Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Open Letter to the Strict Guardians of Male Privilege and craftsMen of Women’s fate

Before the sun could set on the Sixteen Days of Activism Campaign 2014, yet another young Barbadian mother was savagely attacked in a case of Gender Based Violence (GBV).  It serves as a chilling reminder if we ever needed one that domestic violence continues to be a very serious scourge on our society.

At the forefront of the campaign continues to be women’s organisations as the issue disproportionately impacts females. Should it be that only women’s organisations are in the forefront of this effort? Indeed one social commentator reviewing the sixteen days noted that new voices needed to be added to the fight. Another questioned the extent to which the Barbadian public had become desensitised, in the same way that we are no longer shocked by the killing of unarmed black men by police in the USA. The danger of being desensitised is something we must fervently guard against. Failure to do so means that we become unmoved by the plight of the victims and provide a level of legitimacy to would be perpetrators to undertake their heinous acts.

What is to be done is always the question confronting any organisation or social movement attempting to bring about change. Seeking to modify behaviour, raise consciousness and change entrenched mindsets is never an easy task. For this reason the struggle waged by the women’s movement must be lauded since the positive gains are not only beneficial to women but to children and also to men.

As much as these voices continue to be in the forefront of the fight against Gender Based Violence, it is imperative that new voices be added to the struggle. Not as a means of drowning out those in the vanguard of protecting women’s rights but instead to magnify the call for an end to domestic violence and gender inequality in all of its manifestations.

Gender Based Violence is not solely a women’s issue it has to be a male issue too since our sons are negatively impacted and as the statistics irrefutably show men are the main perpetrators. It is for this reason that the silence by leading male organisations in our country needs to be broken. Indeed they do speak but seldom is it in condemning the heinous acts such as occurred on the morning of December 10, 2014. More often the speeches seem calculated to provide excuses or to detract from the real issues.  

For example on the heels of legislation to guard against sexual harassment, we hear a strong call from a leading men’s group that women who falsely accuse men of harassment should receive hefty fines. The real issue here is that harassment in the workplace and elsewhere is persistent, pervasive and petrifying for many women. It is the lived reality of thousands of Barbadian females and far surpasses any consideration of false claims. If an organisation is truly serious about empowering men then it needs to stand behind our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, nieces, daughters and friends to raise the conscious of all men in ending the acts which cause our women significant pain and discomfort.

It baffles me that in the 21st century some male headed organisations still hold on to archaic notions of females being less than equal. That these organisations openly resent the gains women have made and seemingly wish to turn back the hands of time is tragic if not laughable. Such was the case in a recent panel discussion on GBV which I was honoured to be part of.

Sentiments such as women are taking over, women are forcing men out and women were being disobedient and not taking their rightful are the philosophical underpinnings of key figures in one male organisation. In my response to these neanderthal beliefs I stated that the influential figures in my life (mainly women) taught me to stand up on the side of fairness and justice no matter the class, colour, belief system or sex of those being oppressed. For that response I was chastised for ‘siding with women’ to which I showed no remorse.    

One of the major flaws of our Independence project was that while it sought to fix several issues and to improve the standard of living, it did not pay enough attention to gender inequality. This could be seen by the limited subject choices for girls in the early school system, the glaring absence of females in our parliament and even in the selection of a lone heroine in the pantheon of national heroes despite Barbados’ claim to being a matrifocal society.  

Just as white privilege in the USA has resulted in the death of innocent black males; male privilege in Barbados in all sectors including the pulpit, parliament and press has been complicit in the deaths of women by gender based violence. The complicity has come through our failure to condemn domestic violence, our sluggish approach to legal and institutional reforms, unwillingness to raise our consciousness and to understand the plight of Barbadian women and our failure to teach our sons to respect, appreciate and value the lives of our daughters.     

We inherited a system of inequality which attempted to break the body, soul and mind of black women and men for profit. It is time that we disabuse ourselves of that old colonial, patriarchal system which has provided our men with a sense of false entitlement and false superiority. It is time that we throw away the signet of oppression, inequality and violence shamelessly worn by our former colonisers, take responsibility for our actions and emphatically denounce all forms of violence and inequality against this country’s women. GBV is not characteristic of a modern, progressive or enlightened society and will only destroy our social fabric if our males refuse to join the fight. 

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