Dear Caribbean Men,
Maybe #AllProtectiveCoveringForLegsMatter but in the Caribbean and throughout the world, women’s lives do not matter in a patriarchy.
On Monday, a policewoman was raped and almost killed by a taxi driver (http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20161129/news/taxi-driver-arrested-in-rape-of-cop). The President-elect of the United States of America, Donald Trump gives advice to other men on women to “grab them by the pussy.” This was one of the hundreds of #LifeInLeggings posts on my newsfeed:
#LifeInLeggings is not about wearing leggings in the same way #JeSuisCharlie was not about being a native French speaker or having the name ‘Charlie.’ Men adding their own sexist agenda to women making themselves vulnerable in public and inspiring confidence among other women/sistrin completely misses the point.
How people jumping out with dey leggings all of a sudden?
#LifeInLeggings was started by Barbadian women Ronelle King and Allyson Benn to highlight the seriousness and pervasiveness of sexual violence against women and empower them through the breaking of silences around the issue. In a matter of days, other legs of the Caribbean have picked up the hash tag. Most tellingly, the stories shared show that women in high and low places, uptown and downtown, in public transportation and in the privacy of their homes have been victims of sexual violence by ‘ordinary’ men in public, religious leaders, staff in the workplace and family.
So now everybody have something to say?
These hash tags show how hard it is to confront human emotion and reality in our digital space. What happens when a good friend of yours posts a status about burglars breaking into her home, attempting to rape her and when she fights them off, one pins her head to the floor and masturbates in her hair? How do we respond on Facebook to the story of the young woman who explained that she was bisexual to a partner and he interpreted this as a ‘loose’ sexual person whose body was therefore available for unwanted sexual advances from him and other men? What ‘comment’ can you give to lift the pain of a post that describes rape of a girl in primary school in a religious community by a religious official? ‘Liking’ appears insensitive. ‘Sad’ comes off as superficial. And ‘Share’ often requires consent. Some men choose to blame women for their confessions and choose not to come to terms with the fact that it is their male allies/friends/buddies and gender who have concealed their secrets for all these years – those who do their wrong and evil in the darkness and broad day light and should be held accountable.
Why saying something matters?
Before you take ten seconds of your social media life to pass judgment on someone’s life experience, keep in mind that it may have taken that person years of hurt, struggle and courage to finally share a an experience of violence for personal release and even a broader political call. Shame, victim blaming, fear of being attacked or not believed (that brings about self-doubt) are some of the reasons women have been silent on these matters. Long dragged out processes in courtrooms and public insensitivity mixed with male-assholeism have the power to silence women. Think revenge pornography cases. Think West Indies Cricket…
We blame women for being victims of violence…it sad that we are also in the business of blaming them for their silence. While many women have been speaking up in the past couple of days and building solidarity across their social networks, as men we need to listen and learn, even if we can’t ‘like’ de status or write one of our own. As men, we should understand how breaking silences make us talk about the “not discussed” issue of rape against men, and men who sexually violate children. As men, listening to women, we would not leave the management of the Rape Crisis Society to the women’s movement but see it as a priority for men to help and save other men from being rapists and delivering justice to their victims. Audre Lorde once said, “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” Take een Audre…she have vibes.
Why they bringing up they past?
William Faulkner wrote, “The past is not dead. It’s not even past.” We all have a past. You cannot blame women for telling you about a past you wish to forget or ignore. Denying them their right to give herstory/personal history is another form of male control. Ease up bredrin.
So you can’t tell women nutting now?
You can. You can be polite. And it’s not illegal to say ‘good morning.’ But talking about “yuh box” and “how it look good” “whey yuh man” “what make that bottom big so” and the attack of car and truck horns as women wait on pavements are not exactly ‘just words’ of a compliment. More seriously, it is important for us to understand that sexual harassment is one of the key sites of rape culture. In fact, it is central to it. Sexual harassment has to do with men demanding women’s attention for their desire on their terms. The excessive behavior is easily transformed to male aggression when women ignore men; men often publicly shame, scold and even violently attack women who do not respond to them in the way they want.
All men do not go about their day like this. But many men do. Our ‘good guy complicity’ does not help make the situation any better. Other men also threaten men when they accompany women in public. Male competition and violence are tied to the accumulation of masculine capital and the construction of masculinity. The first step to understanding rape culture is that it is not just about the incidence or prevalence of rape, it is about creating environments of risk for women. “Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.” (Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS) in Southern Connecticut State University Sexual Misconduct).
Is violence against women really that serious?
Ending violence against women is critical for the development dream of having safe communities in the Caribbean. Gender equality is a priority area for development as much as access to education, healthcare and clean beaches. Violence against women is attack on the human rights of women. Ya dig?
See Link: UNDP: Caribbean Human Development Report 2016
#LifeInLeggings…Why some men don’t get it?
Part of it has to do with male privilege in which men take for granted their comforts and benefits of being a man in society. In addition, privilege does not take into account the experiences of others that complicate and add complexity to one’s understanding of reality. Part of it has to do with misogyny, contempt for women. Some men hate the idea that women are calling out other men in their lives for abusing them. Part of it has to do with a male backlash happening globally. Attacking women and feminists for economic and social inequalities that men suffer is increasingly popular. I think a lot of it has to do with male-assholeism but I don’t have the empirical data to back up why it is that some men would ignore the fact that hundreds of women in their 20s and 30s are writing experiences of sexual violence and abuse and see it as an individual problem and not a systemic issue. There is a truth in the trend.
But most of it has to do with some men who just can’t live with the idea that women now have their own hash tag to call out their pain, their political enemies and their ways of healing…and men have to sit by, watch and learn. Some men can’t live with that.
I here to sit it through and reason…wheyeva you at in yuh consciousness and reasoning. It ha some men we need to challenge, lift up and save.
There is hope.
On International Men’s Day, Canada Hall, the all-male hall of residence at the UWI, St. Augustine Campus produced this statement:
Canada Hall Speaks Out Against Rape Culture for International Men’s Day
“The residents of Canada Hall stand firmly against rape culture. As young men in an all-male hall, we have decided to be more proactive in our efforts to end rape culture. We urge young men to think through consent so that the dignity of women and men can be respected at all times. As a hall, we will continue to teach self-control and mobilise men to end rape culture because it is an issue that harms people in our society. We lend our full support to all efforts to eliminate rape culture.”
– Villon Stanley, Canada Hall Chairperson
Sanatan, Amílcar. 2016. “What #LifeInPants #LifeInBoxers #EggplantEntries Don’t Get.” Blog, Accessed [Insert Date Accessed]. http://amilcarsanatan.com/lifeinpants-lifeinboxers-eggplantentries-dont-get/
CODE Red for gender justice! 2016. “#lifeinleggings Call For Feminist Solidarity.“ Blog, Accessed December 2, 2016. https://redforgender.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/lifeinleggings-call-for-feminist-solidarity/
Hosein, Gabrielle. 2016. “Red Card Rape Culture. Post 226.” Blog. Accessed December 2, 2016. https://grrlscene.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/diary-of-a-mothering-worker-november-24-2016/