Today’s women in crisis
While I share the concern of right-thinking Barbadians regarding the increasing violence perpetrated by young males in our society, I wish to comment on a growing trend of crude and inappropriate behaviour among women.
Women have always been the stabilizing influence in this country, nurturing children in the absence of negligent fathers; conducting themselves in a disciplined and responsible manner; and, generally, ensuring that our homes, schools and churches provide the environment necessary for wholesome living. It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have had to acknowledge an unfortunate change in the behaviour of a growing number of young women who seem intent on copying the worse elements of male approach to living.
Drinking of alcohol in public, using crude and obscene language, overly aggressive behaviour while driving, and dressing in a manner that leaves little to the imagination are now, apparently, the new way of proving that women are liberated.
Three Saturdays ago, I watched an elite division cricket match and was shocked at the conduct of three of the young ladies in the small crowd. They consumed at least three bottles of vodka, and by tea time, their speech was slurred and they were uttering obscenities to describe everything from the cricket to the way they “did the dog” at a fete the night before.
Moved to suggest that their behaviour was unladylike and uncalled for, I was on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse. Worse, I discovered that the son of one of the women was among the spectators.
In discussing my concern with a friend, I learnt that such conduct was now common at public events. What has become of modesty among our womenfolk? Has the women’s liberation movement gone too far beyond fighting for equal rights for the fairer sex? Thank God that in Barbados women are able to aspire to and achieve success in all areas of national life. It is regrettable, though, that losing one’s femininity has become the collateral damage accompanying women’s empowerment. It is as if a woman cannot be an assertive and effective leader without being unpleasantly aggressive.
I have often said that while society has tended to believe that our mothers and grandmothers were subservient to men, my observations suggest that they were wise and tactful. I grew up in a household where my father was the chief spokesman and was a strong man; yet my mother controlled the home.
When decisions were to be made, she quietly won my father to her way of thinking; not by shouting and trying to make him look small, but by the wisdom of her suggestions. Even so, she allowed him to keep his dignity intact, and on the few occasions when she could not change his mind, she gracefully supported him. I wish to suggest that that was the case in many households.
Today, too many women think that they must denigrate their male partners and minimize their leadership role. Their children must know that mummy is in charge and that daddy is largely irrelevant. Ridiculing men has the effect of making boys, especially, suffer a loss of worth as males, with the resultant lashing out which is becoming so prevalent in our society.
My experience with women close to me has made me aware of the moral role which they have played and can still play in nation building. In the past, irresponsible womanizing by men was countered by sexual restraint and decency of mothers, aunts, wives and girlfriends. That is not to say that they were perfect, but they tried to be good examples to their children. Even those who were not exemplars of sexual virtue accepted their shortcomings and tried to be discreet.
We now have women flaunting their infidelity without remorse. Their justification is that men have been promiscuous for years and “do for do is not obeah”. Who cares how loose sexual conduct impacts on the family and children, in particular? No wonder MESA is demanding paternity testing as a condition for accepting responsibility for child support.
Recently, I have been privy to disturbing reports of mothers “renting” their school-age daughters to “sugar daddies’ and to non-national men who visit the island to sample our fare of sun, sand and sex. If these reports are true, then, we are worse off than most people think.
Were Barbadian women not known for the protection, sometimes overprotection of their daughters? Of course, almost every week we learn of girls running away from home and parents not knowing where their 13- and 14-year-old children are at night. Also, it is an open secret that an increasing number of mothers are demanding that their young children find money to help buy clothes and lunch.
Not surprisingly, women turn a blind eye to the exploitation of their daughters by depraved partners and male “friends”.
Nor are our womenfolk reluctant to engage in criminal activity. Quite a few of them now help in the cultivation of marijuana; hide drugs and guns for their men; and, as calypsonian Donella suggested in her excellent calypso in 2015, dishonestly plead
the innocence of children whose illicit earnings support expensive lifestyles.
There is much evidence of young students at college and university turning up to classes with cut out jeans, “bottom riders”, other revealing clothing which expose panties and breasts, and when spoken to, explain that nothing is inappropriate about their dress.
I applaud the principals of schools for enforcing a dress code for parents visiting schools. As a teacher, I witnessed a boy driven to tears because his classmates teased him about the slack way in which his mother went to see the principal. And didn’t my friends Rev. Curtis Goodridge and Rev. Errington Massiah, recently, have to reprimand women for attending funerals in various stages of undress?
On Kadooment Day, many of our females mistake the road for their bedroom and have no shame in gyrating in a semi-nude state. Interestingly, the male revellers are, generally, appropriately clothed and I cannot recall any of them wining on security personnel.
Fifteen years ago, in a panel discussion dealing with the topic Men In Crisis, I warned the audience that I was seeing signs of deviance among girls that concerned me, and that it was time we recognize that our women were also in crisis. I was called an alarmist; but even before I retired from teaching in 2011, female students were as problematic as males and were being more disrespectful than boys. Conversations with many teachers confirmed my worst fears.
I was one of the strongest proponents of co-education, but I have lived to regret my stance. Apart from the negative impact on boys, co-education has exposed the worst aspects of girlhood to adolescent males, leading to disrespect unknown to those of us who attended boys schools.
It is too late to turn back the clock as far as single-sex schools are concerned, but something needs to be done to restore pride to being a lady and a gentleman. Does this country know that girls who are virgins past their 14th birthday are the laughing stock of their female peers in school?
Finally, a word about the number of women who let it be known that they have several partners for financial rewards. Relationships should be based on mutual love and respect. Men ought not to be viewed as financiers or sperm donors. There is likely to be less anger and violence when women see their mates as genuine partners rather than meal, clothes or overseas
Those female students who boast that their partners’ shelf life will expire once they graduate are asking for trouble. It is wrong to let a man pay for your education when you have already determined that your involvement with him is short-lived.
God made male and female in His own image, investing us all with worth and dignity. Neither sex must do anything to devalue the other.
Given my great respect for the many women I have known well, it pains me to write this article. What I hope is that readers will see it as a plea for the women of Barbados to help reclaim our society from the social and moral morass it is slipping into.
My beautiful Barbadian sisters, your grandmothers and great-grands set the moral tone for the Barbados of yesteryear; there is no reason why you cannot help to restore decency and morality to the country we all love.
(John Goddard, former senior and English teacher of Harrison College and St George Secondary.)