Aim High. Get Low?

The Guild of Students of the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad have started a series of public discussions called Caribbean Reasonings.  From the looks of things on facebook the student body seems very eager and engaged.  It really warms the heart to see the Guild of Students take such initiative to contribute to the intellectual community on campus.  I really love that the series is called Caribbean Reasonings as it echoes the book and seminar series of the same name coming out of the Centre for Caribbean Thought based at UWI, Mona Jamaica.  These Caribbean Reasonings highlight the contributions and social and political thought of some of the Caribbean’s finest minds and encourage a younger generation of scholars to engage with their ideas.

I first came across Guild of Students take on Caribbean Reasonings when the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation questioned the use of  theme “Iz a Bulla” to advertise a “reasoning” to discuss homosexuality.  Bulla is a derogatory term for a homosexual man though some gay Caribbean men themselves have reclaimed the term.  Of course the theme “Iz a Bulla” is meant to be deliberately provocative in order to get the student body out in their numbers.  But at the same it is also offensive as it uses a term meant to shame and  denigrate homosexual men, discipline all men to heterosexual and patriarchal masculinity; and completely erases women who have sex with women.

Women’s sexuality will, in fact, be dealt with this week.  From the facebook page for the event :

This is the first edition of the new Caribbean Reasonings series where we analyse the views of a “bad ting” which is an insightful look into the views and attitutudes towards female sexuality and women in general.

The poster features a pair of what looks like Victoria’s Secret underwear which while meant for an adult. look like little girls’ underwear and the words “free public access”.  My initial reaction was that while they needed to be provocative in order to get students to turn out, they had stooped a little too low in their advertising.  I found it irresponsible and offensive.

Then today a friend messaged me to say that an 80 year-old woman had been raped and killed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  Just this month in Barbados an 83-year old stroke survivor was also raped.  Police arrested and charged a man who only last year had been released from prison after serving a three-year sentence for raping another elderly woman.  So perhaps the poster does a good job of summing up dominant attitudes towards female sexuality in the Caribbean: free public access or the complete denial of bodily integrity whether one is a child, a teen or an eighty year-old woman.

click through for image source & to learn more about the event.

4 thoughts on “Aim High. Get Low?

  1. Greetings. I am happy to be introduced to this blog and I have the Iz a Bad Ting event to thank for that. My name is Stephanie Leitch and I am the featured speaker for the event. I am currently attached to the IGDS (Gender Department) of UWI and identify as feminist. The taboo series of Caribbean Reasonings has been specifically designed to bring a gendered perspective to issues around ,male and female sexuality. To comment a bit on your post I find it very curious that you acknowledge that (Caribbean) homosexual men have embraced the term buller yet go on to say that it is [offensive as it uses a term meant to shame and denigrate homosexual men … discipline all men to heterosexual and patriarchal masculinity … and completely erases women who have sex with women.] ???

    NOt that this should make any more credible but ‘buller’ has even been introduced to the intellectual landscape through articles like “Charting of a Buller Man’s Past” a self reflective work by Wesley Crichlow and others. To be a buller is something to be celebrated and I hope that this series helps to shift the thinking around these concepts as opposed to falling into any hard wired assumptions whether negative or defensive without logic.

    [The poster features a pair of what looks like Victoria’s Secret underwear which while meant for an adult. look like little girls’ underwear] Though I am sensitive to issues around the infantalisation of women, I wonder if there is ever a point when we admit that we are taking it too far. I own pink underwear as well as w/ frill …as does my 63 yr old mother. I enjoy cute things and this speaks to an aspect of my femininity to which I am entitled. We need to be careful as feminists, critical thinkers, conscious women not to over police ourselves and paint ourselves into equally restrictive boxes.

    My final question would be … What does a Victoria’s Secret panty look like? I have one that looks very similar that I bought on Charlotte St.

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    • To reply to your questions/comments:

      1. Wesley Crichlow has reclaimed the term but that is by no means the dominant understanding nor usage of it neither do all men homosexual Caribbean men identify as or appreciate being called bullas. The point was to insist that the using that term could be considered problematic/offensive in some ways while also recognising that the usage could be “celebratory” as you put it.

      2. My sentence was ambiguous/confusing. What I meant was that to theme a discussion about homosexuality “Iz a Bulla” suggests that the discussion is about MALE homosexuality and in that sense erases the fact that women have sex with women too. Public conversations about homosexuality and usually about MALE homosexuality. Which then begs the question why the public anxiety about male homosexuality?

      3. The logo/icon on the panty looks like one used from the Victorias Secret Pink line. That’s all I meant. At first glance, to me at least, the underwear looked infantile, then I realised that from the logo/icon it could be from the Victorias Secret line. So much more could be said about the sexualisation of girls and the infantilisation of women but this is just a quick response meant to deal with your concerns respectfully.

      4. As i stated in the article it’s great that students are having these discussions. i have absolutely no intention of telling anyone what to say or do in the name of feminism. Have a look around the site and you will soon recognise that there is absolutely no policing of women here, nor seeking to discipline women to any kind of femininity or to femininity at all. We present the views of individual members of the collective which are open to challenge, critique and refutation, just as you are doing in your comments. Thank you for taking the time to do so.

      5. I would welcome the opportunity for collaboration across campuses. Please send me an email if you’re interested redforgender [at] gmail [dot] com.

      Tonya

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