Top 10 sexist and heterosexist moments in Caribbean Politics

Contribute to the final list of top 10 sexist & heterosexist moments in Caribbean politics by leaving your suggestions in the comments below.  Here are what i’ve been able to come up with in no particular order. Thanks to all who sent suggestions via facebook and twitter.

1. Trinidad & Tobago: Minister of People and Social Development claims “severe fatigue” after a flight attendant alleges that he touched her breasts when he grabbed her name-tag and threatened to have her fired because she asked him to stow his luggage correctly.  The Prime Minister then fired him.  Before the dust could settle on this one, police were investigating reports that the Minister of tourism had physically assaulted his former partner, causing her to lose consciousness. Continue reading

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Best of the 2013 Caribbean Feminist Blogosphere

Travel across the islands and territories of the Caribbean and its diaspora and sample some of the best feminist blogging out there. 

What have Caribbean feminist women and men written about in 2013? Love, fashion, motherhood, being mixed-race, surviving child sexual abuse, healing from sexual assault, racist anti-Haitian citizenship policies in the Dominican Republic and so much more… Have a look!

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Elmer, 22 year old Belizean youth that comes from a humble yet hard working family. Today it is important for me to share my story with you.

Young Caribbean man breaks the silence on sexual abuse of boys in the region. (Belize)

So, when a man sets his girlfriend on fire, rapes his niece, or gouges out his ex-wife genitals, it is not simply because he cannot control his emotions or resolve conflict well. There are deeply embedded ideas about who owns and who is to be owned, who is in control and who is to be controlled, what makes a ‘real man’, and a woman’s rightful role to shape these encounters. To ignore this is to miss the mark.

Patrice Daniel is back again with more fyah! This time she writes about why the Caribbean is getting it wrong on violence against women. (Barbados)

“Can you live with knowing that you will never have answers about what happened? Is that something you can manage?”

Healing through words: Part one in a series on surviving sexual assault. (Diaspora)

So like my feminism, my politics of adornment are a critical part of how my race, class, gender and sexuality intersect. My feminism is about having the personal freedom to choose how I represent myself. My ability to express myself on my own terms is my attempt to return ‘the gaze,’ to push back, to style myself for myself. As I seek to own and affirmatively claim my identity, my body, my creativity… and ultimately my ‘self’, I feel incredibly powerful and beautiful and free.

Feminism, Fashion and the Politics of Adornment by Amina Doherty. (Nigeria/Antigua & Barbuda)

It’s possible to let your energy, love and time be wasted by those who are not clear what they want for you or those who are trapped in their own games. Such lost investment will only distract you from giving all to what you can most achieve in your path, your heart and your life’s work. Focus on those who most matter and know well why they do.

Forget new year’s resolutions.  What’s on your heart list, life list, fantasy list & balance list? (Trinidad & Tobago)

But it is also true that Caribbean women are not at equal risk of being made to strip, squat, bend over, finger-raped and humiliated at regional border points. We have seen little critical examination of the class and gender dimensions of this case. We might well ask whether there is an unspoken investment in gendered respectability in our rush to celebrate Shanique Myrie as a Caribbean Rosa Parks. As a not insignificant aside, consider the difference between the dominant idea of Rosa Parks we are familiar with, as the diminutive mother of the Civil Rights movement, and the Rosa Parks who was a highly active member of the NAACP and attended meetings of the Communist Party. And fewer of us have heard of Claudette Colvin, told to give up her seat on a bus nine months before Rosa Parks. We should pause to consider whether the fact that Colvin was an unmarried pregnant teenager has anything to do with her story not being widely told.

Alissa Trotz’s Inescapable Entanglements: Notes on Caribbean Feminist Engagement delivered at the 20th anniversary conference of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies. (Guyana)

In her pain, she was not allowed to belong anywhere. How could she belong when the halves of her were at war? When she was attacked by both sides? It is one thing to be condemned to a particular side because of your skin colour, but it is an entirely different thing to be a refugee in your own country because you do not truly belong to any side.

Sarah Bharrat of Guyana writes about what she calls “The Dougla Defect“, being mixed race in a racially polarised society. (Guyana)

“You said I remind you of the best parts of home. Like a lot of guys, you want to be nurtured but can’t nurture anyone because you barely know how.”

Writing about love from Creative Commess (Trinidad & Tobago)

“Growing up in Barbados, getting pregnant was the worst thing you could do. Not just as a teenager, but anytime before you had secured your place as a DoctorLawyerBankmanager. I’m serious. The Worst Thing.”

Mar the Mongoose blogs about the politics of motherhood. (Barbados)

Similar to the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas also deports Haitian migrants regularly and grants very few work permits and rarely (if ever) asylum status, while depending upon the everyday labour of Haitian undocumented migrants. The Bahamas — somewhat like the DR’s new ruling — also denies rights to the children of migrants, the difference being that children of migrants do have access to birth citizenship rights, which they have to apply for at 18. However, this process can take years, especially if one does not have access to legal assistance.

Angelique Nixon, writing for Groundation Grenada, looks at human rights, migration and the future of Dominican@s of Haitian descent. (The Bahamas)

Happy New Year!

Leave us a comment with your fav feminist blogs! Let’s grow this list!

See also “Top 10 Must-read Caribbean Feminist Blog posts“, “Caribbean Digital Feminist Activism in a Post-Feminist Age“, “Social Media Strategies for Caribbean Activists“,  and “We’re excited about Online Caribbean Feminist Media.”

Police Brutality Case in the Bahamas

Readers, have you been following the case of Edena Farah who was beaten by police in the Bahamas.

A petition has been started which alleges that

She was bitten and beaten by 6 police officers  in downtown Nassau, while conducting a Segway tour with tourists; a job she loved very much.  After putting 7 bogus charges on her and after going through a 2 year trial, the judge found her guilty and sentenced her to 1 year in prison!!

 

We would love to hear from our readers in the Bahamas about the public reaction to this beating and the subsequent conviction.

Less Blame, More Action

Public discourse on gendered relations is always fascinating because it revels people’s deeply held beliefs about men and women and they ways in which they are valued or devalued.

Recent comments reported in the Tribune 242 blame women for men’s involvement in crime.  Women are blamed in three ways:

1) For being at the source of arguments between men:

“Many of the murders that we recorded to date are as a result of arguments. I am ashamed to tell you, arguments over women – females, where young men are feuding over females,” [the Police Commissioner] is reported to have said.

2) For being materialistic and mercenary, thus forcing men to turn to crime in order to to provide material goods:

Women who are not satisfied with what they have can in some instances push men to get extra cash by committing robberies or becoming a “king pin”, just to satisfy their material desires.

“Sometimes women have to settle with what they have. If you are with a man and he does not work, and you see things that you want but you cannot afford it, he may feel pressured to do all that he can to get you what you want, even if it means breaking the law. So we must teach our men to work for the things they want,” [police Press Liaison Officer is reported to have said].

3) By passively refusing to be a positive influence in the lives of men around them:

“As women we have the power of influence. We can in our own way cause a man to make a good or a bad choice. Women must use that power to help the men in their lives make the right choice to stay away from criminal activities.”

Within this analysis where men are feuding with each other over women (relationships which the Police Commissioner points out are not even marriages!), taking to crime in order to satisfy the material demands of women and unable to have women act as positive influences in their lives, men are rendered passive.  Men are not seen as agents in their violence against other men and against women. Women, not men, are the ones with desires for material goods.  Women benefit from the crimes men commit, men do not.  These are old, tired arguments heard over and over again across the Caribbean.  They also fail to recognise that far from women causing men’s violence they are often on the receiving end of it.  Speaking of Trinidad & Tobago, Senator St. Rose-Greaves pointed out that homicides due to domestic violence are second only to gang murders.  In Barbados, “domestic violence”, typically intimate partner violence accounts for about half of all murders.

The Police Commissioner does not consider that what it means to be a man could be part of the reason why men compete with each other, sometimes until death, or why they perceive that a wider range of income-generating options are open to them both within and outside the law.  Singling out women as at the root of men’s over-representation in prison furthers a gendered devaluing and scapegoating of women.  It is also not at all helpful in understanding and reducing crime.

Caribbean states have identified men’s violence and involvement in gangs and the drug trade as key security issues.  They have a responsibility to deal with these issues adequately.  That burden cannot and should not be shifted to women. Not even rhetorically. We will come close to addressing these issues if we take a simplistic approach of blaming women for all that is wrong in men’s lives.

Less blaming, more action to create the kind of Caribbean where women, men and everyone else claiming an identity between and beyond the binary can flourish.  We all have a right to a good life.