A Slutwalk in the Caribbean?

“I want to ask our young women, in particular to dress themselves properly. I know that sometimes, their mode of dress is not good at all and it is important that they dress themselves and do not give temptation to our men,” said Miguel, who is also Minister of Education, during the Budget Debate.

“I know that many a times, they do this but our men can sometimes pull them up a bit and say ‘No’. They have all their mammary glands (breasts) outside — some of them — and they need to know there are two good reasons why we were given these glands.

Source: Dress Properly, Don’t tempt men – Deputy PM

St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Deputy PM tells women to dress properly and not tempt men. She says that women’s breasts are intended to feed children and comfort their husbands. This hetero/sexist drivel was offered in response to the high level of violence against women and girls and femicides in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

One person left this comment on CODE RED’s facebook page:

It’s pretty ignorant. Revealing clothes do not cause murder or any other crime. She’s reaching for an easy conclusion and it’s the wrong one. She should be ashamed of herself and the government should be embarassed.

Not only are her comments ignorant, they are particularly dangerous in the context of such high levels of violence against women and murders of women. She is actually saying that women’s bodies do not belong to themselves, that they belong to men, and conflating women with mothers, that women’s bodies are to be in service of motherhood. Its the same kind of hetero/sexism that is at the root of the kind of violence against women you see in SVG. The respectability discourse, that the human rights of women, should only be protected, if women are “respectable” subjects is absolute sexist drivel. For the millionth time, clothing does not invite nor excuse violence against women.

What the Deputy PM is saying about men is also troubling. By arguing that women’s clothing tempts men into violence she is painting men as naturally inclined toward sexual violence and with no control over their own sexuality. But in the same breath she sets men up as “protectors” of women by asking them to pull women aside and tell them when they are dressing inappropriately!!! In the Caribbean street harassment of women by men is a daily nuisance. Her comments invite more of the same.

It is understandable just how frustrating it is to witness such everyday violence against women and to feel powerless to change it. But seeking to discipline women and our bodies is not the answer. Neither is positioning men as simultaneously naturally violent and as potential protectors of women.

in 1985 in SVG schoolgirls took to the streets of Kingstown in protest against violence against women and girls. They understood that they had a right to life and a right to a good life and used their very bodies to insist that their rights be respected. How is it that schoolgirls in 1985 understood what the Deputy PM in 2012 does not seem to understand?

Do we need a Caribbean slutwalk?

6 thoughts on “A Slutwalk in the Caribbean?

  1. Women have the right to wear what they want without being brutalized. Ask not what a person says, only ask what they do, and it becomes obvious what they believe. Justifications for crime are irrelevant, so it doesn’t matter whether a woman “invited” rape by her choice of clothing. A crime is a crime.

    Criminals have been trying to justify crime for millennia. Best of luck to you in the Caribbean fighting for your rights! Do the slutwalk!

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  2. Corey Gilkes says:

    While I’m in basic agreement with the Slutwalk, I hold firm to my view that any venture of this sort in the Caribbean must take it a stage further and link the related issues of slut-shaming, physical and psychological sexual violence and guilt culture to wider issues of neo-liberal policies, environmental issues, consumerism and the use of a person’s sexuality — real or imagined — by the political and corporate elites as a muzzle to stifle dissenting points of view.

    This march should be the opening stages of a series of ongoing discussions and debates that interrogate the core ideologies and philosophies that spur the labelling of the jammette/slut in the Caribbean. It’s not going to be easy or pleasant because these ideas are found mostly in religion and old 19th century Victorian attitudes of what is sexually moral and proper; two pillars that are at the centre of social orientation in the Caribbean since Emancipation.

    So let’s have the marches, but let’s have even more discussions and educating.

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