The plight of our schoolgirls

I heard a set of poppycock recently on a popular call in show. Although it did not surprise me because of the proponent, it alarmed me because it is unfortunate that men in ‘power’ in Barbados are still so fragile in their manhoods and unaware about gender issues.

The topic was the perceived rise in the level of aggression among Barbadian school girls. The opportunity was used to advance the usual misogyny which has come from the quarter before. The argument went something like girls and women in Barbados are so aggressive coming out of having been liberated. The liberation and the role changes were done without considering how men were displaced and women now ‘flex muscle’ to show their new statuses.

The set of premises is by no means new. The same types of arguments have been raised as justification for why Afro-American men date Latino and white women and rate them higher than black women. Wherever the set of premises manifest, they are usually disingenuous and resonate most with men who are simply uncomfortable with the advancement of women. That advancement has led to displacement in the gender relations, but it cannot be seen as the role of women to compensate or fix that problem.

Aggression is a human characteristic. Women and men are aggressive.  Where men are aggressive, they are usually seen as ‘alpha male’. The complement of alpha male is ‘alpha female’ but we have not traditionally seen aggression as a female characteristic. Perhaps more than the ‘aggression’ we are seeing in women and girls being labelled good or bad, perhaps we must first accept that women can be and should be at times aggressive. We should accept that the only type of acceptable female behaviour is no longer docile, mild and pleasant.

In direct relation to our school girls, though, I am not sure if what we are seeing can be labelled as new aggression.  Barbadian women, and to a lesser extent Caribbean and Diaspora women of African lineage, have strong and bold personalities. There is a historical context to this.  We pretend as if we do not know that there was no separation of cruelty and labour on the Caribbean plantation. Women headed canes and men headed canes. Men worked in the sun and rain for upward to twelve hours a day and women were by their sides.

African-descended women did not have the luxury of being ‘soft’ and in need of male support like their white housewife counterparts. They were not perceived to need men as partners or fathers. The African man and woman were simply modes of production on the plantation. This is our historical reality. Coupled with the brutality of everyday work on the plantation, the African-descended woman was further tortured by becoming the sexual possession of Massa.  Granted, some African-descended men lived this horror as well.

African-descended women quickly learnt that sex was a commodity with the ability to make life easier on the plantation. If Massa liked a woman, she could get extra food, a little better lodging, perhaps she could flee the hot sun completely and get in ‘the big house’. These variables led African-descended women to view each other as threats and competition, not as friends and counterparts.

They plotted against each other and took stories to whomever they thought could be a help in keeping one woman oppressed so that there would always be better opportunity. Womanhood was not something to be celebrated in the plantation context but the characteristics of womanhood became tools of manipulation and guile.

These modes of engagement, the perceptions about relationships with men and the types of personality traits of women have largely been left unaddressed and unchanged over the years of Caribbean post-independence life. I am not sure that we are seeing anything new in our school girls but what we are seeing is testimony that we have to do more to uplift womanhood and put it on an even footing with manhood, not that we have done enough or too much.

Despite the efforts of the feminist/womanist lobby in Barbados, womanhood is still largely a burden. Women are still expected to become the primary parent of children because African-descended men still largely do not understand their role as fathers. African-descended women are still viewed as strong enough to go it without a man and most never get the benefit of a partner who shows up and makes a consistent effort.

African-descended men, instead of reviling Massa for having turned African-descended women into cheap sexual possessions, have picked up where Massa left off. They use their money and ability to grant favours, keeping several more generations of Caribbean women clinging five to one man, hoping for the ‘big house’ opportunity. Women still see each other as threats and, instead of enjoying a sisterhood, there is to this day constant undermining and disharmony in relationships among women.

I hope by now that I have made the point that the characteristics of womanhood we are seeing in Barbados currently are by no means new modes.  I hope you also understand by now that I am not advocating all the features of Barbadian womanhood as wholesome or healthy.  Actually, the point that I want to make is that we have severe elements of dysfunction in the family structure of Barbados that are remnants of our plantation past.

This has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with woman advancement, although the shifts occurring in gender roles may have laid the inherent dysfunction barer. For anybody to pretend that they do not know this contextualization of the issues or the difference between woman advancement being the cause of perceived female aggression and female advancement having resulted in the issue being more revealed, is displaying blatant intellectual dishonesty. African-descended Caribbean men are working out fatherhood. They are slowly, sometimes painfully readjusting their behaviours toward their children.

Here is the newsflash – Caribbean women are in the same exact process.  Recall that on the plantation, women had children who were left with an older female hand who was not as productive and who worked at chores in the plantation yard. This practice of passing off children to an older female relative to raise stayed with us through the years as a feature of our society. Now that grandparents are younger, for the first time, mothers are responsible for rearing their children in a more real and close way.

That is what is required, but there is no solid model for such child rearing among Barbadian women. There remain the high levels of sexualization of women and girls in the Barbadian society and rampant and unchecked rape and assault.  Frustrations out of this type of existence can manifest itself as aggression.

We want school girls to speak up and solve conflict instead of resorting to fighting.  Yet when a female union leader tries to settle grievances by talking, she is attacked in the worst way. We want school girls to be measured and reserved but we are told at the national level women wanting attention can only get it by running down the street naked.

Our school girls are confused. They are caught between the old plantation and a world that tells them they should be able to live validated and respected lives.  The thing is, we the adults are confused too. Alas!

(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communication at the University of the West Indies. Email: mhindslayne@gmail.com)

23 Responses to The plight of our schoolgirls

  1. Andre Gibson
    Andre Gibson May 26, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    We really need to take a deeper look at psychological characteristics that have been passed on from generation to generation. The plantation traditions that still exists today are way deeper than pudding and souse and Crop Over

    Reply
  2. Sophia Lewis
    Sophia Lewis May 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Many excellent points made here. A valuable read.

    Reply
  3. Alex Alleyne May 26, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Prefect example of why BLACK MEN remain in the dog house.
    “justification for why Afro-American (BLACK) MEN date LATINO & WHITE MOMEN and rate them higher than BLACK WOMEN”.
    “THE BLACK MAN WILL NEVER BE TOTALLY FREE UNTIL HE FULLY RESPECT HIS BLACK WOMEN”.
    He also share his wealth there rather than with HIS OWN.
    Another problem in time to come is the offspring of the “mixed-race” who on the HUMAN colour chart of “BLACK, WHITE ,BROWN , YELLOW and RED are label as ……..OTHER.

    Reply
    • Jennifer May 26, 2017 at 9:26 pm

      Well said Alex. I have been saying this for a while now. That good old plantation is the problem to this people.

      Reply
    • Jennifer May 26, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      We had nuff off spring from the plantation days too. Now this people willingly giving themselves to be used and procreate. And by the way Alex there is no white race. Check the color of a white crayon or a sheet of paper, no one exist like that. This people is RED not white.

      Reply
  4. Elizabeth Jordan
    Elizabeth Jordan May 26, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Valuable insights. National debate needed.

    Reply
  5. jrsmith May 26, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    On one side we have ( radicalization ), pure violence in the name of (Allah) terrorism……
    On the other side we have (liberation ) all pure violence by women supposing to be Christians who consults (God ) daily for what i dont know…….

    (Our school girls is confused why)…. because they cant even trust their parents …. ,they cannot trust authority,,,, we have respected people who suppose to secure and safe guard our young people , ones who make the laws, and then the enforcers and together they all break the same laws against our young people , knowing quite well they wouldn’t be arrested and prosecuted all a bunch of dirty b******ds ……………………………………………………….

    Ask the question to these people , how could you treat other peoples young girls the way they do , and have young daughters themselves………why do we have so many baby factories in Barbados not forgetting a mixtures of ages mostly young women 6 between them having (37 children )…………………………..

    Reply
    • Jennifer May 26, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      jrsmith – this thing goes very, very deep. We need our men off drugs, the block, the rum shops, etc and managing the home and representing their families. Women can like or not.

      Reply
  6. Indra Skeete May 26, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Well written

    Reply
  7. Whitehill May 26, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    You wretched black women simply don’t want to lend a hand to your black men now that it seems they’ve lost their way…Plain and simple. You black women are angry and bitter for reasons other than what are usually given. The Bajan black women attitude here in Barbados is not dissimilar to that of those who came to the USA back in the 80s when I was a kid, those fools after begging and pleading for help, some time after they arrival and settled in soon start to kick the butts of those who went out of their way to accommodate them. Very often, this was done by rehashing silly rubbish that occurred in primary school. All of this simply because that black woman has no intention of repaying the kind debt.
    How many bajan men have allowed his women access to his automobile and now his black bajan owns most of the vehicles would see him rot in hell before offering him a ride? How many excuses of fear for their well being are offered now when before if a man stops near a woman she jumps into his car? Where was that fear then? What about those dumb schmucks who financed or otherwise assisted a black bajan woman through colleges and upon graduation the idiot got kicked to the curve? Wasn’t the brother good for something then.
    How comes before you black Bajan weren’t whicking in such great numbers we black Bajan men weren’t such monsters?
    How comes you black bajan women don’t ever express such animosity towards the white men on the island?
    #Crabs in a barrel!!!

    Reply
    • Jennifer May 26, 2017 at 9:35 pm

      @Whitehill – As a black woman I do agree with you, but you really need to understand the dynamics and the level of destruction upon this black people, which has led and continue to lead them and keep them in slavery and oppressed by the very same oppressor. Please stop looking at it and projecting blame on the woman only, its the entire family of black people. The man is the head, the white race destroyed the head and therefore the body (woman and child) is also destroyed. We need to get our men back in their rightful place. Then we got the white race bringing in this women lib and independent woman shyte and beguiling the black woman too. The oppressor always gets the black woman and man to follow their puke.

      Reply
  8. Dave Person
    Dave Person May 26, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    What a load of drivel………at no point in time does this writer place any responsibility on the woman for her actions in stead pass it of on to men then try to justify it with a silly statement like. “I hope you also understand by now that I am not advocating all the features of Barbadian womanhood as wholesome or healthy” news flash………..no one alive are or was slaves. so got out of here with this hogwash.

    Reply
  9. Consuelo N Richards
    Consuelo N Richards May 26, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Just wondering why is this behaviour more prevalent in certain schools. ..

    Reply
    • Sue May 27, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Why do you think it is prevalent in certain school – take the wool off your eyes. This is the behavior in all schools.

      Reply
  10. Bonita Weekes
    Bonita Weekes May 26, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    As usual men never want to take responsibility for anything, that is how we are in this mess. Some men deny their children even before they get here. A woman is not supposed to be both mother and father, it’s a role that was forced on her, so how can you complain that she is too aggressive. Yes women have to take responsibility for their actions but if a girl is not affirmed by her father, who is the 1st man in her life she will look in other places for that. Very often she seeks it from men who’s only interest in her is sexual. My 13 yr old grand daughter relayed an incident to me about 2 girls at her school age 12. When I asked “but why “? she replied, “granny, they are looking for love in all the wrong places”. I felt so proud that at 13, she has the foresight to understand that. If she understands that, tell me what is wrong with men 4 times her age that they don’t know that? Men your daughters need you, I see fathers standing by and allowing their daughters to be abused by other men, is it because they too have done it that they see no wrong in it.
    We have a hard enough job, it not enough to just deposit sperm, stand up and fullfill the role that was intended for you.

    Reply
  11. Jennifer May 26, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    The way to destroy any race of people is to attack the MEN, the man was given AUTHORITY over the woman. Like it or not women. White people HATE to see any kind of black UNITY. We as a people need to stop the blame game and speak from one mouth piece and allow our men to MAN up and help strengthen them to lead us as holy NATION of people. The white woman respects her man, the Indian woman respects her man, the Asian, Chinese, Japanese etc respects their men/husbands. But most black woman cusses their MAN and goes against him. And all of this shyte came from the plantation by the white man beating him in public in front of his woman and children. Our men was broken down to the ground by this slavery thing to nothing. And we really need to revisit those slave movies and history on u tube to see the full extent and how it still effects us today as a people. FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION.

    Reply
  12. Jennifer May 26, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    @Marsha hinds – layne – you have made some excellent and true points here in this article. Our education system is the problem also and is not teaching this people their true rich heritage as a holy people. And why we as a people are malfunctioning as a nation whether in Barbados, the wider Caribbean, America, etc. You need to research the true Jews of the bible and see the connection. U tube has some great videos and references. Good article. The destruction of the man ( our HEAD) is the problem.

    Reply
  13. Whitehill May 27, 2017 at 7:59 am

    @Jennifer, I’m only too acutely aware of our plight as a people and of the impact our past history is presently playing to continually enslave us. Matter of fact, I got out or maybe not as passionate about the “black power movement” because we as a people were not looking at ourselves as a contributing factor to our present demise. I got tired of the blaming game.
    Still, I blame the Willie Lynch’s experiment, after centuries ago is still Wukking.
    Please take note, here we have the Bullers/whickers going after the heterosexuals the women after the men, the children after their parents and none of them are looking to build a better mouse trap.
    What we have here are these groups just wanting to dominate society with the deviant degeneracy.

    Reply
  14. Sue May 27, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Women hood has never been celebrated by Caribbean women. We have been raised to believe that it is better to me a man and that femininity is a weakness.

    We have also seen generation on generations of our women mistreated by men. Rape, murder and sexual abuse still very rampant in our society. Don’t you think women have a right to be angry

    But mostly men are born to lead and like Adam with Eve, men are not taking their rightful place and as such chaos will reign. Don’t believe the fallacy that women can be all things. We just cannot be all things.

    Reply
  15. Romeo Crowell May 29, 2017 at 10:42 am

    The God element is an important element and we are hoping to evolve with out it. Aggression has always had it’s place in society be it man or woman but morality is the ability to know when to apply it. We the adults are as immoral as it gets but hoping our kids would be different.
    The tv shows, the music ,The way we behave in general. And for economic gain we sign on to anything for money.
    Barbados has been know to be a Christian society but of late…..we are embracing the international ideas that with and open mind and eye you can see clearly that these ideas are destroying the very countries they are coming from.
    It is not about two children expressing what they saw on YouTube, BT, Dance hall shows etc.
    It is what are you doing to be an example to the lost kids looking for role models, are you speaking to them are you reaching out to them
    I watch a TedX by Andrew Pilgrim that when completing his presentation was begging everyone in the audience to do something for that struggling kid in his/her community
    The kids are not blind we talk about how bad things are going but we are the ones responsible for it not the kids. We need to look in the mirror and ask God to help us to make the necessary changes in our lives that will impact our communities.

    Reply

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