The burden of contradiction for Jamaican women

The burden of contradiction for Jamaican women

Everton PRYCE

Saturday, November 17, 2012

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With justification, many Jamaican women feel they have good reason to resent continuing marginalisation, humiliation, brutality and annihilation at the hands of male chauvinists.

Over the past two months, at least five pregnant women have been murdered by Jamaican men. In April, a pregnant media personality was allegedly shot twice at the behest of her ex-lover, after which she and her unborn child miraculously survived.

Another 30 of our women were killed, some by the police, between January 1 and March 31 of this year, representing a spike in female homicide of 36.7 per cent. And to add disgrace to injury, in 2010 alone, females in the 0 -19 age group represented 74.0 per cent of the victims of rape and carnal abuse.

Whatever the dynamics behind these unprecedented criminal acts perpetrated by men against our women, there needs to be greater outcry by the society against this contradiction.

The majority of our women still need stronger institutional and legislative support in their assertive claims for equality in the home, workplace, the civil service, the private sector and politics, as well as in the army and the orthodox Christian Church.

There needs to be constant reminding of the pivotal role of women in the development of the society, especially since their demise by the trigger of alpha male dominance is occurring repeatedly in one of the genuinely matriarchal societies of the Caribbean parading according to patriarchal ethics.

There are areas of Jamaican life that have grown significantly because of the independent, hard-headed and solid work of women in this lopsided society of ours.

They are to be found in such fields as education, library services, nursing administration, social work and community development, arts and culture, hotel and financial management, and sports administration. These women have been able to hold their own because of their professional integrity and the authority of their dedication, knowledge and expertise.

But despite such progress, there is still a lingering myth among us that there are certain jobs naturally made for women and others for men. So creating the vision for the overall direction of an organisation or government, and taking policy decisions which provide the framework for implementation are still considered to be properly the job of men.

Women are viewed as suited to typing up the minutes, seeing that decisions taken by men are carried out, serving tea and coffee, generally fetching and carrying and being unswervingly loyal, docile and never talking back. Admittedly, there are the exceptions to the rule. But as a popular song affirmed some years ago: "A woman is a shadow, a man is an arrow".

However, the persistence of such folly will result only in the reinforcement of our already large army of unimaginative, self-important, narrow and visionless male autocrats whose idea of leadership and management is too often to give orders and to ride roughshod over subordinates.

It wasn't so long ago that titles like permanent secretary, prime minister, minister of government, party general secretary, union president, vice-president and island supervisor were reserved for men. Today, things are much improved. The present Cabinet has three women. And the prime minister is known for her liberal use of the skills of women in the running of her government, many of whom function as her aides at Jamaica House.

One justification for this is that women, it is said, can be depended on to follow through with a given task. They have a greater sense of detail than some of their male counterparts; and their sense of process endows them with a better understanding of how to apply energy equitably and consistently in the performance of duties. They present little or no threat to the integrity of a policy once it is set for implementation. Women obey, men betray.

Let us be reminded as well that no woman in Jamaica was allowed to emerge with the stature of an Indira Gandhi or the venerable "Iron Lady", Margaret Thatcher, prior to Mrs Simpson Miller transforming her enormous political influence into a real tour de force on the road to becoming president of the PNP and ultimately leader of the country.Yet we have always had our fair share of "iron ladies" in the shadows.

The women who birth, and in many instances, father the men who now slaughter them with impunity, have a time-honoured pedigree of management experience. Planning, forecasting and implementing became everyday life skills for these women.

This fact suggests that the view that someone like the prime minister is a housemother with a brain who wishes to bring prosperity through common sense, poverty eradication and good housekeeping to the management of Jamaica, may be more fact than metaphor.

Jamaica needs the qualities of compassion and human understanding, a sense of process, painstaking sustained application with great attention to detail, patience and great tolerance - qualities which many Jamaican alpha males would mistakenly regard as gender-specific.

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