Thursday, February 2

Of pilinguis and cashiers: culture magnifies our aspirations

My grandmother was a housewife but she always dreamed of being a star. “She would have been a fantastic singer, but she couldn’t be because that was from” pilinguis “”, she told me while she was cooking. As a child, that story seemed normal to me. My father is a musician and at home it was common to see other musicians and famous singers. Always men. The women were the girlfriends of the musicians, the choristers or the dancers. During my childhood I did classical ballet, but what I really wanted to be was a supermarket cashier. My aspiration was humble and until recently I thought that was normal. But feminism has forced us to revise what many of us believed to be normal.

Maybe I wanted to be a supermarket cashier because that’s what I saw around me. Today I know that the aspirations of girls are forged through the references that inhabit their reality. These references can be the gender roles they see at home, but also those that populate the stories they read, the movies they see at the cinema, the video games they play or the musical groups they follow.

How are we going to dream of being astronauts, singers of a rock group, fighters or firefighters if in the stories we read, in the movies we watch or in the music we listen to we don’t find that mirror in which to look at ourselves?

That is why progress in gender equality in the cultural sector is especially relevant. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “women must be in all places where decisions are made.” And this is key in all areas of life. But it is that from culture we build that mirror in which we look at ourselves. From culture, the stories of women are written and rewritten in stories, in novels, movies, series, video games, plays, zarzuelas… That is to say, that we are, -the women of culture-, those that we can generate positive feminine references, that make us dream and that allow our daughters to aspire to be firefighters, astronauts, fighters, engineers or presidents of the Government.

In this regard, although we have improved, gender equality reports are not very encouraging in our sector. Despite the fact that it is a highly feminized sector – 48.1% of workers in the culture and leisure sector are women – women are scarce in certain spaces of power. Up to 92% of orchestra conductors are men, 68% of national art awards have been won by men or 70% of workers in the video game sector are men, according to the 2022 World Report prepared by UNESCO every four years about the cultural sector.

We move forward, but we also go backwards. The pandemic has exacerbated what we colloquially know as the “double shift” that many women carry out. That is, a formal schedule of paid work to which is added a schedule of assistance and care work. The closure of schools and nurseries meant that many women had to dedicate more time to care and fewer hours to their formal work. This trance has forever distanced many of them from their artistic or cultural professions.

From public institutions we must deepen the measures put in place to alleviate this situation. The fight against the precariousness that is consolidated in the Government’s labor reform will undoubtedly benefit women, who will see how their short-term contracts become indefinite and how salary differences are equalized. We must also step up affirmative action measures in hiring, promotion, funding, and awards. Promoting measurement tools and monitoring them is another of the measures within our reach. And finally, we must reinforce the legislation regarding the application of gender equality in culture. It is especially relevant in those areas of mass consumption that condition the stories and the collective imagination of a democratic society. Whether it’s because we paint, sing, direct movies, are casting directors, cultural managers or orchestra conductors, we have in our hands the possibility of building the best mirrors for our daughters to look at themselves and imagine what they want to be. For this feat we need everyone. Also from everyone.