Life as a woman is not easy, and life as a woman in Jamaica is especially hard. This is a nation where we men claim to love women, but that, for the most part, is a lie. Proof of that can be seen in the actions that our men and society in general take towards women.
We claim to love them, but for quite a few men that is truly not the case as one can’t love another person without showing respect or humility, without showing the decency that one deserves for being a fellow human being, let alone a potential love interest.
Women in this country must run the gauntlet on a daily basis and the outcome is never a sure thing. Take for example cat-calling, something that a lot of men in this country see no problem with. Cat-calling in this country is not a subtle and romantic “hey baby, you are looking fine” or something along those lines. Instead it is a crass, vulgar string of words about the ‘roundness’ of the lady, the man’s sexual prowess and how he (in most instances) intends to work her sexually. This is meant in the man’s warped world as a compliment and if the woman does not reciprocate, or worse still verbally spurns him, then she is open to a torrent of abuse, mainly verbal, but sometimes physical.
Women live with this fear everyday they walk the streets and frankly this is something that we men need to clean up. It is crass and the furthest thing from infatuation. Instead, it is the sign of a mind that has little respect for women.
The pressure for sex is also a battle that our women face on an almost hourly basis, if I may exaggerate (or is it?). Imagine for a minute being out with a man who has at least eighty pounds on you, who is a little boisterous and drunk and he is asking, no, demanding sexual favours. Is it any wonder that we have so many women who would rather live alone than chance it with the modern Jamaican man who is so heavily influenced by the thug culture?
Men, it is time that we stop pressuring our women for sex. It is time we stop with the line “if you love me you’ll sleep with me”. That is not love, that is emotional blackmail and taking advantage of someone’s feelings. It is wrong and is in no small part leading to our women slowly closing themselves off from the opposite sex.
The threat of rape is one of the unspoken factors of being a woman in Jamaica, and while concrete data is hard to come by, anecdotal evidence tells us that rape and sexual assaults are a frequent enough occurrence for us individuals to know of at least one story personally. We, as a society in general, and men specifically seem to have little to no issues with sexual violence when it comes to our women. We see this in songs that glorify rape and the ways that our courts treat cases of sexual assault and rape. We see where sexual violence is the order of the day, whether uptown or downtown, and it needs to stop now.
The formation of the Tambourine Army in many ways is very heartening as women seek to empower and liberate themselves from the way that society perceives and treats them, but they can’t do it alone. Men, we need to stand up, be counted and demand that this straight up disrespect towards our women, mothers, aunts and sisters stops. Who do we expect to bring forth life or be life companions?
The onus however is not just on men only; this is a societal issue and one that can only be tackled and cured once we are open and honest that we as a society have created these norms where women are treated like chattel with little or no respect.
While women’s education, rights and empowerment have come a long way we still treat our women as lower class citizens and expect them to play the role. We place a premium on a woman having babies. This sometimes leads to families living in abject poverty. We teach our girls to be kept and looked after and then we are shocked when a woman is killed for having a main man and six “boops”, one of whom finds out and is none too pleased.
We see this warped teaching when young women are led to believe that the only way to keep or get a man is through the vagina and then we again act shocked when we read stories of girls at sixteen having had over fifty sexual partners.
The Jamaican society must change how we view our women and we must change how we treat our women. Everyone came from a woman. Everyone has a mother and the vast majority of this nation were raised by women, be it granny or mummy so how can we allow these atrocities to continue towards our women? Women deserve our love and respect, not just because they provide life or because they look good when all dolled up, but for the simple fact that they are humans with feelings and emotions.
Let us try to aim for a better way to treat our women and girls, because at the end of the day I’m sure that most if not all of us would get very ‘dark’ if what happened to women on the street happened to our mothers or sisters.