Has Facebook Live changed the game? Yes. In Minnesota, Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of the Philando Castile, went live on Facebook and actively reported the developments of what happened after her boyfriend was shot while sitting in his car at a traffic stop. In a way that was impossible before, the world had the chance to tune in to a situation that hopped geographies and personal friend networks on police violence. Some persons on my ‘homefeed’ have taken Facebook Live as a chance to “drop wisdom” as they wait on the bus, talking about the economy or poor customer service. I have seen two videos so far of persons holding their phones in selfie position just before they sleep and looking at the camera in silence with an unbelievable number of persons viewing and commenting. What makes Facebook Live unique in 2016 is the immediate engagement between community and content creator as content is being broadcasted. No theater hall, no City Gate hot spot of traffic, no auditorium, Facebook live gives us a new room for a new audience and of course new personalities.
On Sunday 11th September, the all-white “Ciroc the Boat” hosted by Scorch had a grand closing of a fight that moved from one location to the next involving some women, at least one man, and a Samsung phone as the weapon of choice. By Monday, the video went rival and received well over 1,000 shares on Facebook. LoopTT headlined the news story as “All-white boat party turns dirty” and sadly, the situation also made the evening news. The Facebook noise did not concern itself with the lack of security and no arrests after the fight; instead the concern was with the status of elite party group that seemed to have been penetrated by “ghetto elements.” The fight became a hot topic for radio hosts for some days after and the story then introduces the two dominant personalities for the past couple of days, Rachel Price and Rankin Kia Boss.
PureTT got into the game early and facilitated an interview with Kia Rankin Boss who publicly challenged Rachel Price on a Facebook Live video and famously described her as a “pommerack with two little foot.” According to Rankin Kia Boss, she was upset when she was informed that comedian and media personality Rachel Price asked “if de man gay, call een and tell meh if he gay.” Rankin Kia Boss says that the man who was the subject of discussion is her brother and she therefore had to respond to Rachel Price. “I come out for she too and de drama start.” Rankin Kia Boss with 34, 856 followers (as at September 18, 2016) has mobilised large cross sections of support and online engagement. Part of it has to do with the high entertainment value of her standard West Indian cuss out for all to see, part of it has to do with the spectacle of a public dialogue led by a transgender person from Trinidad and Tobago which is not common (in the media for public consumption), and part of it has to do with the chord she strikes by tapping into the diminishing support and vibes for Rachel Price.
In a way we have not seen before, not Saucy Pow, not Jowelle De Souza’s highly visible political campaign for MP San Fernando West, the talk of “gay, transgender, lesbian, macomere man, hen” has been happening at a national level with some level of debate, reason, and a struggle to define terms for sexual identities. Very very interesting.
On one hand, the positive to the Rankin Boss national dialogue is that a working class /gaza/ghetto yute’s perspective, voice and articulations are bringing wide audiences closer to the lives of persons who travel the wide spectrum of sexuality. LGBT organisations throughout the Caribbean suffer from a lack of political legitimacy in a complex class configuration because advocacy groups are either fixed in a narrow middle/upper class section of society and come off as elitist and disconnected from working people struggles or when they actively mobilise working class LGBTQI communities, class prejudice further marginalize them and their efforts because they do not fit the ‘respectability’ politics of the day.
On the other hand, the unproductive part of today’s buzz is that the dialogue is happening in an oh too familiar context of bacchanal. Think about Pastor Stewart and Agnes in the famous “Pastor Stewart” mini-episode of the Santana series. It is not the hypocrisy and fraudulent character of Pastor Stewart on trial, he defends his by demeaning Agnes in a line of verbal aggressions on her sexuality that makes him the “winner” in the aftermath. And we all stand as onlookers crying “oooo goooooood”.
Kia Rankin Boss popularity does not correlate with an acceptance of her positionality or cause, but instead the “rankin” which is happening online is nurturing her community. Basically, a cuss out is good bacchanal entertainment to the average West Indian who has seen it happen in the market, on Charlotte Street, down Halfway Tree and on the buss stop after school. This bacchanal is rooted deep in our culture such as the extempo art form in calypso that is not only an Olympics of polemic and rhetorical debate but also shaming. The shaming can start on light matters such as the clothes you wear or how uneven your pancakes come out of a frying pan. It usually grows into the heavy blows by attacking your gender performance, putting your sexuality out for public consumption and contempt, and by expressing homophobic, transphobic, and sexist tropes to demean you. The bacchanal for the past week done long time, what we hear is very sexist, transphobic politics that is more interested in outing of women in the public sphere instead of defending the persons you love. Just because a viewpoint comes from a subject of an oppressed or marginal group does not mean that their politics is progressive or transgressive. Even when they disavow labels around their identity and claim to speak “facks,” we need to protect others from any harm. The “doh run slack,” “$250,000” vagina is not merely a joke for Facebook chit chat, it is a discourse that throws up the vagina (“Cunt”) a site for empowerment but also virulent attacks and shame. Part of the rankin’ discourses is that “my vagina is better than yours” and such lines of argument draw on misogynistic and sexist tropes.
For this reason, in the case of Kia Rankin Boss who self identifies as a woman and explains the process of her sex change, she still articulates homophobic and transphobic tropes in her quarrel with Rachel Price. This has the possibility of producing gross stereotypes and making caricatures out of diverse and complex communities of LGBTQI people in Trinidad and Tobago. The “plain talk bad manners” style was the response Rankin Kia Boss made to what we have come to know Rachel Price for over the years in the mix of some ‘good’ comedy performances.
What we do know however is that the heterosexist polity of Trinidad and Tobago creates limited avenues for expression and being yuhself if you ‘deviate’ from the norm. Acting wassy, being a wajang, cussin out and rankin are forms of negotiations in a violent and oppressive culture that enjoy the spectacle of a cuss out and for a while tolerate LGBTQI articulations in that moment (and usually under those conditions). Is this the only way we will allow ourselves to see a community in public? And, when they are seen are they, are they also seen as valid people and communities?
What scholars such as Carla Moore examine in queering dancehall spaces and Nikoli Attai refer to as “wajang femininity”, the ways of seeing gender are always complex and contextual. The upcoming online Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, edited by Dr. Sue Ann Barratt and Dr. Angelique Nixon, titled “Reading, Writing, Seeing Gender: Caribbean Voices, Identities and Politics in Media” is timely.
A nation grappling with the difference between sex, gender, performance and self-identification is not something we should run away from, it is something we must confront with teaching and learning. It is no doubt that we have grown more tolerant of our diverse peoples but acceptance through understanding is the step ahead, in the right direction.
…I hear I does look like ah avocado with two foot… :(
Sanatan, Amílcar. 2016. “Facks, Doh Run Slack and Ways of Seeing Gender.” Blog, September 19. Accessed [Insert Date Accessed]. http://amilcarsanatan.com/facks-doh-run-slack-ways-seeing-gender/
Accessed September 19, 2016. http://mypellau.com/pellaumag/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2082085516_8252d8e70a-1.jpg
“Pastor Stewart.” YouTube video, 4:31, posted by “Lexo TV,” December 12, 2010. Accessed September 19, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oryTGmWlLwA
Moore, Carla. 2014. “Wah Eye Nuh See Heart Nuh Leap: Queer Marronage in the Jamaican Dancehall.” Master’s thesis, Department for Gender Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Accessed September 19, 2016. https://qspace.library.queensu.ca/bitstream/1974/8599/1/Moore_Carla_KM_201401_MA.pdf
1. Chapter 5: Brave “Battymen” and the (Im)possibilities of a Straight Dancehall. 99-122.