Ishawna's 'equal rights' signals the progressive future

Ishawna's 'equal rights' signals the progressive future

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

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Dear Editor,Once again misogyny and hegemony have reared their ugly heads in the annals of dancehall. Ishawna declared her uncompromising request from her lover in her song Equal rights. She mentioned her anonymous lover, having nice lips and a clean mouth, would have her permission to satisfy her sexually. She went on to compare and itemise bag juice, Pepsi, French fries, and “cutlis” (machete) in clever metaphors to the kind of heated encounter she expects from the experience.

She further sang, in keeping with dancehall lingua and satire, her willingness to return the favour, among other things, should her desires be met. Most sensible and intelligent men would know that the secret to happiness is to make women happy.

The lyrics to her song have angered many, mostly males who had dormant accounts in dancehall. A few artistes chose to use the opportunity provided to them by Ishawna to reactivate their prejudices and old narratives of violence against women and misogyny.

One artiste, Prince Pine, enquired: “How some man so silent and when man talk dem say we violent?” in the intro to his song. His lyrics went on to lash out for the “real Jamaican dem” in a distasteful banter.

This is not 1995.

There is an obvious reason some of these artistes are not in a bigger place than they presently occupy in dancehall, or music for that matter. The content of their songs and their minds rest in the comfortable expressions of patriarchy disguised as Jamaican morality. This only impresses a small demographic of dancehall consumers. These real Jamaican men spoken of by Prince Pine are of an era in dancehall where masculinity was dominant, and to the degree of their assertion of masculinity they would get massive roars for encouraging the vicious treatment of the women and their genitals. In a time when five million women marched on Washington, and locally hundreds marched with the Tambourine Army, these men will find it difficult to dominate the dancehall space with their one-sided, anti-women narrative.

Interestingly, whenever a man sings about fellatio or makes mention of cunnilingus there is no opposition from these real Jamaican men. Their sense of morality becomes dormant, like their careers, to conveniently give their male counterparts a pass on the same subject in dancehall.

How does dancehall expect to grow out of the underground and into mainstream if the topics remain the same or if the female voices are not given a space to express themselves? That's how you kill the culture. Silencing the women and their respective plight is silencing the entire culture. The women of dancehall are more brave and willing to take risks on topics and compositions that stretch their artistic abilities. Is there an unspoken industry standard for women to get permission from the men to express themselves for fear of backlash? This should not be so. The women must play an important part in the development of dancehall — anything else is criminal.

Additionally, on the surface, these dancehall artistes may put to shame the narcissism, boldness, and uncompromising verbiage of Ishawna, but at a deeper level they can appreciate her influence, even if it makes them uncomfortable.

Ishawna has a duty to her celebrity and to maintain relevance as a popular cultural agent. It must have taken Ishawna and her team time and energy to create a song that obviously connected with audiences who are looking for the next interesting and shareable content on the web. She went against any expectation of dancehall purists. This is why the song is favoured by more people than it is bashed.

Real artistes do not use reason, but they follow through on an apparently worthwhile plunge against the memes to become the memetic reality for a group of people who, in their mind, will understand and relate. Ishawna has indicated equal rights for women as the progressive future, the negative narrative against her is just that...a part of the story.

Donovan Watkis

jrshopethebook@gmail.com


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