In Chávez The Radical VII, President Chávez reiterates his assertion that the Bolivarian Revolution is feminist. This declaration does not mean that the oppression of women has been eradicated from Venezuela; it highlights that the revolution has advanced gender equality in several concrete ways, while reinvigorating dialogue about the ways that sexism persists in Venezuelan society and must be dismantled through persistent action.
The 1999 Constitution, democratically created by the people under Chávez’s leadership, uses both gender pronouns – ‘las’ and ‘los’ – throughout its entire text, ending the traditional practice of using the male pronoun to represent mixed-gendered groups. Beyond this mostly symbolic act, it explicitly recognizes that homemakers’ work generates aggregated wealth for the nation and that they are therefore entitled to social security. The Bolivarian Revolution has seen women in top positions of authority, including the president of the National Assembly, the head of the National Electoral Council, the Attorney General, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and many executive departments. Women have predominated in the leadership of communal councils, communes, and other grassroots organizations propelled by the national government. Several transfer programs for working class women, including one specifically for poor single mothers, have been created, and a homemaker’s union was organized in some regions. At the same time, women entrepreneurs have seen expanded opportunities to start their own businesses, either through the programs aiding the formation of cooperatives or with loans from the newly created Women’s Bank.
Many of Venezuela’s opposition leaders and their families uphold traditional sexist gender roles. This video features Diana D’Agostino, who is married to the current opposition leader and former head of the National Assembly Henry Ramos, speaking condescendingly about Chavista women. She describes them as being unkempt, lacking proper makeup, and ignorant of women’s fashion. Her comments reflect the classism of the country’s elite as well as the racism of its international reputation for winning beauty pageants with contestants who bear European features tailored through heavy plastic surgery.
The oppression of women remains prevalent in Venezuelan society, both among the opposition and within the Chavista movement. However, feminism has taken important strides forward during the Chávez government. In Chávez The Radical VII, Chávez draws the link between the exploitation of women and the exploitation of the working class under the capitalist system, and he emphatically declares that the revolution must be feminist or it is no revolution at all.
Translation and subtitles by Joshua Wilson.