Another area of concern was lack of respect towards women. For a long time, men had played a dominant position in Cuba as keepers of traditions and customers in contrast to women who performed a reproduction function only. During 1960s, Cuban woman fought for their rights living under double oppression, cultural and legal. And women were absent in part because gender stereotypes established leadership as a masculine activity and in part because gender labeling and structures discriminated against women seeking positions of power. It is in this sense that where women were absent, principles of gender were at work. Women fought against oppression to gain freedom and independence. The one of the major forms of this struggle was ‘silent’ rebellion. Woman activists including R. Dunbar-Ortiz promulgated new ideas and social ideals educating Cuban women and girls.
Century old prejudices and stereotypes of “black” and “colored” people prevented them from equal social opportunities. The point is that racial prejudices have consequences for the difference between races experience in, for example, earning money and exercising public power. Through the characters of Mrs. Threadgoode and Evelyn Fannie Flagg depicts that racial differences associated with fear: “Mrs. Threadgoode and Evelyn discuss race in terms of fear. “You know, a lot of these people resent having colored nurses out here. One of them said that deep down, all colored people hate white people and if those nurses got a chance, they’d kill us off in our sleep” (Flagg 2000, 56).
In general, ‘feminist consciousness’ can be defined as a fight for freedom, equal rights and racial equality. On the one hand, it helped to attract attention of masses to social problems such as injustice and oppression. On the other hand, ‘feminist consciousness’ was necessary because it led to social revolution. It demonstrated the act of human spirit and unity. ‘Feminist consciousness’ of Cuban women forced the government and insurgents to realize the consequences that took place if political changes have not been made. It was necessary because it showed a struggle for individual freedom which means much more than the absence of physical coercion. Every change in social behavior had a short term and long term goals which helped mutineers to reach their target (Dunbar-Ortiz 2002).
Racial and national prejudices were powerful in Cuba. Since it was the group perception of benefit-generating attributes that was important, it created a negative position in mind of the third party. During 1960s “whitening” and national identity negatively affects the distribution of economic and social resources. It is possible say that for the Cuban women, the “escape” from ‘color’ was marked by violence, a violence of distance and disavowal. It is not surprising, therefore, if leading intellectuals attacked the notion of “racial democracy” in educational process and wanted to provide a new narrative, which offered a central place to those of Cuban descent. In general, the latter involves defining different qualities, roles, and activities for men and women and ensuring the reproduction of these discriminatory structures. During 1960s, feminists did ever thing possible to familiarize public with social problems faced by Cuban women to inspire women to struggle against male oppression, and support those women who were at a loss. The “women question” was represented the stark realities of life and told about women who needed help but had too much pride to ask for support. Racial differences and oppression undoubtedly motivated people to acts of extreme violence against those whom they classify as “others.” rebellions in history were a very important step towards freedom and independence. ‘Feminist consciousness’ prepared a ground for social revolutions and became a force for new social movements.
Sexual liberation and lesbian relations were also addressed during the 1960s. Flagg describes that two women leave their abusive husbands and raise a son together. These extreme actions were a part of revolutionary process against ideology and social norms. Sexual confrontations acting as an original cause of rebellion forced women to struggle. In many cases, fight for freedom and equal rights made use of gender differences. In this case, a necessity to rebel served as a causal explanation of it. Sexual rebellion was a relational choice which allowed to start fighting and attracted masses of people to this problem. It served like a signal for those who wanted to be free from ideology.
Equal opportunities and equal pay were the main slogan of the feminist movement of the 1960s. Cuban women followed these political trends trying to be equal to men. For instance, Flagg depicts that two persons Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison opened the Whistle Stop Café, with cooking done by “two colored women” (Flagg 2000, 2) Onzell and Sipsey. For females and minorities feminist movement proposed great opportunities to be equally treated and protected (to some extent). In this situation, the obligation of women to fight for freedom and equal opportunities coincided with their strategy to survive, on the one hand, and with that of defending their gender identity on the other. It was people who made claims or felt marginalized, and women who often disagreed, sometimes quite fundamentally, about how their identity should be interpreted or understood. Padula and Smith state: ‘Reproduction and child rearing were merely “burdens” that hindered women’s participation in the redeeming male province of public production. This ideological view of domestic tasks shaped the revolution’s efforts to resolve the dilemmas of women workers” (Padula and Smith 1996, 95).
Raising awareness and feminist consciousness reflected in gender relations and new social roles. Low class location prevented women to obtain social respect and opportunities available for middle and high class citizens. For instance, it was difficult for working class women to give good education for their children. From the early age, low class children are “excluded” from society. Many women depicted by Flagg fought for equal treatment and classless in their relations with men and other women (Padula and Smith 1996).
The facts mentioned above and historical overview proposed by Flagg portrays that Cuban and Cuban American women took an active part in the feminist movement of the 1960s. It was a ‘silent revolution against oppression and gender inequalities. Overall, an aggressive, achievement-oriented people were matched to the culture of Cuba (Sylvester 2003). Politics and human rights policy have changed significantly throughout the twentieth century, notably in relation to attitudes about race, gender, and sexuality, although they have nurtured a particular vision of social justice. If the government compromised, there was no necessity to continue struggle which could lead to numerous death-roll. For Cuban and Cuban-American women, ‘feminist consciousness’ meant absence of restrictions and compulsions, and in correlation with the idea of will, it was the opportunity to act as would be desirable. On the other hand, the idea which would be likely to the Cuban society was that the freedom was not an honor or award except in the case of honorary freedom. ‘Feminist consciousness’ was necessary because it opened freedom to all who were genuinely interested and met the criteria of a rioter. That was main principle on which new social changes were based. Also, ‘feminist consciousness’ gave rise to a new national ideology held by most Cuban feminists (revolutionaries). Ideology and debates raised by many Cuban women show that the feminist movement of the 1960s was not a movement of the middle-class, white, American women but a global social trend supported by women from all cultures, races, countries and backgrounds.
Works Cited Page
1. Dunbar-Ortiz, R. Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War. City Lights Publishers, 2002.
2. Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. Ballantine Books, 2000.
3. Padula, A., Smith, L.M. Sex and Revolution: Women in Socialist Cuba. Oxford University Press, 1996.
4. Sylvester, Ch. Feminist International Relations: An Unfinished Journey. Cambridge University Press, 2001.