We should not replace the dystopia of domestic violence with the moral violence of homophilia
An article appears in your ‘In the Diaspora‘ series raising the question, “Can feminism catch a fire in the Caribbean?” It gives glimpses of what it has called a “New Generation Caribbean Feminist Grounding” which occurred last month somewhere in the region and which assembled activists to talk around definitions of problems, and approaches to solutions for problems affecting women. And, apparently, certain others.
The feminism of the “New Generation” feminists as far as one is allowed to gather, is a mixture of women’s defence issues as they relate to spousal violence, ownership-of-body issues as they allow abortion on demand, unclearly defined political issues, and being mostly young in spirit they seem to want “erotic agency,” and so on. The group has composed itself of what it calls “women, men, and everyone else between and beyond the binary.”
The article promises this August, a Guyana session on the same themes, organised by Red Thread, and by Sasod for those between and beyond the binary.
Something in the phraseology,“catch a fire”, “grounding”, speaks of grass-roots movements that should, through the incendiary events of these reasonings, burn off old attitudes and prejudices and replace them with the favours of the new dispensation that our compatriots in Sasod and these feminists wish upon us. With all the words’ associations of the seventies and eighties ideological and social sea-change that aimed at empowering the newly-independent peoples of the region beyond the political and into the cultural and existential.
The vocabulary speaks of an extension of the process of liberation/de-colonisation, ceaselessly deepened, that it is our duty to pursue as our legacy to coming generations. It is the appropriation of a vocabulary with positive resonance, in the service of an agenda that includes women’s rights and respect, as well, for some, as the supplanting of traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity. It is also the vocabulary and thematic of the sort of preamble to the charter of homosexual rights underpinning ideas to which we have been treated by some previous contributors in the same column. So it is by now clear that some advocates of alternative sexualities and gender definitions in the Caribbean have chosen as their line of attack the norms and legal codes that were still more or less intact up to the time of our attainment of political independence, and are doing so using a vocabulary and ideas which hold for us positive associations.
The New Generation locates its own in origins in the Cave Hill campus’ Institute for Gender and Development Studies where “Code Red for Gender Justice”, the name given the initiative, was conceptualised and conceived. The groundings are part of their outreach programme.
There is, at the foot of the article in question, a link that leads to other links and that, for the curious, conducts to a Caribbean Review of Gender Studies “call for papers.” The publication by the same UWI Institute for Gender and Development Studies states in its call “Women, children ‘sexual minorities’ , nations, and a host of other constructed identities experience hegemonic masculinity as oppressive, but increasingly hegemonic masculinity is itself understood as an unstable category. The fragility of hegemonic masculinity is embedded in its dependence on the affirmation of others in the ‘master-slave’ dialectic, men’s self-imposed alienation from femininity, effemophobia, the feminine, and the penis as the ultimate representation of phallic power, domination and a weapon of social control. These suggest the limits of hegemonic masculinity as an ideal for all men.” In setting the theme for a deeper examination of these questions they want a paper on how you can go about “recuperating the fragility” of your masculinity, if we suppose that is your case, and how you may assert that your concepts of masculinity are coloured by the “legacies of slavery, indentureship, nationalism and racial and religious diversity.” And, even more precisely from an “auto-biographical and auto ethno-graphic standpoint how men can put an end to their trauma and sufferings of and from sexual violence as survivors.” It is clear, they want our masculinity defined as a relic of a colonial order that is backward. The named male organ a trope for ignorant oppression.
This is pitiful. This is the false association of masculinity with known evils and not with that protection and sacrifice from which human societies benefit. This is the duplicitous elevation of homosexual relations that almost invariably fix some partner in a masculine role often as severe and authoritative and caricatural as any the dysfunctional heterosexual couple would present. This is the furtive attempt at the redemption of the effeminate, with which we are now familiar. The LGBT activist elbowing his way into the clergy and politics of the society in which he suffers, is testimony to the fact that the cultures we are asked to repudiate are embraced, appropriated and celebrated by many at the spearhead of the movement. This is confusion. As the phallotropic effeminates may not all agree that “maculine” is bad. This is part of the denigration of the Caribbean male that sets up other, negative, dyadic relations.
Masculinity is of course innate, as the Quran states, and generative of a comportment and grammar of action determined by the socio-biology of the species. It is not at all a “constructed identity” in its essentials. The poor “fragile” having to struggle with the ethno-auto-biography of his trauma and sufferings from sexual violence, or demonic suggestion, or whatever, that he is compelled to live and to re-create in his adult expression, got problems. The ordinary phallocrat is, we all know, the one leading a normal life. What the tendency is, it is evident, is to re-define the normal. That there is an assymetry of male roles vis-à-vis woman and kids is part of the way we were created to be. To be allowed to graft the problem of the poor fragile onto the wider public health and cultural problems of family abuse is a sign that this society is not really prepared to battle the intellectual fraud now in the preparation. The politicians, especially of this and the preceding government, have made manful attempts to strengthen legislation or police-judicial processing of spousal abuse cases. Progress is being made. But progress will not be made in the name of an ideology of the sort that Sasod/Red Thread has taken upon itself and now wishes upon us.
Upon reading the content of the website presenting the life and works of the activist group that organised the recent “grounding” we note that the movement is in train to move us out of the orientation and orbit of the scriptural precepts that have been revealed. There is a piece there on the front page about “Theorizing homophobias in the Caribbean.” Its thrust and bias is clear. As is its basis for the enthused collaboration with Sasod. The authors need to remember that our generation is not there to replace the dystopia of a prevalent domestic violence with the moral violence of an encroaching homophilia. And that in the same way that societies drift into the common deliquencies of intra-family brutality, others drift into the open displays of infectious, malfunctioning sexualities. There are communities touched by high rates of suicide or drug use, or petty criminality or murder rates – we have them all here in the region. The degeneracies of the age, which we can no longer blame on the presence of the colonisers, will become, in the end our epitaph and, in visible form, our legacy.
That there is a need to re-define and reinforce, for many, the norms of a sustaining and protecting masculinity is by now clear. That there has been a degradation of roles on all sides and moral decline in the behaviours of the sexes is evident on the streets as in the courts of law. The behavioural changes that lead to the growing vulgarity of language and of display, demonstrates before us a society in the magnetic pull of its grosser instincts. But one must be careful, in the re-definition, to not allow the demons of sexual chaos free rein among us. The guy having to write the autobiographical piece about his sufferings from sexual violence has got to compose the piece, as many have, as a rejection of the repugnant, and not an act of exculpation that frees him up to surrender to the trauma, constantly re-lived and re-enacted, with the similarly fragile. Nor can there be a surrender to a normalisation of homosexuality, à la ancient Greece, leading to a banalisation of one type of dysfunctional behaviour as we suppress another such as family violence.