Childhood Joy in Cuba Is at Risk

By Jancel Moreno

Cuban kids. Photo: Mabel Nakkache

HAVANA TIMES — She moves her hips to the rhythm of the music. They sing along and clap. She laughs and shakes her body even more, making her miniskirt dance like a flower that moves about it the wind. The song ends and everyone shouts Bravo!, because “it’s funny” to see her dance like this, with her lips painted red and a bun up high on her head, just like the one her mother has. The exotic dancer is only three years old.

It would be funny if it wasn’t also extremely worrying. Today, there is a concept that has become repetitive in debates and studies at different Psychology faculties in the world: “the hypersexualization of children and youth.” This is what is known as “the promotion of expressions, poses or ways of dressing that are considered too mature for children.” 

It is funny for a lot of adults to see their younger daughters practicing the sexy poses that they have seen in photo albums or magazines of girls on their sweet fifteen birthdays. Some have even encouraged and paid a lot of money to keep a memento of their girls wearing shorts, with extravagant hair-dos and wearing make-up that the women in their family don’t normally use everyday.

According to experts, it’s most likely that they aren’t aware that this kind of prompted behavior can become habit and contribute to shaping an identity that is rooted in their sexual desireability, thanks to which they set out goals for themselves such as being a beautiful object to please others.

Therefore, it’s no wonder that there are more and more experts pointing out how detrimental this behavior is to them, as they can suffer from narcissism, depression and anxiety in the future as a result of seeing themselves valued more for their exterior than what they carry inside, like Marti warned over more than a century ago.

“The great and real elegance of dress lies in the soul’s pride and strength. An honest, intelligent and free soul gives the body more elegance and more power to a woman than the most expensive fashions in shop windows […] Whoever feels their beauty, their inner beauty, doesn’t seek loaned beauty from outside: they know they are beautiful and this beauty irradiates from within them. They will make sure to look happy and pleasant to people’s eyes, because it’s a human duty to cause pleasure instead of pain, and whoever knows beauty, respects it in others and themselves.” – Jose Marti, Letters to Maria Mantilla.

Many parents still take refuge in the idea that these things only happen in First World societies, loaded with advertising that doesn’t affect us here. However, Cuban girls also sit in front of DVD players, PCs and all kinds of multimedia devices where they are exposed to the alleged morals of Barbie films and series and princesses, as well as others targeted at teenagers such as Hannah Montana, which also promote values (or anti-values) that are very different to our identity.

Not to mention soap operas and “reggaeton music” videos which are perverting everyone and there are more and more people raising their voices to warn us about this phenomenon which is wrongly called “music”, which children shouldn’t be seeing or even listening to.

Those who say that “girls know more than we can even imagine” are quite right to do so. However, they aren’t to blame, it’s their mothers, their fathers and even their grandparents, who allow them to watch what they shouldn’t and then buy them provocative outfits such as miniskirts, high-heel shoes, tight dresses and as incredible as it might seem, even lingerie. All of this points to the fact that none of them have picked up on the lewd gaze and deeply troubling thoughts that this might stir in quite a few demented minds.

It is becoming increasingly commonplace to see girls with long artificial and colored nails. It seems as though nobody wants to recognize the fact that their innocence is slowly being driven off of a cliff.

But, now let’s think about how difficult it is to find good quality and affordable clothes in Cuba… Why are adults choosing these kinds of clothes for their small daughters? What is the reason behind it being appealing to dress a girl like a little woman?

Childhood is a period of your life that is full of affection and imagination, it is also the precursor to the life we will have later, and we are killing it between laughs and bad habits.

4 thoughts on “Childhood Joy in Cuba Is at Risk

  • A repeated parental lament since time immemorial. In Marti’s time, a woman exposing her ankle would have been scandalous. Before becoming mainstream, flapper fashion was considered more appropriate for brothels. When the Beatles came on the scene, my parents viewed them as class of transvestites.
    I am not arguing with the author, as I find it hard to accept what the youth of today are being exposed to as well. However, let’s face it. We are dinosaurs. The world belongs to the youth. As it always has.

    Reply
  • Chuckling just a bit. During the 50s in the U.S., parents had heart attacks when Elvis Presley wiggled his hips in a sexually suggestive manner.
    And the music! Rock and roll! Nothing less than evil, manipulating young people to engage in kissing and such!
    I agree with “Jose Marti,” that every generation has to deal with influences to which they’d rather not have their kids exposed– but kids will be kids.

    Reply
  • I disagree with the comments below. This is a cause for concern. The media world we and our children live in today is much different than the 50’s or 60’s. The advent of the cell phone and the internet means that children are bombarded with images 24/7. Even with limited access in Cuba it’s obvious that these messages and those brought from the US by visiting relatives are having an unintended impact.

    But the article leaves out the crucial element, Men. The sexualization of girls is not occurring in the abstract. Men create these products, men distribute them, sell them and applaud and give attention to young girls who buy and use them. The transformation of our precious little girls into sexual objects is simply reproducing the images from pornography and implanting them in young, impressionable minds. I’m not arguing direct causation, but any psychologist will tell you the purpose of advertising is to reach us on a subconscious level. Once planted, those seeds may grow in ways we never intended.

    Reply
    • Victor: Interested in what you propose be done.

      Reply

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