Conversation on hegemonic

Friday, August 31, 2018

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Dear Editor,

The outcry against the rape, murder, and burning of Yetanya “Princess” Francis, a 14-year-old Jamaican sister, is welcomed. The sheer brutality of this heinous crime sickens anyone who is human.

Women and various civil society partners have done protests and marches against rape and other forms of violence in recent years. Different levels of advocacy and activism have been done and should continue. Question though, when will we actively engage ongoing lifelong learning conversation on hegemonic masculinity? Even some women in Jamaican religious culture have bought into hegemonic masculinity without realising. Male dominance is already secured in movies. It is glamourised in the theatre and glorified in religion.

We must pause and acknowledge what is happening to us as a nation as we turn a blind eye to bullying, mansplaining, and obsession with the macho image. Too often machismo is ego-driven with systemic support and blind acceptance. To be clear though, there is nothing wrong with masculine pride. The problem is where masculine privilege, like racism, dominates and self-serves for the appeasement of the perpetrator.

In an effort to boost fragile masculinity, how common is it for us to ask sons questions which suggest that they feel a sense of victory over conquering a gal? How common is it for us as coaches and pastors and men in male-dominated fields to make “little jokes” which demean the feminine?

We belong to a culture in which a strange coin spins through our history. On one side we encounter love and adoration of women who have nurtured and led, in the home and in the workplace and in politics. On the other side we continue to objectify and demean all things feminine. Crying is often associated with women, and so it is a negative thing for a boy to cry. To demean a man, just tell him that he is chatting like a woman. He must therefore take up the challenge of bottling his emotions. To demean a boy, just call him a sissy. In fact, the marginalisation of members of the LGBTQIA community is inseparable from misogyny.

Misogyny has informed centuries-old disregard for the leadership of women in church; inequality in terms of women receiving less for the same job; and the beating of women which is still blessed in some religious traditions.

We did not set out to have a society driven by misogyny. It is just a fact of history which has been inherited. Look even at our Jamaican expletives, most of which have been informed by some derogatory presentation of feminine association.

We have worked this out so well, that order and decency are often seen as feminine stuff. It therefore becomes a “self-respecting” man to present with preferred hegemonic masculinity, by putting women in “their place”. Being unkempt and keeping a dirty room may actually be a badge of honour in the minds of some.

The politics of power drives the cruel and selfish matter of rape. And since rape is seen as something that only women and girls endure, then it becomes a shameful thing for men and boys to admit to being raped. Groups such as the so-called Jamaica for a Healthy Society and Lawyers Christian Fellowship do not accept that rape ought to be recognised lawfully as gender neutral and object neutral.

The rape of King David's daughter Tamar (also Princess), by her brother Amnon, is still reflected in home and church where the caring, serving, young girl is grabbed and made to acquiesce to male dominance.

The revered King David remained passive as his son's male privilege remained sacred. In her pain and shame, Princess Tamar was further quieted by her brother Absalom. King David reminds me of patriarchs in the church who remain silent about the molestation and rape of children by officers of the church. Good Absalom was angry about the rape, but like “good” church members he secures silence on the part of the victim.

Interestingly, 2 Samuel 13 presents the rape account with a background of Amnon having “fallen in love” with Tamar. However, love never leads to rape. This is a sick way of thinking. In this same chapter, Amnon's hatred of Tamar is later affirmed as being stronger than his love for her. The truth is, his lust and greed were satisfied in the moment and so her use had now expired.

David was furious but did nothing. The rapist had the victim taken from his sight and locked out. Absalom later had Amnon murdered. According to the text, the victim lived in her father's house a desolate woman.

Might our anger and disgust be channelled into works of advocacy, breaking the silence, and seeking justice? Any crime against a child, or anyone else, is a police matter. Might our children be also empowered with the necessary child sex education in schools? Might the conversation be facilitated now?

Fr Sean Major-Campbell

Advocate for human rights

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