COLUMN – Enough of this bloody silence!
She received several chop wounds about her body. In addition, it was reported that her left hand was broken and two of the fingers severed.
–– Barbados TODAY, December 30.
I wonder if reading those words bothered you as much as reading them bothered me. I am absolutely disturbed by it on several levels.
First, where is the individual outrage and solidarity among Barbadian women? As the scourge of domestic violence plays out in societies like Guyana and Trinidad, women are banding together to form discussion groups, and there are activists bombarding the legislature for positive adjustments
to the imbalances.
I do not see the same type of collective outrage among Barbadian women. The outcry for our sisters who have lost fingers and have been maimed permanently, just because they chose to be intimate with a man at some point, is simply not loud enough.
The church is mum. The private sector is mum. Parent-teacher associations are not reminding the society that a child who lives in a home exposed to domestic violence is forever scared emotionally, and sometimes physically, on account of those very acts destroying their parents’ lives. While I fully support the punishment of people who perpetuate violent acts against former intimate partners, the flip side of that punishment is that children lose both their mother and father in one day or night –– or whenever the worlds of their parents are completely shattered.
There was supposed to be a Ministry of Family with the coming of the Democratic Labour Party administration in 2008. A central and important mandate of any such ministry should have been to ensure that children who have experienced instances of trauma like domestic violence are counselled to ensure that any potential negative cycles are broken. Far from the ministry meeting such a mandate, child protection and care in Barbados are still embarrassingly inadequate and child victims of domestic violence continue to fall through the wide cracks in the system.
Many of these children present with diverse levels of criminality at various later stages.
The second level of silence that confuses and distresses me is that of the “public women”. Barbados likes to believe there has been a fracture of the “glass ceiling”. There has been the installation of several women into traditionally male-dominated areas. There are a good number of female parliamentary representatives. There are female judges, lawyers, doctors, engineers and union leaders.
Almost in every field, women are showing that they can match and in some cases surpass their male counterparts. I believe it is an inherent duty of these women to make the way for others behind them –– these women who have seized themselves of the realities of gender discrimination –– and to be advocates for equality in roles. That is the ideal.
And once I acknowledge that I do not see this happening at all –– much less in most cases –– I begin to think about the reasons why. It is not pretty what I conclude. It seems obvious to me that there are no fractures in the glass ceiling. This ceiling in Barbados is reinforced with shatterproof glass.
The women we see emerging in certain positions seem to be well selected tokens. I could never conclude this about all “public women”, but it certainly could be the explanation why we are not seeing more concern and agitation for gender equality by those who we think should understand the importance of their lobby the most.
This theory could also explain why women in these positions are still willing to put up with the sexual innuendo that pervades the boardrooms of this country. It could explain why sexual harassment and workplace transactions of sex for favours are still as prevalent today as they were on the sunny green fields of massa’s expanses.
Women in Barbados are not generally liberated from gender inequalities. Even those women who have managed to get some reprieve by “climbing the ladder” are kept firmly in place by the club and the proponents of the status quo.
The Government is one of the chief organs of the maintenance of the status quo. That explains why there is no swifter action to ensure there is legislative cover for the victim and a more effective deterrent for perpetrators of domestic violence. In order to protect women, as they cook and take their children to school, the status quo has to be willing to relinquish the type of power that still makes the male politician a demigod in a village with access to any and all sexual favours and admiration.
The embedded misogyny that makes a woman a miserable possession to be bedded now and again, and done away for the rest of the time would have to be discussed. The narrative of Barbadian woman as scheming charlatan would have to be dispensed with and a new imagery in our social tapestry discussed and reworked.
Women in Barbados must realize and accept that the individuals with much to gain from the maintenance of the status quo are the very same persons we are begging to change the system with only a lukewarm lobby as motive. It will not happen. I am afraid for the women of Barbados.
The final voice which I find to be missing from the hue and cry about how Barbadian women are being chopped down is that of our husbands; our brothers; our uncles; our fathers –– our men! I am not totally surprised that it is absent.
There are many maladjusted, hurt and lost men in Barbados –– some whose hate of woman is so deep and so normal that they do not even see the dysfunction in what has become routine. These are sometimes the men of the situations which I alluded to earlier; the men from bad family environments who never got the chance to evade the cycles.
These men are the ones who saw their mothers take and give favours to anyone willing “to assist” a single mother in the raising of five or six fatherless offspring. These are the men with deep and conflicting views of what is a “good woman” and “bad woman”.
These men are grass-roots men. They are also the men of the middle class and upper class. They are simply Barbadian men!
By indication of the number of incidents, these men are scattered far and wide across Barbados. These men need an intervention.
Haven’t enough lives been lost? Haven’t enough children been forced to go to the hospital terrified and fearful of the state they have seen their mothers in?
Haven’t we lost enough time to sick leave?
I am ready for enough to be enough! Are we close?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and a part-time lecturer in communication at the University of the West Indies.)