Cuba is a controversial country. It’s often used by various groups as a definitive example of various principles, be it communism—for good or bad—economic isolation, totalitarianism, etc. One of these principles is “equality.” Cuban supporters usually laud the country as one of the best examples of racial and gender equality and harmony.
How true is this? And what can we learn from the real state of gender equality in a country proffered by many as the case to emulate? I went to the island myself to find out.
Cuba, Communism, Feminism, and Gender Equality
The Cuban government is a single-party system run by the Communist Party of Cuba which assumed power after the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959. The communist philosophy is based above all on the principle of equality, gender equality being a large part of that. Karl Marx, one of the initial and most important philosophers of communism, once said, “Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.”
Over a century later, Fidel Castro reiterated the same idea, stating:
“The fight for women’s equality in all its aspects is a priority for our Party; it was, is, and will be a priority for our Revolution.”
Today, the Communist Party of Cuba spends a lot of time talking about their “fight” for women’s equality. Propaganda celebrating women as the backbone of “the Revolution” abounds. There’s nothing unusual about this, of course, and modern feminism and its mythology like Patriarchy Theory are largely based on Marxism and communism.
But is it true gender equality?
Discrimination Against Men in Cuba
For whatever effort the Communist Party of Cuba puts into “equality for women,” they seem to be concerned the inverse amount about equality for men, which begs the question of what “equality” even means in this sense. During my time on the island, a number of men enlightened me on the various sexist policies of the Cuban government.
For example, men and only men are required to serve two years in the Cuban military. They are recruited out of secondary school, and failure to serve your term before turning 29 carries serious consequences. My contact told me that even though he had been officially exempted from the conscription law due to a physical disability, his lack of service resulted in the denial of permission from the Cuban government to leave the country.
Additionally, since I was there for the anniversary, several Cubans spoke to me about the mass protests in Cuba known as 11J because they took place on July 11, 2021. I was told that in response to the protests, the government forcibly conscripted teenage boys to repress their own people. Failure to comply meant a prison sentence—and still does—of up to 25 years. Moreover, their families could suffer intimidation and denial of resources, which the government controls entirely.
However, there is an interesting way out of conscription: homosexuality. One Cuban contact mentioned that homosexual Cuban men suffer considerable discrimination, and their prohibition from military service affects them negatively both in the sense that they’re denied an opportunity for a career they could potentially want, and that failure to serve can result in negative repercussions even if it was legally justified.
Finally, the Cuban government discriminates against men when it comes to rationing resources. Cuba is not exactly a prosperous country, and most foodstuffs and medications are dolled out in specific amounts at government-run distribution centers. By Cuban law, women receive priority over men for distribution, meaning that shortages of food and medication, which are common, affect men first resulting in higher male mortality. Not surprisingly, like most countries, Cuban women have a much higher life expectancy than Cuban men: 80.86 years versus 76.94.
Time to Ditch the Marxist Version of “Gender Equality”
In this exaggerated case, it’s easy to see what “gender equality” means for the Communist Party of Cuba. It’s a propaganda tool, the same as it was for Karl Marx and the first communists. It’s a way for them to manipulate and recruit the female population, which tends to act as a larger and more organized political block than men. While men more easily splinter between different groups, a movement that can attract women will likely attract a large majority of women, making them a perfect target for ideologues.
Do they actually care about gender equality, though? No, obviously not. If they did, these heinous examples of discrimination against men wouldn’t continue despite decades of “fighting” for equality for women.
For those who celebrate Cuba as a shining example of gender equality that other nations should follow, we should be wary. Just like the Communist Party of Cuba and its dictatorship, they aren’t actually interested in achieving gender equality but rather the triumph of their political movement and the social power that would provide them.
Indeed, the Marxist feminists that fill the halls of gender studies departments push blatantly disingenuous ideas like “patriarchy” for this very reason. It’s only possible to claim men as a class is privileged over women if “equality” means men are last in line for food and medicine. It’s time for this politicized version of gender equality to disappear in favor of a true one where men and women enjoy equal freedoms in society and share equal responsibilities.