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.

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Time to Kick Back

He isn’t true
He beats me too
What can I do?
Oh, my man I love him so
He’ll never know
All my life is just despair
But I don’t care
When he takes me in his arms
The world is right, alright
What’s the difference if I say
I’ll go away, when I know I’ll come back
On my knees someday
For whatever my man is
I’m his
Forever more.
My Man, Billie Holiday

Gangsters and wannabe gangsters killing each other is bad enough.  In this time of war when warriors know nothing of fighting for a reason, loving the battle, defending anything more than their fragile manhood.  We are shocked enough about it to sit around talking.  Some of us are relieved that they are killing each other.
War is war and maybe there is nothing that the rest of us can do about it.  Maybe.
But what is love when it makes you kill your four year old son?  What is devotion when you the only way to resolve family conflict is death?
For some reason we still haven’t found a way to deal with this kind of madness. Maybe because we still are so permissive about violence against women and children.  It’s the way, because men are head of the household, blah blah blah.  Even though are sometimes most men contribute less emotionally, financially and physically.  I don’t want to be one of those jaded bitter women who complain about men and how they’re no good, but Jah, it is difficult.
Not that I could possibly manage to be more unpopular among Trini men, but there is something wrong with too many of them.
We all talk about it, with varying levels of hysteria hidden in our nervous laughter.
Still, I desperately want to believe that this terrible monstrosity known as the Trini man is really a front and the good men are hidden somewhere hidden, in a secret good man lair, waiting to unleash themselves on the female population, when we’re ready.
I want desperately to believe that there are good men out there. I know a few that try very hard, in the face of domineering women, the sperm jackers and the money spenders who only look for a mooks of a man to manipulate.
Yet the headline on Guardian following the tragic murder suicide was ‘I Never Horn Him’.  As if a woman horning a man is some kind of justification for any kind of violence.
But I’ve heard so many comments in the past few months about women saying that another woman deserves to get her face re-modeled for even entertaining the thought of another man, that I wonder why we have so many double standards about men and women’s sexuality.
Women still think their bodies and lives and the bodies and lives of their children belong to men, and the police are trained to reinforce these misconceptions, but not, apparently to mediate man and woman problems.
Four years old, I imagine a sweet little boy who touches everything and has an assortment of sassy comments. Words he doesn’t understand, aped from the adults around him or from television.
I wonder if men got pregnant and went through labour, would it be so easy for them to kill?
I wonder too if love can make you hate so much that you can kill your child, why are we all so obsessed with finding it?
And in the same way that our government is obsessed with owning as many new and shiny useless things as possible, our men are also obsessed with possessing women in ways that nobody should ever feel they have rights to lay claim over another human being.
And it doesn’t matter if you live in the country or in a nice suburban townhouse, you still have a right to collect some slaps, eat some licks, swallow some cuff.
And as the men on the streets of our fair city remind us everyday with their not so wide range of uninspired courting, it doesn’t matter if you’re a whore or a bank girl, you’re just a piece of ass.  And what is an ass but a not to bright beast on which to ride?  I live in hope that one day the beasts get fed up and finally start to kick back.

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.

Life after 30

This world is mine

For all the time

I can turn any stone

Call any place my home

I can do anything.

Use the Force, Jamiroquai

So I’ve been freaking out about turning 30 for at least a month now. All things considered, I don’t feel any different now than I did two days ago when I was still a twenty-something, but I find the finality of it a little hard to adjust to.

I can’t remember feeling so stressed out about turning 20. Actually, to be honest, I can’t remember turning 20. It wasn’t as significant as 18 and not as terrifying as 25.

But a decade is a lot of living to go through. It’s sped past in a haze of books and protests and flaky men and interesting fashion decisions.

And ten years later I don’t feel older but I do feel a lot wiser.

I still don’t consider myself a grown-up, possibly because people still refer to me as “the chile.” In truth, being a grown-up is a terribly overrated thing. Being a grown-up is really all about responsibilities and expectations and the disappointments that come when you refuse or fail to live up to these.

I have resisted most if not all attempts to make me a serious frowny lady who wears pumps, pantyhose and other instruments of female repression.

I’m not too sure why. I suppose my life would have been a lot easier if I’d gone down a less odd road.

It occurred to me in the midst of my pre-birthday funk when I was wondering how my life had turned out like it had and why another birthday was approaching and my bank account looking just as empty as it had in previous years.

When I was 25 I used to say every day that I didn’t want to turn 30 still engaged in the daily reporter grind, locked into the wage slavery of a full-time job and conspicuous consumption of house, car and fetes.

I look back and see how the universe opened the way and here I am five years later, a full-time professional protester of no fixed abode and neither chick nor child to show for it.

And if I didn’t have the pictures to prove it, I would think that my life for the past five years was a dream, with a few nightmarish bits put in for good measure. How I managed to climb the Great Wall, trod through Babylon-don, cruise the Adriatic, scale the Swiss Alps, march in Chatham, and generally have a fabulously detached existence is beyond me.

This time around I think I’m going to be a little more clear to the universe and try not to doubt so much that nothing in my life happens by accident.

That said, the best plan for me, it seems, is to make no plan at all. To see what turns up and go with the flow.

Sometimes I wish that what turns up is a big pile of dirty capitalist cash that I can use to fund all my subversive little revolutionary projects.

In the dark and frequent hours when self-doubt grips me by the throat and threatens to snuff out any positive thought, I wonder if I can manage to balance my life between being someone that cares and someone that earns a livable wage. I wonder if I can really open myself to the abundant blessings rather than cursing the poverty and the loneliness that come with rejecting social norms.

I guess at some point I’ll have to suppress that Aquarian predisposition to be out in mental orbit most of the time. Or use the orbit time to plot a course that really leads me where I want to go, wherever that is.

I’m going to focus on the positives of being a dread hippy and not second guess my interesting fashion decisions. I’m going to embrace the flaky men and understand that they’ve taught me some interesting lessons about how I see love and how much I love myself.

The challenge for the next year, five years, the rest of my life is to just enjoy being me. A human woman feminist writer tree hugger activist meggie artist drama queen fashion outcast photographer traveller lover friend sister daughter auntie perhaps one day mother dancer deejay…the list gets longer everyday. The possibilities of me are endless.

Dutty Politics

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”
bell Hooks

As if the UNC wasn’t already such a colossal waste of space and daily adding more ammunition to Papa Patos’ ever enlarging sense of self-importance, they had to come and make things worse.
As if it wasn’t already bad enough that they are a sham opposition and their incessant fumblings and foibles aren’t enough of a jeopardizing of our full experience of democracy, whatever that means in this little neo-colonial playground of the rich and gormless.
They had to come with the dutty wine politics.  They had to put an ad for their Carnival fete in the newspapers with their rising sun logo stamped just north of a red girl’s yellow and orange panty.
Okay, okay I concede. So it was equal opportunity objectification.  There was an African girl in a ripped t-shirt and a UNC logo between her breasts and an Indian girl in a batty rider shorts with a logo like a slap across her face.
And of course the red girl in the middle, just to the right of poor Roy Cape with the sun rising out of her yellow panty.
Well yes.
We really reach where we have to go when the political parties start buying into the ‘sex sells’ folly.
Every nubile, flat bellied, pretty faced agency brown girl in Trinidad is ripe for the picking.
Ripe for the auction block.  Suitable for to be plucked, splayed, filleted for public (read male) consumption.
There’s nothing wrong with freeing up, liberating women from the enslavement of clothes and those passé Victorian puritan notions of decency, right?
I suppose I should forget the patriarchy and that women’s bodies are always the point of contestation.
I suppose I shouldn’t be alarmed that a political party, an institution of power and authority has jumped in the gayelle and joined the fight to have ownership of women’s sexuality for its own purposes.
Sex sells even as more little girls pose for camera phone porn in their class rooms.  Sex sells even as young women between the ages of 15-24 contract HIV because they haven’t the words nor the power to negotiate condom use with their macho Trini men partners.
Sex sells, ent? And the ad for the UNC fete of the year is bordered with the words one dollar, over and over.  That’s the value UNC puts on the bodies of young women.
Sex sells, well if that isn’t the cliché of Generation X, I don’t know what is.  Because I’m not putting water in my mouth to say that it’s not so much that sex sells, baby, it’s that women’s bodies are so highly sexualized in our advertising, our music and videos that we can’t see ourselves as anything else.
I look at that ad and I try to figure out what is supposed to be sexy about it. I ask my bredrins and they can’t see it either.  Because like so many other low grade, poor quality sexism posing as advertising, there’s no real sexiness to this thing.  No portrayal of sexuality that celebrates the goddess in us.  No creative odes to femininity, no delightful sensuality, no subtle desirability.
‘Sexy’ women selling everything from cars to half limp political parties is not fecund. It’s feculent, stinker than the smell of smelting and corrupt officials circling like well-dressed cobos.
No sah, it’s the same predictable, emotionless, lowest common denominator, formulaic like a bead and sequins bikini band. Like every five cents snack box soca and the poor misguided little boys and girls who think that this is their ticket to stardom.
I reason with some people.  They say, you know how it go.  Some little upstart in the party must have convinced the older heads that this was a good way to get to the young people.  Because everyone knows that young Trinbagonians only have sex on the brain.  Everyone knows that a sun rising out of a yellow panty is the key to political power.
Hold your corner and wine down low.  That is the real secret.
Talk about who have the best pipe and skin your teeth plenty and people will like you.  Talk bout sleeping with the devil to gain power and for sure you have a place in the hearts and minds of the party faithful.
We really reach where we have to go, I telling you.  We reach the lowest of the low, lower than the lowest rung of a limbo pole.  Lower than the La Basse. Lower than the dry season trickle of the East Dry River.
Dutty wine politics is taking over.  I wonder how many girls are going to break their necks for more visionless politicians to come to power.