Ending Rape Culture in the Caribbean

Zero Tolerance Will Yield Zero Impact until We Get Hard On Rape Culture

We have crazy ideas about men. We talk about their primal desires as uncontrollable, insatiable hormone driven NEEDS for sex as if they were fully embuddyed, rendered mindless and essentially emotionally stunted. The overwhelming power of testosterone is their divine curse, comparable to “that time of the month” for a woman. Testosterone as the principal male sex hormone means that we accept that it’s OK for men to always be a “little crazy” when it comes to “that thing”. We generally accept as natural, the idea that sexual choice and decision making almost exclusively comes from what’s between a man’s legs, rather than his eyes or beneath his rib cage. So in 2006 when Dr. McGill was quoted in the Jamaica Gleaner as saying “if there are problems with who [a man] thinks he is, if his social skills are marred but his sexual developments normal, his sex drive pushes him to satisfaction (by any means necessary)”  http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20060319/news/news5.html. We swallow this kind of reasoning up. I guess a spoonful of sugar really makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way.

In the field of crazy of ideas, here are a few of my own.

  1. Men aren’t marginalized, they ARE imprisoned.  Overwhelmed by social demands that force them to constantly act out and prove their manhood by performing a kind of masculinity that demands dominance over everything and everybody, particularly women, to gain legitimacy as worthy men. Life as a man in patriarchal prison means you’re on house arrest and you have to wear an annoying ankle bracelet. Sure an ankle bracelet is challenging, but not impossible to live with. So our average man pretends that he’s impervious to pain, and life’s stressors are just tests for which he “mans up”. Our average guy feels the prison of his own house is still better than being locked away in a high security prison, heck anybody can used to an ankle bracelet. Men are reasonably comfortable in their patriarchal prison and are often the chief beneficiaries of its privileges.  Privilege can sure make prison life feel like it’s worth it. So what if a guy can’t cry freely or be true to the underlying range of his human emotional responses. Come on, everyone “knows” that the most legitimate masculine emotion is anger anyway. So, many men continue to suppress their capacity for empathy and deny their capacity for substantive human connection. This denial means the majority of imprisoned men which make up a good chunk of the 49% of the population remain committed to reaffirming their manliness while claiming their rights to lead and getting the “best” of all things (and women) the society has to offer.

2. The world doesn’t need one more “nice guy” who DOES NOT take a stance on sexual objectification of women and violence, especially violence against women. Like the word suggests when you objectify a woman you “thingify” her. She becomes primarily her ass, tits, pussy, a Teacha’s Pet, a thing with a rack, wid tings weh jus’ “bubble”, a breathing entity yes, but yuh cyan help but “clap dat” or in Antigua kick een she back door. Wi need fi use our heads, have a conscience and understand that the thingyfication happens when everything we see including printing services on a giant Half Way Tree billboard which has a “girl frog” with legs spread and a caption “You know you want me” or chicken wings advertisements where three attractive women ask “what’s your flavour”, makes women’s humanity more and more invisible. The marketing decisions that produce music and advertising I described included the input of nice guys, and “well reasoned” women. But wait, nice guys, and even well reasoned women, have testosterone too right? Right the stuff that makes you a little sexually crazy.

As I write this Jamaica has been shaken again by another horrific story of how a few men couldn’t control “their crazy”. The men got so crazy on the diet of thingyfication and being constantly told that compassion, caring, and respectful interdependence ah “gyal ting” that they could exploit, defile and damage 5 women, including an 8 year old, all because the only thing worse dan being a “gyal” is being a “batty man”.

Men need to acknowledge that it’s not the damn testosterone, but rather this matrix-like life under house arrest that has left you messed up in your heads and hearts. It appears to me that it’s no coincidence that men make up most of our mentally disturbed and homeless on Kingston’s streets, Jamaica’s homicides are still primarily perpetrated BY men AGAINST other men, and rape and sexual assaults worldwide and in Jamaica are still primarily committed by men. We’ve had spoonfuls and generations of the mind dulling sugary medicine about needing IT so bad men can’t control themselves, that the craziness starts to feel “normal”. Men and women start to believe that men’s unfettered anger, lack of self control and emotional shallowness isn’t great for most societies but hell we accept it, we never really demand more, and currently we just ask that theydon’t let it get out of hand.

So let’s not be disingenuous by saying that this time it was a “deliberate act of violence to show power”. RAPE ALWAYS IS! And we simply don’t take it far enough when we describe the incident “as one of the most shocking, horrific and despicable crimes committed against Jamaican women”. It, like every rape, should be felt by each of us as if it is a crime committed against every Jamaican. The equally important question is what continues to push men so far to the edges of their own humanity? What is happening in the emotional and psychological life of the man who rapes AND the man who silently just hopes that it won’t happen to a woman he loves? What causes the disconnection so deep that men can comfortably thingify women and reduce the complexity of sexual desire to a demand made by a penis? When we naturalize male violence, accept thingyfication and fail to help men fulfill the fullest expressions of themselves, we create cultures that propagate rape and widespread complicity. Until we are willing to take responsibility for those things, the work towards zero tolerance for sexual violence will continue to be undermined almost to the extent that it has zero impact.

Article by Jamaican feminist activist and social entrepreneur, Georgia Love.

Image source: Lime Jamaica


Occupy Guyana

ImageRise In Power, my fellow Guyanese!

“After Georgie seh officer, officer I get shot, de officer didn’t tek he on. So Georgie now go fah raise up holding he ribs and I hear another shot. When I look at Georgie, I see a bullet to Georgie forehead, which in, he head had a big hole and blood running down.”

 Black skin against a yellow satin background. The marks of violence were still evident on his young face. Left eye bruised and bullet hole still clearly visible on his forehead, even though the undertaker had tried. Murdered by the police, a day before his 18th birthday. Shaquille Grant. Two months ago, it was Ron Somerset, also a teenager, Shemroy Bouyea, and Allan Lewis- all black men, all unarmed, all murdered by police.

 There is a regular police roadblock in my neighborhood. Almost every night, right at the corner where I get off the bus, they are there, stopping vehicles and frisking people. Tonight was no exception. As I passed, I saw three men hunched in a circle on the ground, with several plastic bags of stuff in the center. Police- or men in dark blue uniforms with AK-47s- towered over them, menacing. Two of the men were hauled up and taken to the back of another vehicle while the last was ordered to drop his pants. He protested. They shouted, guns at the ready. Grudgingly, he complied, bare buttocks flashing in the streetlight. Jump, they ordered, and jump he did. They pawed through the bags on the ground but finding nothing, moved on to the interior of the car.

 At the most, all those men had on them was a lil bit of ganja. And the only ones with the weapons were the boys in blue. In all the time that the police have been carrying out their nightly roadblocks on that street corner, there has been no news of the apprehension of any major criminal mastermind or any astounding drug bust. No, they’re just terrorizing the population, as normal. Wait, clarification- they’re terrorizing ‘ordinary’ Guyanese, of a specific racial group mostly.

 I spent last evening visiting my relatives in Lusignan, gaffing into the night. It was dark when I left. The road was clear; there was no roadblock. No menacing men with guns to stop the music-blasting Hummer from speeding down the road. No naked young Indo-Guyanese men jumping on command in public.

 Lusignan has plenty drug and gun men though. I was astounded the first time I heard that. Lusignan? The lovely, peaceful village of my childhood? Say it aint so! But that is the truth now, sadly.“Dem boys tell me how to make lots of money quick,” my NY-based uncle reports, two days into his visit. But he is a bad enough Muslim already, he says, and doesn’t need that on his conscience.

There are two car dealerships in a village with two main cross streets. The ports where container ships dock to offload their cargo of Lamborginis and Hummers are the same ones where drugs are sent out, even though a million dollar container scanner was commissioned just last year (Skeldon sugar factory anyone?), and a new ‘container control programme’ MOU signed just last month. Packages at the Post Office are cut open and every item inside fingered before it can be uplifted, but millions of dollars worth of cocaine regularly leave Georgetown (in one notorious case last year, the MV Vega Azurit was busted ferrying cocaine from Guyana three times in as many months.)

 They’re murdering black youth!” 

The anguish is real. And the pictures of the faces in the newspaper don’t lie. But that is not the whole story. 

Most of the members of the Guyana Police Farce are black men. 

We must talk about race, yes, but we must also talk about class and $$.

 They said the boys were planning a robbery and shot first (nevermind that eyewitnesses contradict that). And so they shot to kill. The protesters in Linden were blocking the road, preventing vehicles from reaching the gold mining camps and markets. And so they shot to kill. Lives taken to protect property. Money over justice. The 14yr old tortured by police several years ago, his genitals set ablaze, is nowhere to be found in Guyana anymore. There are rumors that he and his relatives are overseas, ‘compensation’ in pocket.

 Overseas, to enjoy the land of milk and honey? Or overseas to work like a dawg, struggling to make ends meet when the money runs out, just like here, but without home comforts. Dreaming of home always, working to build up the vacation days, not wanting to leave when the two weeks are up. But not willing to stay here, to stand up, to speak out, to look out for each other. Paralyzed by fear- of being victimized, penalized, fired. Made callous by easy money. Pacified by religious dogma. Stupefied by nonsensical beats and rhymes. Beat down (or enraptured) by the rapacious capitalist system. Poisoned both mentally and physically. This is what Guyana has become. A dog-eat-dog society where each man scrabbles to accumulate as much ‘stuff’ (wealth) as he possibly can, whether by legal or illegal means, just hoping, praying, and bribing his way out of any ‘sticky’ situation. Where every meal may be the young black man’s last, no matter how hard mothers work. Where conscious, striving brethren and sistren are overrun by zombies, sheep, and ostriches, blind, deaf, and dumb.

 This is not my Guyana though. It may be the reality now, but it doesn’t have to remain that way. 

 It’s helpful to try to understand how it became like that though. History book aside, listening to the body, part of the answer is heard. I’ve been having foot troubles for a lil while now. Stumped my right big toe last year and it’s been bum ever since. And now recently, the left one has started tingling, a slight numbness. No pain and I can still walk fine, so I’ve been mostly ignoring it. Musing about what’s going on and what it might mean, wondering what I can do about it, but mostly just leaving it alone, hoping that it will get better soon, without any major intervention on my part. Walking wounded. The psychology of oppression and survival. 

 This may be how it is now, how we all are, but it doesn’t have to remain that way. We have the power to change everything. 

 My nose is pointy and my hair is straight. Her nose was flat and her hair was curly. She looked curiously at me and I gazed back, grinning at her two-teeth mouth. She smiled wider, all gums.

 “We also need the fires of love to thaw the frozen streams within. We need to look at one another afresh, with new eyes. We need to keep doing that. Every day. We need to tear down the barriers wisely, or else we won’t be able to get out and nothing will be able to come in.” (Ben Okri) 

 They’ve begun to put in the fence. They want to have more ‘control’ of the space, they say. There are too many ‘junkies’ passing by. They’re afraid that their nice nice park is going to get messed up.

 Oh, the irony!

 The PEOPLE’S Parliament. High St and Brickdam. Fence or not, we’ll be there. 24/7. Join us. Straight hairs and curly hairs all together as one. What is your vision for the future of Guyana? What are you doing to bring it to fruition?  

 WOW, girl i cant tell u the transformation i have had through those continuous dialogues. The thing is though, if more people never come join us then it would be sad but i aint doing this for them. I doing it for me.” 

 Occupy Guyana.

Guest article by Guyanese activist Sherlina Nageer.