By Tony Deyal
“Well, the girls in town nowadays they wearin’ these tight, tight pants,
And if you ketch them a night-time boys, well, they have no chance,
So listen carefully to what the Young Killer have to say,
Only wear these tight, tight pants on Carnival Day.”
– Trinidad Calypso of the Fifties
Our media tend to be much more of a mirror than a lamp. They far too often only reflect the values of our society rather than illumine a way forward. This calypso is typical.
For my generation, it was a statement of fact – rape was the woman’s fault because she teased, tempted, provoked and seduced the poor man. Interestingly, this was in a society and at a time when women, even more than today, were the bulwark of our socialisation and the foundation of our culture and values.
So what has changed and what caused the changes?
In my schooldays, I remember laughing uproariously when told about a woman who ran into a police station saying that she had been “graped.” The desk-sergeant said,
“You mean ‘raped’.”
“No,” she insisted. “It was a whole bunch of them.”
I have long passed that stage and shudder at who I was and what I found funny. I shudder even more when I realise that there are still many of us, individuals and interest groups, including women, who have not.
Our male pastimes do not seem to have changed much. Whether in Bridgetown or Belmont, Kingstown or Georgetown, our young, and not-so-young men, still take great, and sometimes sadistic delight, in heckling and harassing women as they stroll, walk, jog or run past.
It starts off in seeming innocence.
It continues as light-hearted banter.
“Of all my sugars, you are my granulated!”
When the woman does not stroke their egos by responding, it disintegrates, degenerates and decomposes into abuse and obscenity.
“Who (expletives deleted) you think you is?”, etc.
‘SHE NEEDS A HUSBAND’
Every feminine problem, every female boss or “bossy” female, is perceived as requiring one remedy, which is generally masculine.
A radical female Member of Parliament in Trinidad in the mid-nineties was imprisoned for championing the cause of flood-victims.
Her father is quoted as explaining his daughter’s behaviour, “She needs a husband.” I have heard that said of women by women. I have also heard worse. The complaining male often believes that the woman needs either a gift of himself, benevolently bestowed, or a “good” male sexual organ, generally his, or a “good” bout of sexual activity, generally administered by him. That clearly has not changed so much as worsened.
When a woman is raped, it is perceived, as in the calypso, as her fault. There is far too often an outright callousness about it all from the police, the media, the courts, and the society at large, including other women.
So many times, I have heard someone say about a rape victim, “She look for that!”
Looking at ‘Loop’ news for Trinidad and Tobago, I found that this month, between January 9 and 18, six men were charged for rape, one of them with raping a 13-year-old girl.
Loop Jamaica, three days ago, on January 22, reported that several lawsuits have been filed against Jamaican-based hospitality industry resorts in the United States Federal Court. In Barbados, a man accused of raping and kidnapping a minor was granted bail of BDS$10,000, despite objections by the prosecution that the man used intimidation and also coerced and demanded from the victim responses “she was unable to consent to”.
HIGHEST RATES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE CARIBBEAN
The facts are that over one third of the region’s women report incidents of intimate or sexual violence. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, every one of the Caribbean islands has a sexual violence rate that is higher than the world average.
This is supported by the UK Guardian newspaper, “The Caribbean has among the highest rates of sexual assault in the world: according to United Nations statistics from 2015, one in three women has experienced sexual or physical violence at least once in their lives. And it is estimated that 14-38 per cent of women have experienced intimate partner violence at least once.”
Recent research in Antigua, St Kitts & Nevis; Jamaica; Belize and Grenada confirmed lengthy delays in the investigation and prosecution of cases.
What bothers me is that this same Caribbean society puts mothers on a pedestal and our culture is saturated with songs about mothers and their special love.
To “cuss” someone’s mother or sister is still an act of war. And yet the dichotomy persists. I am more and more unable to make the distinction between “mother” and “woman” or reconcile myself to it.
Mother, wife or daughter, they all have the right to be themselves and to say no. They should be able to walk the streets, parks and beaches – anywhere and everywhere – unmolested.
Mark Twain was once asked, “In a world without women, what would men become?”
“Scarce, sir,” he replied. “Mighty scarce.” Our present attitude to rape should become even scarcer.
Rape is not an act of love, or of passion, or even of sex. It is a wanton abuse of power – literally an act of naked aggression.
One day, many years ago, my older daughter and I were in my car when some men, in another car, were heckling a woman walking along the pavement.
They slowed and all their eyes, including the driver’s, were on her as they commented loudly and belligerently on what they would like to do to her and what they would like her to do to them.
Their car ran straight into a lamp-post. My daughter grinned and looked at me and said, “Dad, there is a God after all.”
– Tony Deyal was last seen quoting US President Donald Trump, “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…Whatever you want. Grab ’em by the p****. You can do anything.” Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org