Friday, 30 August 2013

The things we do for a cheap laugh

[Content warning: violence against women]

When I was but a wee Mar, I used to think that old people knew a lot of sh*t. As soon as we could read, which, thanks to my mother, was way too early for human people, my mother (same one as above) would make us watch the news, and read the paper, because she thought it would make us smarter and better people. (She also made us wear watches for this same reason. All the Most Serious People wore watches and looked important. Besides, how could you take over the world if you didn't know what time it was?) And when I would watch the adults on TV running countries and having ideas, I would think "Man, they know a lot of stuff. That looks like thirsty work. Thank god they're in charge!" This admiration lasted for about nine years of life here on earth, after which I realised that old people were just as stupid as the rest of us, and we were all screwed.

That isn't to say that I don't respect age. Lots of old people know stuff (and I use 'old' here relative to my own age, so that at 9 old was oh, say 21 and above. Now, old is old-old. Proper old. I'm at that age where when someone dies at 68 I say "oh my! And so young!") and are interesting and brilliant and the best story-tellers. The other day I was sitting in a salon and an old lady started telling me some things about her life, which included the unveiling of her travel diary with an entry from 19howlong that said something resembling "Just got off the train at Scarborough where I've come to be fitted for new petticoats", along with "Did not go to Church today. That should keep them talking at least until next Sunday." The woman who sat in her seat after she left pretty much just played Candy Crush the entire time, so you can see how the old lady was the highlight of my day. But I have found that old people who are wise and interesting are so because they are wise and interesting - not because they are old. Yes, the passage of time has allowed them to accumulate more lessons and stories, but they could only have learnt those lessons in the way that they did and been able to distill and transmit this information in useful ways if they had a certain degree of self-awareness and insight to begin with.

So what am I on about? The last time I commented on something this guy had written, I actually got strange hate mail from people admonishing me to respect my elders, which I find a hilarious concept. Of course, in general interactions with friends and strangers, we should all be respectful of each other, and in particular of older people, who merit a bit more care, and patience, and kindness, I feel, than may come readily to our natural, boorish 21st century selves. But the notion that someone could be rude, or bigoted, or nasty or wholly insensitive in the expression of an idea but deserve some kind of honour because they have so far failed to die has always been a puzzle to me.

To wit: this guy again.

Last week, a woman named Carolyn Forde was beaten and killed by a man she knew while at her workplace in Bridgetown. This after the late-July murder of another woman, Denise Clarke, for which a man was held and charged, and the May killing of Brenda Taylor-Belle by her 'estranged' husband. In response, many individuals and groups, among them the National Organisation of Women (NOW), have called for legislative reform and enhanced police action to address the fact that some of these women were killed despite repeated complaints of earlier violent incidents to police, and despite having sought and received restraining orders against the offenders. Richard Hoad's take on the situation is as follows:

In the wake of recent attacks on women, National Organization of Women (NOW) president Marilyn Rice-Bowen wants to fast-track legislation mandating more timely police intervention into domestic disputes.

Sounds good. At the first report of violence, a rapid response team will rush in, cart the man off and go their way.

And that will achieve precisely what? Unless a man is locked away for life, not even a restraining order can stop him coming back to renew his mischief. Besides, it seems many women prefer to live with abuse rather than end a relationship. Won’t such women be tempted to hide their abuse in the future?

The language 'recent attacks on women' makes it seem as if gnomes are hiding in shrubberies tossing acorns at unsuspecting victims while they hang the washing. Likewise, the notion of violence against women as 'mischief' tries to neatly and playfully (!) obscure the fact that what we are talking about here is the murder of human beings. And it's unclear the point of this argument: well restraining orders don't work anyway. Men who want to kill (this, is, apparently, the 'mischief') will find a way, so better to do nothing? Further, women prefer to be beaten and killed than end a relationship, because what? Then you have to figure out who will keep the X-box and delete him from Facebook and that is sooo not worth it? The point is, guy, that by your own admission, what we have in place is insufficient to protect women, and moreover that women may be afraid to end relationships with abusive partners because they fear they will be killed. This is why we need not just more effective legislation and law enforcement practice, but supporting institutions that will protect women who make the decision to leave abusive relationships.

Then, for good measure, we get a bit of the old, not at all tired "don't get me wrong, I think hitting women is bad! I love women! Love them all up and down...bow chicka bow bow. Am I right, guys?"

I abhor the idea of a man striking a woman. To my knowledge, my father never hit any woman. Instead he taught us seven boys a simple procedure for approaching the opposite sex, to wit: gently place your hand on her knee. While making circular motions with the fingers, recite: “If you are a lady, as I take you to be, you will not laugh nor smile if I tickle you on your knee”. If she did laugh or smile, the implication was she wasn’t a lady and you could move upwards smartly.

Actually, I must have missed some other part of the instruction as I ended up getting very few girlfriends, and only one wife, compared to my brothers who got several of each.

So, from the word 'instead', I can gather that there are two ways to engage with women - beat them or screw them, the latter not necessarily with their express consent. We get a lot of this in response to the brutalization and murder of women in the Caribbean: a lot of this 'women aren't to be beaten; they're to be looked after' rhetoric that translates just as much to ownership and objectification as intimate partner violence does. What are you doing hitting her? Did you know she has a perfectly good vagina in there that you can have for your very own? We also get a lot of collective nervous laughter, like this mess of a column, reflecting the notion that this problem is, ultimately, about the man-woman thing. Crap. We're doing a shitty job of protecting half of our population? Quick! Someone tell a joke! Preferably about sex. People like jokes, they like sex. Sex jokes will save us!

The jokes haven't really worked here so far, but here comes more of the sex:

But we have to go even further back to understand what is happening here. You women have something that we need. Not “need” like a new car or a cell phone, but “need” as in food or water. Only more so.

You have the lock, we have the key. You have the carriage, we have the horse. Admittedly, some horses are a bit small for some carriages but we try our best. The bottom line is, you fulfil a need that nothing else can.

What is apparently 'happening here', according to this genius, is that women must be prepared to hand over sex in exchange for the promise of security. That is, men have a reasonable expectation of a hole to stick their dicks in when the pressures of life get them down, and if 21st century women insist on actual bodily autonomy and personhood, then they need to declare this to society, that is, if they expect not to be...murdered.

NOW needs to come clean and explain women’s new position. If marriage or a relationship no longer entitles a man to a little thing, say so. If it is your right to horn [horn = 'cheat on'; explanation mine] a man for commercial or other consideration, say so.

Women: be reasonable. All you have to do is explain to us going in that your bodies are your own and that we are not entitled to it at our whim, and we may not kill you. I say 'may', but, you know, I can't promise. The larger problem here is that the piece seeks not only to identify these apparently perfectly logical reasons why men kill women, reasons that are, of course, the fault of women, but also to narrow them down to one thing: sex. And it fails to address all the entrenched issues that allow such violence to persist.

Let me explain something to this eminent elder: mentioning in an offhanded way that 'hitting a woman is wrong' a couple times in a piece that amounts to an extended domestic violence apologia does not absolve you of responsibility. And that responsibility is to use your platform - if you are going to bother to discuss the escalating trend of intimate partner violence against and murder of women - to treat the subject with the consideration and soberness that it merits. "It's just a joke" doesn't work here simply because it isn't a joke. And the pervy uncle bit is old. It's a sheer and ineffective cover for a lazy argument that is not only offensive to women - in particular the women who have died - but to men. It presumes not only that men are irrational beasts led only by carnal urges, but worse, that you are content to remain so. And I know a lot of men for whom you do not speak. We get it: sex sex giggle. We're ready for some actual, original thought, now. Give it a shot.


  1. Hey Mar - CaitieCat here, so glad to see you posting again!

    That guy's opinions are nasty, mouldy, ancient things. Respect for him as an elder, yes, but for his ancient, mouldy ideas, not so much. We are not our ideas/beliefs, or we could never change our minds.

  2. followed a link from AJ's page to this blog... nothing more to add except that some of us women carry the same idea of ourselves without being conscious of it. so when a male grunts and pokes at us we think its what he ought to be doing...

    the column you are breaking down for us is disturbing to say the least and i wonder how such pup is allowed into the newspaper

    that being said, i think self awareness and self love are missing

    i think that all of us need to find a passion for goodness and a cause and see it through, that is the only way change will come about and ideologies will shift, not through "The Government" or their policies.

    Keep up the excellent work.
    Love. Empowerment. Blessings

  3. Thank you Mongoose for calling out another elder chatting nonsense. Problem is, this ‘elder’ (seems like a misnomer – let’s go with ‘ancient’) continues his misogynistic, base, trite, bull in the national newspaper. Continued offence to women and as you so eloquently suggest, evolved men.

    Sir, you are not funny, it is old, it is tired, it is not clever, it is offensive and there are no points in your nothing treatise.


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