November 20th, 2017
Originally published on denekathomas.com. Re-blogged with the kind permission of the author.
Being a woman is possibly the most difficult thing any human being can be. It is like walking around with a permanent “Kick Me” sign on your back. Everyone gets to join in on the joke and you the victim is left clueless wondering why the entire world is so harsh towards you.
Of course the prank is meant to be a playful game that folks expect victims to not take seriously. We’ve cackled at victims suffering. We expect individuals to just laugh it off and go about their lives as though they had not been disadvantaged.
“It is all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” This is a line frequently used by Caribbean parents to warn their kids about the risk of activities that would put them at risk. As children we were used to antagonizing each other without any understanding of how dangerous some of our actions were. Now, the only excuse that I can come up with for us adults, is that we’re the result of generations of oppression and
brainwashing that says, boys must learn how to be men before they learn how to be human. One that promotes hyper-masculinity. Women must be submissive and let the men take control because that's what real Trinbago men were supposed to do.
"I can't change. My bredrins, soca, dancehall teach me to grab and mash up bumper and history teach me that I can't be anything but my father. I wearing the man arm chest and face."
These lines from Derron Sandy's poem on gender-based violence says it perfectly. Everything about this space that we occupy at this very point in time contributes to teaching men these attitudes and give them permission to maltreat women. Applauds and rewards it even. This space allows men to not feel responsible for the actions of the collective. Some men will join in with their friends in objectifying women and treating them as property to be bought and owned at the right price. Violence, cruelty, rape and abuse are seen as extremes that are not connected to these jokes we seem to feel are okay to make.
It’s just a game right?
It’s a harmless game until it gets serious and you start taking into consideration the statistics. The statistics that says that 1 in every 3 Caribbean women will experience physical/sexual violence in her lifetime. 2 in every 3 victims of intimate/family related homicide are women. 3 women are killed everyday by their romantic partner. Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression due to sexual, physical, psychological, financial or emotional abuse. These statistics say that women ages 20-24 are at greatest risk of nonfatal domestic violence, and women age 24 and under suffer from the highest rates of rape. It is an innocuous little game until a woman experiences physical, sexual or psychological harm or even death.
We live in a world where women have little to no rights or say in the matter. Where the bullies who are really abusers are seen as superior and dominant and have managed to build an entire system to support themselves. We live in a world where patriarchy is the adhesive which defines how society interacts with itself.
In every school setting, unoriginal bullies use these signs to terrorize their victims show that they’re in control. In reality lives are at stake. Both genders have suffered in blood because we have been back and forth on the topic of equality for some time. Feminists are seen as ugly tsunamis and we forget about the earthquakes that shook us into existence. We feel the need to pick sides. Men band with men as if it’s boys club and women side with women because of sisterhood but it isn't a battle of the sexes.
How many of us have walked around with our personal brands of kick me signs that play a big role in how people interact with us? How many women walk around wearing her femininity on her back and have been scrutinized or treated unfairly and had no idea what was the cause of it.
The truth is that once you’re born with female identifying parts, know that it comes with its own jury ready to cast you as guilty before examining any existing evidence. It casts us as responsible, inferior, weak, small, fragile and submissive. Most times even when we attempt to be bigger than the situation, we're considered bossy and a bitch when we stand up for ourselves.
Being a woman is a constant battle. Women have had to fight for centuries and navigate unequal power relationships and entrenched gender inequalities. For a woman, the workplace is a war-zone. The streets are a war-zone. The household is a war-zone.
The statistics show that while both genders are affected by patriarchy and gender based violence. Women are more likely to become targets. Between men and women, women are the ones who have to worry about being attacked or raped. Women are more likely to be catcalled or overpowered and taken advantage of. Woman have little to no autonomy over their bodies. As a woman, it is always heartbreaking to acknowledge that we’re the pappy-show of society. We’re the subjects of the “put them through hell” plot-line that puts us at the center of tragedy.
The more people start protesting and advocating for women’s rights and for equality, the more we'll begin to see more erstwhile victims emerge and retaliate against such attacks much more cleverly. There is value in identifying abusers, calling them out for their shortcomings and helping them shape up. Bit by bit we will become much more confident and aware. More of us are standing up for ourselves. It means pulling the paper off of our backs and demanding respect. It is knowing that we are making strides and there is hope for humanity.
Being a woman is hard but there are a lot of people, organizations and warriors out there doing good work to make it easier. Currently, The 2 Cents Movement is in the midst of the Normal Not Normal Gender-Based Violence Tour. The tour is targeted at secondary school students and is aimed at starting a conversation among students about what is gender based violence and how they can contribute towards creating a new normal in their spaces. It teaches that violence shouldn’t be used to solve violence and that there are services that provide much healthier approaches to conflict resolution.
Some other organizations providing support in the areas of gender development, women’s rights and equality are UWI'S Institute of Gender Development Studies, WAND Foundation, Conflict Women, OWABI, Rape Crisis Society, and Girl be Heard Trinidad and Tobago who are all working towards creating safe spaces for women and girls to exist.