Sexual politics in the US

Darling stop confusing me
With your wishful thinking
Hopeful embraces
Don’t you understand?
I have to go through this
I belong to here where
No-one cares and no-one loves
No light no air to live in
A place called hate
The city of fear

I play dead
It stops the hurting
I play dead
And hurting stops

It’s sometimes just like sleeping
Curling up inside my private tortures
I nestle into pain
Hug suffering
Caress every ache
Play Dead, Björk

Truthfully, I’m not terribly fond of the woman, her politics or the fact that everyone is so excited at the fact that in her spare time she’s a moose murderer.
And no, I don’t think because she owns a pair of ovaries that somehow magically cancels out the fact that she’s a right wing, polar bear hating, climate change denying nightmare – her winning smile and girl next door looks serving to convince me that she could possibly be the scariest woman to be seen in western politics since Margaret Thatcher.
But what I don’t appreciate is the fact that the American media did what can only be interpreted as an honour killing of Bristol Palin just because her mother won’t let her decide what she can and can’t do with her uterus.
I mean, Sarah Palin, the fact that you’re rich enough to afford to overpopulate the planet and put more of a strain on the world’s resources doesn’t mean that other women should be stripped of their own right to make life and death decisions.
Poor Bristol Palin has to be one brave young woman to stand up to the scrutiny for what must be a trying and private time.  Hardly being an adult herself, just getting into a sense of her body, grappling with teen angst and the newly discovered bargaining power of breasts.
It’s not Bristol Palin’s fault that her society gives her such double standards.  That even politicians use sex to sell themselves. And even her dear sweet hockey mom mother has graced the cover of Vogue in some hot low cut lingerie to demonstrate that it’s not just Democrats and PETA models that can be hot.
The thing I like about those Islamic misogynists who kill their girl children if they dare do the unspeakable and have sex with some dude not sanctioned by their family is that they just get to the point.  But in America, under the guise of civilization, there are all these sinister mind games that characterize post-modern sexual politics.
So child brides are a no-no but Britney Spears prancing around provocatively in a sexified school uniform is alright.  And girls are free to get a university education but once you get there doh dig no horrors to star in your own Girls Gone Wild special.
What’s wrong with a society in which women are expected to be heroine in public, whore in private and always with a happy lipsticked smile that is Maybelline approved to stay painted on for the many many hours of your life that you will be expected to live your life and look good doing it.
As all of this has been happening I’ve been reading Infidel by Somali Ayaan Hirsi Ali who documents her experiences as a Muslim woman and her subsequent rejection of its oppression and repression of sexuality, personality and possibility.  She currently lives in hiding after the Dutch filmmaker with whom she produced a documentary on domestic violence against Muslim women was murdered.
In the book she speaks about the importance of women bearing the weight of their lives in total submission.  Without complaint to husband or children.  Silence is the dignified response to any problem for the devout and respectful Muslim woman.  But watching Bristol Palin grinning sheepishly at the Republican National Convention I can’t help but get the feeling that someone is forcing her to be silent too. Forcing her to think she was ready to be sexually active in an irresponsible way, forcing her to then do the mature, responsible thing when perhaps all she wants to do is be a teenager and sit in her room and cry at the tremendous injustices of the world.
The confrontation of female sexuality against patriarchy is clearer in cultures where women walk the streets hidden like black shadows, shrouded against the raging libidos of men who cannot and will not control their basest instincts even as they try to control everything else.
But Bristol Palin is perhaps even more disadvantaged because she doesn’t have the luxury of living in a culture that is clear about what sexuality is and what function it serves to a young woman.
So you can shake your bamsee as much as you want.  You can be what you want to be, to a point and don’t dare overstep those boundaries lest you be labeled slut, bitch or the worst insult of them all, feminist.
And don’t forget to smile for the camera and look like everything is a-okay. Because this is a free country where a young woman has a right to show all the hurt and anger and terror of not being control of her body to the whole wide world.

Firing not the answer

I and I know the truth of it all,
Cos we have smashed our heads ‘gainst that wall,
And now I seh we must create a scene,
We must recapture our culture
by any means.
Babylon Makes the Rules, Steel Pulse

It’s not what he said that was the travesty. In a country where children curse old people and men dehumanise women, you can’t really fault the goodly Mr Mungalsingh for saying what he had to say.

African people are doing the crime so therefore they don’t deserve to be alive. It’s not an original thought, and it’s not just shared by the Indians in this country who feel under siege.

One night a couple years ago an Afro-Trini man showed me an SMS joke of the day. It went something like: Question: what do you call a Laventille woman who has an abortion? Answer: crimestopper.

He watched me for a couple seconds, trying to assess what my reaction would be. Not too sure if I would burst out laughing or to knock him over. I don’t know why he thought I would find that even remotely funny. But we’ve become so desensitised to our own insensitivities that we think that everybody else is as callous.

I walked around stunned for a couple days trying to figure out a way to process that one.

So basically Harrypersad Mungalsingh took a joke and made it deadly serious. And he represents a completely legitimate voice in Trinidad.

Those who would see absolute sense in denying working class women of the reproductive rights. Those who have taken the trauma of living in a rotten headed state to new heights.

Those who are parlaysed by fear and self-loathing.

The answer is not to fire Harrypersad Mungalsingh.

He certainly was continuing a longstanding tradition of disrespect that has become a mainstay of our highest offices. People in power in this country can basically do or say whatever the France they want without fear of reproach.

So protestors can be drug lords and political leaders can offer to sleep with the devil for power.

I mean, imagine, if you can, if Sherman Mc Nicholls was a little natty head boy from Red Hill. Would he have the privilege to decide on which day he could turn up in court to give evidence.

He would have been down in Remand Yard eating sulphur filled hops bread before you could say contempt of court?

No, Aunty Kamla, Harrypersad Mungalsingh and his verbal diarrhoea are not the problem.

The problem is the one rule for the rich and another for the poor.

The problem is the huge valley that exists between the Indians who feel under siege and the Africans who are losing their children to gun violence.

The problem is that there is willing to take on the task of beginning to work through the barriers created by a century of cleverly crafted divisions.

The problem is not the African community but all the creole PNM-ites who think that political power is their birthright, even though it’s really not working to improve their conditions as human beings.

The problem is that sexual and reproductive health rights of women in the country as a whole are basically non-existent and sex is still tied up with somebody’s version of morals.

I think that Harrypersad Mungalsingh, together with a selection of black radio announcers need to be given some race and gender sensitivity training. And perhaps we could add Hedgwige Bereaux to that list after his pronouncement in a meeting in La Brea that “white” Trinis who are opposed to aluminium smelters don’t want black people to prosper.

Polticians say dumb things everyday. It’s as if when they enter office they get a big handbook of completely inappropriate things to say.

Or possibly they are the embarrassing product of what happens when you become so comfortable in our racism, in our bluntness and insensitivity that we can’t seem to be civil to each other any more.

That’s about as effective as putting little black boys in prison to get sodomised because they’re caught with a spliff.

To say that Harrypersad Mungalsingh is a racist is counter-productive. To axe him from Parliament even moreso.

I mean really, we should be glad that he managed to stay awake long enough to say anything at all.

The answer is not to fire Harrypersad Mungalsingh. To fire him is to absolve him of any responsibility for his actions.

And firing him doesn’t help us begin to answer the question of why he made those comments in the first place.