Women’s Bodies Make the News (again)

Lately I’ve been spending my time taking deep dives into the arena of gender analysis. Holed up in a small classroom for 3 hours a week in a recurring debate on the privileges of the penis may not sound like your idea of fun, but to me it’s absolute heaven. Feminist intellectual stimulation, stinging repartee and a whole bunch of new words to add to my vocabulary. It doesn’t get much better than this.

But the perspective comes with a shadow, cynicism. The niggling fear that the status quo (which is far more pervasive and sinister than I realized) won’t ever change because so many people are invested in keeping it the same. The concern that despite our promises as a country and despite our claims as a society, the day to day culture of Jamaica thrives on the subordination of women and other non-masculine groups.

Close to my heart, the topic of healthcare: reproductive rights and abortions. Recently in the news again thanks to MP Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn (In 2018 I learnt a bunch of useless US politician names, maybe 2019 is the year I learn Jamaican ones) who tabled a bill to decriminalize abortion.

Not a bill to let women kill their children.

Not a bill to give women an excuse to be promiscuous.

Not a bill to hasten the decay in Judeo-Christian morals and values.

(all points that were raised and shot down)

The bill was tabled to allow easier access to safe abortions – because women are literally dying.

As I read the discussions helpfully Tweeted out by groups in attendance (the revolution will not be televised because there is no revolution), the points raised by pro-lifers kept circling back to the idea that women do not own their bodies. Their bodies must be offered up for the greater good ie having babies and if they die in the process well it would have been a worthy sacrifice. The MPs who responded challenged the speakers to provide data to back up their claims (they couldn’t) and questioned the right of the Church to make decisions for a pluralist society.

I happen to follow mostly ‘woke’ people on Twitter: feminists, LGBTQ folks and advocates, pro-choice supporters. So my news feed lulls me into the false sense of feeling like maybe the progressive bunch scored a win.

But then I see pictures of the pro-choice stand/march that happened before the debate started – a handful of lovely women (and men, and I think maybe non-binary persons too) clad in black with shirts and placards bearing slogans like ‘NO WOMB FOR PATRIARCHY” and “MIND YOUR OWN UTERUS”. Catchy slogans, very clever, but not a big crowd.

And then I take note of the Members of Parliament who they Tweeteed about actively participating in the discussion. Again, lovely people, but only three maybe four names are repeated.

And then I realize something. It’s great to feel like a part of a movement. It’s great to have people who agree with your values and outlook on life. It’s nice to be included (I get such a thrill when WE-Change retweets me). But the shadow, cynicism, clouds the warm fuzzy feelings.

Culture, society, Parlimentarians in the majority aren’t ready to allow women full control over their own bodies. We might get ideas. The road to change is long and hard, and it will probably continue long after we’ve passed on the torch. This ‘gender thing’ is a huge obstacle to human rights, social development and nation building. We gotta start looking at these problems fully cognizant of the biases and privileges we bring to the table. We have to stop accepting the status quo and start challenging it.

I gotta get off woke Twitter and start changing the world around me.

Just in case anyone was wondering (I was) – the only news article that spoke about this debate was a brief piece in the Gleaner that basically recounted an emotional story from a Catholic nun about overriding women’s choices for the patriarchy. You can read it here.

Housewives and Happiness

Housewife (n): a married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework.

What is the deal with people hating on housewives? Feminists especially seem to see the designation as a kind of personal insult. As if the business of running a household is a demeaning occupation that all women everywhere should try to rise above.

May I be the first to disagree?

I’ve had this argument with my classmates, mostly because everyone has the same stereotype about housewives. You know, the desperate type; the dependent ones; the gold-diggers. If that’s what you’re calling a housewife, then no wonder there’s so much disdain for them. But that’s not really what being a housewife is supposed to be. At least, that’s not the way I think about it.

To me housewives don’t just spend their husband’s money and do nothing all day. They’re the backbone of the home. They cook and clean and make sure things run smoothly. They stay home with the children. They greet their husbands at the door. They write and blog and have interesting hobbies like hand-making DIY crafts out of mason jars. For the most part, they’re happy and fulfilled.

I do realize that my idea of housewives is a little idealistic but I just don’t see them as depressed or useless or boring. I don’t see why a woman who’s a housewife is any less of a woman than a woman who’s a doctor. Or the other way around.

People find fulfilment in different ways. You might feel a soul-deep contentment when you’re elbow deep in resecting someone’s colon cancer; I might get the same feeling from knowing my family is happy and well-fed. The goal as a woman – as a human being – is to find what makes you happy and do that, regardless of stereotypes and expectations*. We shouldn’t fight to fit into some predetermined mould at the cost of our peace of mind, and we ought not to judge someone whose source of happiness is different from ours.

I realize this is difficult and, again, I’m probably being idealistic. This is a world of compromised values and hurt feelings. Some of us like to think we’re a little better others and judge them accordingly but that isn’t what we should be doing, and it isn’t making us any happier. We strive for ideals everyday; we try to achieve perfection in a million different things. Why can’t happiness be one of them?

And while you’re off learning to be happy, try not to judge people who are doing the same.


*Although if torturing puppies and small children makes you happy, I would strongly encourage you to live up to society’s expectations of not being a sociopath.


You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

-Mary Oliver

Repenting is a way of life
It is a way of viewing the world:
From your knees, hands clasped, eyes closed tight
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”
Still. Not. Good enough.

Before the altars of humility, crucifixes dangling above my bowed, repenting head
I am reminded that I am Unworthy,
Lucky-I-mean-blessed that a god-who-is-love should love me
I have been choking on worthy since I was old enough to cry.

Repent! Is the call of our culture and the cry of my heart,
The vainly shed tears
Repenting is only the beginning, alpha, and omega is the punishment
Penitence demands my sins in blood
And the scars of the mind are forced to heal on the skin

Mine is the sin that is unforgivable, the stain that will not bleach, the idea that will not be expunged
Not by your words or my deeds or
This razor. (repent. rinse. repeat.)

Still I would like to repent –
to cast off,
to be relieved of,
to confess
and be forgiven

Robyn Rants: the Modern Man

A Google search for 'modern man' returns mostly pretty boys, which totally proves my point.

Marginalization has been the buzz word for males in Jamaica for a few years now. Women are lamenting the lack of ‘manpower’ in universities and in the home; papers have been written and studies have been . . . studied. The concept is so old hat that it’s become one of those issues that are only discussed and not addressed.

But how can this problem be swept so easily under the fabric of society when young men – beg pardon, yuuts – are parading around with their pants halfway to their knees, jeans tighter than mine, their faces bleached out because ‘everybody love a brownin’‘ and cubic zirconium studs in not one, but two lobes?

I don’t even care that I’m starting to sound like an old woman, moralizing to all and sundry, because there is an even deeper issue in the attitude of the women – beg pardon, di gyal dem – who traipse around after these boys like dem frighten fi man. Certainly, some deeper moral and ethical issues are at play here, vis a vis the raising of one’s children to not be complete asses. And I, for one, am intrigued by how far this downward spiral will go. If so many boys continue to be unambitious, trigger happy louts, then girls ‘have no choice’ but to lower their standards (if they weren’t already scraping the bottom in the first place) or find themselves single indefinitely (the horror!).

But from the point of view of an irritated female, I am sick of seeing the debilitatingly gauche overtures of these wayward ‘boys’ and tired of watching my sex debase themselves through association and uncalled-for desperation. If I had the chance to say one thing only to the misguided youth of Jamaica it would be this: grow up.

But not the type of growing up that little children do all too frequently here. Growing up doesn’t mean advertising your sexuality; it means learning to respect the rights of other people. Growing up doesn’t mean scamming or killing to feed your family; it means acknowledging that there are legal ways to get the help you need. It doesn’t mean being the ‘don’, the ‘big man’ or even the ‘world boss’. Nor does it mean being a cog in the unsatisfactory machinery of our so-called democracy.

Growing up means realizing that you are the means to change your world. . . for the better, or for the worse. It’s up to you.