Category posts: intersectional feminism

Intersectional feminism is a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw to describe an idea that existed amongst black feminists since the 1920s. Intersectional feminism describes the idea that women are not just women, and exist on multiple planes of oppression. For example: black lesbian women are black, lesbians AND women and cannot engage with one aspect of identity without engaging the other.

Why “Stop The Violence” Campaigns Are Ineffective

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Today, I want to write about something that has been bothering me for a long time. Once in a while there will be a period of seemingly nonstop violence in St. Lucia, as I’m sure is the case in other Caribbean countries. For example, during last year’s Christmas season and early January, I could hear multiple gunshots from downtown Castries almost daily. Nearly every day in the news I read about some murder or group of murders that had occurred in the north of the island. Many of these murders happened disturbingly close to my home.

In the wake of such violence, it’s common for the ministers and other government officials to release statements calling for an end to violence. From as early as I can remember, I recall hearing minister, teachers, and other officials calling for violence to come to an end. However, violence still continues today in St. Lucia. All of these calls for prayers and short-term solutions failed to stop the gun and gang violence in St. Lucia.

5 Ways Caribbean Journalism Disrespects ALL Caribbean Citizens

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On the rare occasion when I actually want a migraine, I’ll open up my web browser or my email and see what’s new in Caribbean regional news. Sometimes on Facebook, against my will, I’ll also be exposed to various local news sources. Often, what I encounter stimulates deep feelings of embarrassment and disappointment. I’ve finally put my finger on why that is.

Guest Post: LGBTQiA & Mental Health in the West Indies

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Guest Post Authored By: Kira Ann Buchanan

Co-authors: Jennelle Ramdeen and C.R.W

Being a bisexual counselor-in-training, I feel like I need to utilize my education and privilege to advocate for the LGBTQiA community.  Mental health has become a passion of mine that has provided me with an exciting career path.  Though I do not live in the West Indies, I’ve spent a lot of time between Trinidad and Jamaica.  I have been discriminated against and I’ve also witnessed anti-gay scenarios mostly while in Trinidad.  Being a bisexual women, I’ve felt more accepted than many because I have straight passing privilege. I grew up with a heavy West Indian culture, which was also a bit homophobic. I will always identify as West Indian before American.  Mental health and lack of resources for the LGBTQiA community within the West Indies is an issue I plan to combat.

I didn’t want to speak for individuals actually living in the West Indies so I did an interview with a friend of mine that lives in Trinidad.  She identifies as lesbian and has a wide variety of queer friends.  She participates in several advocacy campaigns as well as safe space groups at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.  Queer women in Trinidad seem to be the most prominent group that advocate for the community.  My friend noticed gay men are not too active in advocacy.  She said, “they seem to be too preoccupied partying and liming,” which added some humor to this serious topic.  She believes men should use their privilege to help make a change and I couldn’t agree more.  It seems like the queer women that do advocate in Trinidad have had the privilege to go abroad and study. They are lucky enough to go back home and live within the upper class of the society. I was encouraged to “take activism in Trinidad with a grain of salt.”  There is a generational and gender divide within the community. There is no solidarity.

The “Benevolent” Sexist Man, How To Spot Him And How To Defeat Him

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In the age of viral video feminism and in a world where (some) explicit acts of misogyny are not socially acceptable anymore, misogynistic men have had to adapt. They must adapt to shield themselves from any criticism, to preserve their fragile sense of self-importance and to gain a one-up on the women around them without getting the unfortunate label of “sexist” or “misogynist” slapped on them. As expected, their tactics are crude and it’s not too difficult to see that although misogyny might wear a different disguise, it’s still the same old BS. Put a dress on a pig and it’s still a pig.

If you’re a woman (especially a feminist), you’ve encountered these men and you might find yourself confused, frustrated and generally questioning yourself. Here I’m going to teach you a few ways you can spot these “benevolent” misogynists and how you can defeat them, keeping your self-assuredness in your experiences as a woman in tact. It’s also not surprising that many of these benevolent misogynists apply tactics of emotional abusers including gas lighting and crazymaking. So learning their modus operandi is important to keep yourself safe psychologically (and possibly physically).

Remember, your experiences as a woman are valid. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone who would deny sexism in 2016, the age of Google and the Kindle Store.

Here are five things that “benevolent” misogynists do that you can use to identify them in the wild.

Intersectional Feminism: 5 Ways Class Changes Your Experience of Womanhood

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Socioeconomic class influences all of our daily routines in the Caribbean. What we do on a morning (full, balanced breakfast vs. bread and tea), how we commute from place to place (bus vs. sedan vs. luxury four wheel drive), where and how we work (cashier vs. civil servant). Socioeconomic class is not “taboo” in a country where people flaunt even the most meaningless status symbols — from Jansport backpacks to Audi’s on the verge of getting repossessed. But when it comes to women’s liberation as well as LGBT liberation, the majority of people are silent. All of a sudden, class becomes invisible when it might force you to look at a situation from a nuanced perspective.

In reality, your socioeconomic class affects everything. You can’t avoid discussing it when discussing women’s liberation or you will never succeed in true equality. Additionally, you cannot (as a wealthy person, let’s say) take a condescending role of “leadership” over the needs of all women. Being patronizing doesn’t mean you’ve all of a sudden developed a nuanced understanding of what women in poverty need. Try again.

Here are five ways that class is likely to affect your experience as a woman in the Caribbean.

Guest Post: DWELLING TOGETHER? HOMELAND HOMOPHOBIA HAUNTS THE DIASPORA

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by CJG Ghanny

CJG Ghanny is a nameless nobody of Indo-Caribbean heritage via Trinidad who is currently living in Boston. He is a co-founder of coolie collective, a digital space for exploring Indo-Caribbean identity through the lenses of social justice and postcolonialism. He is allergic to social media, but welcomes feedback and camaraderievia e-mail. His début novel NMQP is forthcoming, inshallah.

Carnival is this weekend in my city, and like many metropolitan Caribbean kids I’m stoked beyond belief. I’m not really a crowds person and I don’t like being drunk in public, but Carnival to me is about unity with my people, Caribbean people, bonding through shared music and culture and foodstuffs with a touch of j’ouvert oil and feathers for good measure. I’ll be linking up with my Indo-Caribbean sisters for brunch in the morning and then roll up looking my absolute cutest in red and black all over.

At the same time, I’m scared. I’m scared because I am very gay and in a relationship with a man, and I don’t know if Carnival is the space for me, or any gender non-conforming people for that matter. We hear the horror stories about genderbending folk on the Islands being chased down and strung up from trees, but surely it can’t be that bad in our liberal big city way north of the West Indies, where Carnival is a sponsored and corporate event with plenty of PD on sight, right?

Intersectional Feminism: Abuse & Feminism

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Abuse and feminism are incompatible, yet many people who call themselves feminists are also abusers. It sounds like a drastic or incorrect statement, but we know it’s true either from experience or through reading. That’s why there are articles like this one on Everyday Feminism, warning you about the types of feminist men who abuse their status as feminist allies. That’s why in activist circles, there are high status individuals who get away with bullying, coercion and other forms of abuse. We intuitively know that simply stating that you’re a feminist doesn’t change your ability to abuse people, yet many of us call ourselves feminists without reading literature on abuse, checking ourselves for these “toxic” behaviors or by practicing non-abusive forms of communication with our loved ones.  We know that this is true, but we still don’t believe victims or survivors who come forward about their experiences.

Saying The Caribbean Has No Culture Exposes Your Anti-Blackness

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Recently, there have been many discussions surrounding art and culture in the Caribbean circulating on social media as well as in my personal life. I’ve heard a number of opinions about Caribbean culture that are believed to be based on facts. Those opinions are centered around two core ideas that the opinionated person will never put as bluntly as I will:

  1. Culture in the Caribbean is “dying”. (It’s implied that we cannot resuscitate it.)
  2. The Caribbean has no culture (but it did in the old days).

Interestingly enough, the old days when we “had a culture”, according to those people, were the years spent underneath colonial rule. Ah, the good old days where only wealthy landowners could vote! I guess without the presence and control of the British/French, a huge swathe of our population feels our existence cannot be meaningful. We cannot have a culture. Nothing we do can be worthy. We must feel ashamed. At least that’s how they behave…

I’m sure you’ve encountered one or two people like this yourself…

The idea that without European or American approval our culture is invalid is an ultimately racist idea. We cannot continue to seek validation from people who have consistently denied us our humanity since we were brought to the Caribbean as chattel. Or indentured servants. Our ideas about the value of our culture need to be centered within our nations, within our majority black populations. Our mere existence is enough of a testament to our ability to overcome oppression and genocide. Our rich culture is the icing on the cake.

Another idea that we would be wise to challenge is the idea that the parts of our culture that are not consumable are also not valuable to our existence. For example, I have heard a number of people suggest that carnival is “all” we have to offer that could possibly be worthwhile. According to them, our music or art is nothing worth speaking of because it hasn’t “gone global”. The West Indians who assume that carnival is “the only thing” we have to offer are looking at culture as something that is a good to be consumed. The underlying idea supporting their statements is that if black people are not producing something that “the world” (but really, only the white part of the world) is not interesting in buying, we are unworthy. It’s a belief as old as colonization itself and it denies our people the right to define their own value and to define their self-esteem outside of the colonizer’s view.

Of course our culture is more than carnival. And that’s because culture is not only music and food. Culture is not static either; it’s dynamic and the changes we see in culture over time are not representative of cultural death. Our culture includes our customs surrounding humor and laughter. Our culture includes our bilingual capabilities and unique slang. Our culture includes our traditions surrounding birth and death. It encompasses herbal medicine and spiritual knowledge that exists outside of religion. Denying ourselves this definition of culture only sets us up to accept the way foreign countries define us as inherently true and they will never define us as equal or worthy of respect.

We need to start making changes to the colonial lens through which our peers view our culture now. We need to acknowledge that what we were taught about our supposed lack of a culture is only a lie that serves the powers that wish us to devalue ourselves and our home countries. If we feel there is nothing worthwhile, we will not be motivated to protect and conserve our natural resources or our people. We need to start telling other young people that describing the Caribbean as a place void of culture is an act of verbal violence against our people that does not serve us. We may critique the aspects of our culture that we wish to change. We may even dislike certain aspects of our culture entirely.

But despite that, it is unfair to condemn all the people who have fought for us to be independent and free to our opinion that we are too vapid to be worth fighting for. Caribbean people from every island are filled with a cultural richness that personally I have been able to find few other places. We need to find ways to acknowledge this richness in our daily lives. Our survival and our self-esteem as a region relies on how we value ourselves and we need to change our perceptions now.

 

 

Intersectional Feminism: Alcohol Addiction, Our Silent Public Health Emergency

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West Indians seem to think that binge drinking and massive amounts of alcohol consumption are a hilarious joke and signify the “free spirited” nature of the region. Just look at songs like Kabawé by DYP or Rum & Redbull by Beenie Man. Although both songs are good songs, they do glorify a culture of irresponsible behavior with one of the most dangerous drugs anyone with a twenty dollar bill can buy over the counter with absolutely no interference. Today, I’m not going to go into the root causes of alcohol addiction, but hopefully I will highlight why this public health emergency presents a far graver danger than marijuana, our governments’ current scapegoat for every social ill under the sun.

I’ve written briefly about alcohol before, comparing it to marijuana but today I’m mostly going to shy away from comparisons and delve into the social/physical implications of alcohol addiction. I say that alcohol addiction presents a far more serious problem for a couple primary reasons:

  1. Alcohol is ridiculously easy to buy in the Caribbean. At least in Saint Lucia, you can’t drive 100 ft without passing a bar. You can buy alcohol in the grocery stores and there is no enforced drinking age. (You can act like a drinking age is enforced but I have hard evidence that suggests otherwise…)
  2. Alcohol is linked to social issues that disproportionately impact women such as intimate partner violence and sexual assault. (To any cretins reading… No, I don’t mean women’s alcohol consumption causes sexual assault. Rather, men seem to commit sexual assault when binge drinking.)

But what impact does alcohol have? Why can’t it just be fun and games?

Here is how easy it is to get hooked on alcohol according to two different scales averaged together:

comparecht
Source: drugwarfacts.org

 

 

 

On this chart, you can see that some aspects of alcohol addiction are more potent than nicotine and cocaine. Alcohol is certainly more addictive than caffeine or marijuana. Additionally, the biggest “advantage” alcohol has over all these drugs is that it’s incredibly easy for anyone to purchase at any time, for any reason, in any quantity. Addictions are most easily formed in younger people, so this accessibility of alcohol means the public health burden of alcohol will certainly be greater as more people are permitted (and encouraged through media/family influence) to start drinking early.

Drinking too much over time (whether you can be diagnosed with alcoholism or not) has negative impacts on many parts of your body for example:

Sources: [x][x]

  • Heart problems: stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy
  • Liver: alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, fibrosis, fatty liver (which is unhealthy)
  • Pancreatic issues
  • Increase your risk of developing certain cancers: mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, breast
  • Weakening your immune system so you’re more likely to develop illnesses like pneumonia and tuberculosis than non-drinkers or moderate drinkers
  • alcohol poisoning
  • nerve damage and/or permanent brain damage
  • sexual problems
  • ulcers / gastritis
  • increased risk of unintentional injuries (such as car accidents, falls, misuse of dangerous weapons)

Don’t forget that alcoholism is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. In a region with far fewer restrictions on alcohol, and higher rates of alcoholism, you can safely speculate that the numbers are at least equal, if not worse.

Alcohol abuse additionally has big social implications for example:

Source: [x]

  • Pregnant women who drink are at risk of having their children develop fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Drinking impairs anyone’s ability to contribute to the household function (this may include earning capacity, or capacity to engage in general maintenance of the household)
  • If one party spends a lot of money to feed their addiction, this can negatively impact a poor family, draining them of most of their resources. Taking these resources away can lead to poor health outcomes for everyone, not just the alcoholic as money is diverted from other health care or child care needs
  • Drinking can lead to home accidents and domestic violence
  • Alcoholism can lead to loss of family income due to inability to work OR due to premature death of a provider
  • There are substantial mental health problems that accompany alcoholism (some examples include depression & anxiety)

The effects of mens’ heavy drinking in the household have strong negative impacts on the women in the household in these regards: 

  • Increased instances of domestic violence
  • Increased risk of HIV infection
  • increased economic burden on their partners

This is just examining the social effects of alcohol in one specific lens. Of course, there are other aspects of social functioning to consider like the ability to function in the workplace. If these social problems don’t resonate with you, visit this reddit thread of “adult children” of alcoholics filled with heart wrenching personal stories that just begin to highlight the negative impact alcoholism has on families.

Overall, this isn’t to shame alcoholics or to suggest that there is something inherently wrong with them. In this culture, getting caught in a dangerous cycle is beyond easy. Breaking a habit of heavy drinking and/or alcoholism however is — in contrast — far more difficult. Here, we don’t have Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon. We don’t have the facilities for medical detoxification when necessary. Our society encourages one thing, but when it gets out of hand, drinkers are blamed and vilified rather than helped to heal. And of course, this post will never be able to cure someone’s alcoholism or heavy drinking. Education and knowing the facts isn’t enough to stop addiction; this is a moralistic (and incorrect) myth about addiction that leads to placing the blame on addicts. We need a public health intervention that includes education but doesn’t stop there.

And no matter what needs to be done on an institutional level, we also need to change our culture surrounding alcohol. Binge drinking isn’t fun or funny. Our “carefree” culture isn’t actually carefree at all. It’s flat out irresponsible and dangerous. Alcoholism and calling rum “therapy” isn’t a joke. When you take alcoholism lightly, you diminish one of the most serious health issues our nations face.

This is a serious public health issue that has damaged our countries and will continue to damage them until something changes.

If you suspect that you or someone close to you may be heading down a dangerous path with alcohol, please view some of these resources linked here:

Am I an alcoholic self test[x]

I drink, but how can I tell if I’m an alcoholic?[x]

Am I alcoholic dependent?[x]

 

Intersectional Feminism: The Spectre of White Supremacy in the Caribbean

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“The Caribbean is a melting pot where race doesn’t matter!” Every time I hear that, I grit my teeth and wonder when omitting the history of the Caribbean became a trend to hop on. It’s natural to want to defend the Caribbean against the harsh criticisms first world people heap upon us, but saying that race doesn’t matter in the Caribbean is an ahistorical lie that denies the lived experience of millions of people in the region.

Black people came to the Caribbean on slave ships and from that moment, everything in the Caribbean has been about race. Of course, race and class then became intimately intertwined. Today, having the name of a former slave master (the slave masters were all white) is a point of pride. White people make up the wealthiest populations in our islands. Many of my Caribbean friends from various islands have said, “I don’t know anyone poor and white here.” That coupled with whiteness is known to help in school, with employment and with other situations one may experience throughout your life.

Our countries all have a massive hatred of black features… White hair is seen as clean, tidy, neat and professional whereas black hair is automatically wild/unruly or something that needs to be “fixed”. For those who think it’s about “curls” and not whiteness… White people with curly hair are NOT subjected to the same treatment as black people. Throughout the Caribbean, black hairstyles are often seen as “untidy” and “unprofessional”. Another belief about blackness being inherently bad is the idea that if you go into the sun you will get “too black” — the same belief doesn’t apply to getting “too white” however. People are applauded for their physical proximity to whiteness and punished for being black. Darker skinned people experience worse treatment and excessive teasing for their skin color. These damaging beliefs about their physical appearance and identity have long-lasting effects in people’s lives, causing them to perpetuate race-based abuse on others as well as themselves. Any woman who has transitioned from relaxed to natural hair in the Caribbean can tell you that they faced significant pushback, indicating that the issue is widespread.

Some of the more subtle cultural preferences towards white people is the tendency for black people to refer to any white man as “boss”. I’ve seen this with my father as well as my boyfriend (who is biracial but that often gets coded as white down here) where people who have no reason to, refer to them as “boss”. It’s a subtle, yet powerful way of indicating status and frankly, black people often believe themselves to be lower status than white people. There is no reason for black people to speak to white people differently from how they speak to black people, yet in the Caribbean, this is all too common.

Another common experience of black people in the Caribbean is poor treatment by customer service staff. White people (thought to be tourists especially) are treated with politeness, respect and the gamut of perfect customer service. Black locals, on the other hand, are often treated poorly by those serving them for no reason other than their skin color. This poor treatment could be slowness, blatant rudeness or asking black people to leave certain areas for “being loud” even if they were not in fact being loud. (Yes! All of these experiences are real and have happened to various WI people I have spoken to on these issues.)

We pretend that whiteness is non-existent here, yet it is clear that being white in the Caribbean leads to better treatment overall. The occasional instance of bullying or someone charging you a higher price is NOT indicative of the larger experience of racism which occurs at an institutional level. Receiving less respect just because you’re black can have a big impact. This can impact your job search for example or can have even more dire results when you’re dealing with medical professionals who judge you simply based on your appearance. (Example: Do you look poor? Do you look rich? Guess which people look rich and which look poor. If you can guess, congrats, you just identified white supremacy in action.)

Wealth being concentrated in the same white population that owned our ancestors is also a clear-cut case of institutionalized white supremacy. We make the mistake of thinking you need a white cloak to be a white supremacist, but really white supremacy is a system that ensures white people have total dominance over every aspect of our society from economics to social interactions. It is something that clearly exists and affects the Caribbean today and something that we cannot ignore if we ever want equality of any kind whether it is for women, for the poor or any other marginalized group. If white people always have it better, we will never have liberation from oppression.