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.

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Misogynoir And Colonial Law Mean Girls Can Give Birth While Serving Prison Sentences And We’re All Just OK With It

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A week or two ago, I came across this headline in St. Lucian news “Teenage Inmate At Bordelais Correctional Facility gives birth”. Unexpected, jarring and indicative of a number of social issues that are worth discussing. While the trend of mainstream feminism leans towards empowerment and other buzzwords unsupported by action or empathy towards the women who suffer most, there are clear feminist issues within our culture that an article such as this one brings to light…

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Intersectional Feminism: 5 Ways Class Changes Your Experience of Womanhood

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.

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Black Feminism: Menstruation Taboo

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I recently felt challenged to condense my thoughts regarding my experiences with menstruation and taboo in Caribbean society. I don’t think it’s completely necessary to frequent fliers here but I will add the disclaimer that the experience that frames my experiences and observations about menstruation in the Caribbean are the experiences of a cisgender Caribbean woman and I’m applying my knowledge of black feminism and black feminist thought to how I view the subject.

Like most things considered to be “feminine” in the Caribbean, menstruation faces heavy stigma within our culture. There is both shame and pride surrounding the first menstrual cycle. Shame is one of the first lessons that we are taught about menstruation and it’s a lesson sowed so deep that the shame becomes instinct — and therefore, goes unquestioned. This root of this shame is a socially backed feeling that during menstruation, your body is disgusting and repulsive.

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Black Feminism: Anti-Blackness And The “Diaspora Wars”

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*Note: the featured image is NOT social commentary, just the best creative commons representation of an argument that I could find…*

On Twitter on a Saturday morning for five minutes and I’m already rolling my eyes. Here we go again. For those of you who don’t use social media, the “diaspora wars” refers to a regular cycle of social media arguments where West Indians, Africans and Black Americans “war” to claim which one is the best. It’s an argument that I’m not interested in at all so this post is not going to contain any argument “for” or “against” any group of black people. (Reminder, we are all black.) What I’m interested in exploring is the anti-blackness that inevitably crops up amongst ALL groups of social media users.

No matter what region in the world they’re arguing in favor of, black participants in the diaspora wars almost always rely on racial stereotypes created by white people about black people globally. i am 100% uninterested in “calling people out” but I am interested in accusing every single person who has ever engaged in this argument to closely examine what insults they turn to when they feel defensive about their current homeland.

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Caribbean Voices: Jhovi via St. Lucia/Maryland

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I recently met Jhovi while he was on vacation in St. Lucia and was instantly struck by something that holds true for all members of the Caribbean diaspora. No matter what our experiences are, we are united by a common heritage, a shared attitude towards the world and a love of having a good time. That’s one thing you can count on Caribbean people for!

I wanted to include his interview on this blog because I was sure he would have very different insights than I did about the experience of growing up as a St. Lucian man. Keep reading and you won’t be disappointed by his fresh perspective.

Jhovi Polius | 27 | St. Lucia (living in Maryland)

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Guest Post: DWELLING TOGETHER? HOMELAND HOMOPHOBIA HAUNTS THE DIASPORA

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?

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Caribbean Voices: Jamal via St. Thomas, USVI

tumblr_messaging_octqicq71s1qahze1_1280Jamal is a blogger that I’ve known for years. His blog has opened me up to many issues about the U.S. Virgin Islands and how it’s similar or dissimilar to other islands in the Caribbean. As a St. Lucian, I always assumed that the U.S. Virgin Islands was a world away from St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean. Hopefully in this interview you’ll be able to see how similar the experience of US Virgin Islanders is to non-territories in the Caribbean and recognize that our similarities are much more important for you to focus on than our differences… 

Jamal | 25 | St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands)

What island(s) are you and your family from?

I’m from St. Thomas. My mom is from St. John, and my dad was born in Tortola, but moved to St. Thomas when he was a young child. A large part of my mom’s side of the family lives in St. John and a large part of my dad’s family lives in Antigua.

Tell me a little more about yourself? What do you currently “do” in your spare time? What are your interests?

I love to write, listen to music and dance. I have a B.A. in Communication Studies and I am currently working towards a Masters in Public Administration. I find myself intrigued by world politics, particularly in the United States and the Caribbean.

How would you describe your ethnic/racial background?

I would consider myself Afro-Caribbean. I have considered the term “West Indian” a bit too broad as it can refer to numerous people who are from the West Indies of are of any race. As far back as I can trace, my family includes people of Afro-Caribbean heritage.

I’m really interested in talking to you about what it’s like as a USVIslander. What are some common misconceptions other WI have about you?

There seems to be this idea that we cannot be “West Indian” and “American” simultaneously. The idea that we have to choose a side is utterly ridiculous. There are those that question our “West Indian-ness”, even though we are quite literally a group of islands located in the Caribbean.

How do you think USVI status as a US territory affects your identity (as an individual) and the identity of others in your country?

I would say that our relationship with the mainland United States can get awkward sometimes. There are times that we feel neglected by the mainland, and feel as if we are basically its side chick [for lack of a better term]. I lived in Charlotte for 7 years, and whenever anyone would ask about my background, I would say I was from the Virgin Islands. The accent is probably the first thing that gave myself away. Even though I am legally obligated to call myself “American”, I believe that calling myself a Virgin Islander much more accurately depicts my identity.

What ways do you think you are different from non-territory Caribbean islands? What do you think are the biggest similarities?

The biggest thing is that we are still attached to the mainland United States, and still depend on them for some critical things, even though we are largely self governing. I think that all Caribbean Islands have a shared sense of history due to our similar backgrounds.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why is your answer (yes or no) important to you?

Yes I do consider myself a feminist, and I believe this largely has to do with my upbringing. I remember for a period in elementary school, my mom had a more stable job than my dad did, and I don’t recall him being totally threatened by that. In fact, there were several times throughout my life where she made more money than he did, and he was not threatened. I also remember seeing them both eschew the “traditional” gender roles. They both cooked, and they both cleaned, so I believe that seeing that for myself helped shape my views.

Do you think there’s a difference between how boys and girls are raised in the Caribbean? What are some of those bigger differences?

I do think that there is a difference with how boys and girls are raised in the Caribbean. The Caribbean is this very traditionalist society at times, and I think that we are still bound to many of the traditional gender roles, though I believe that they are slowly being chipped away. I think boys are largely groomed to become the “head of household” , and to be dominant in society. Traditionally, we have not groomed girls to think the same way, but I do think that is changing with every generation.

Is being a feminist acceptable in your community?

I would say that it is definitely acceptable. There are times that I have seen the term thrown around disparagingly, but I do think that most of my community agrees with the basic tenets of feminism.

If Caribbean men could gather together and fix one cultural issue amongst themselves, which one do you think they should focus on? If you can’t pick just one, you can expand.

I think we have lost the family dynamic that existed for the entire island. We need to return to the concept of “It takes a village to raise a child”, where I believe everyone was looking out for you. I think we have lost that and we need to return to that.

If you had to raise a son in the Caribbean, what would you keep from your own upbringing and what would you change?

I had a very strong family background and felt like I could depend on my family for anything. I felt like I could call on any one of them and they would help as soon as possible. If I do have a son, I would like for him to have that same feeling.

I know you played mas for the first time recently and I’d like you just ask one last question about that experience… Was there anything that surprised you about the experience that you didn’t expect?

I think communication could have been a bit better. I actually didn’t get my costume until a few hours before parade day, and I was very frustrated by that. We did give them our contact information, and they could have easily sent a text or email informing the masses. We relied solely on a Facebook page, which wasn’t updated a few times. Besides that, I had a great time, and it was the fulfilling of a dream.

I really enjoyed this interview with Jamal, especially his background with his parents which is a common Caribbean reality that we don’t often hear about in the larger Caribbean narrative. If you enjoyed reading through this interview, I recommend reading my previous interview with Kerlea (from St. Lucia). 

 

Kerlea Joseph via St. Lucia

IMG_0978As a St. Lucian who works virtually, I’m always on the look out for people who work virtually, especially if they’re St. Lucian. One of my beliefs is that building a community of people who reside in St. Lucia but work virtually anywhere in the world will be important to the future of our economy — a real future, where we don’t rely on tourism for subsistence. Kerlea’s interest in returning to St. Lucia after a long time abroad mirrors my own experiences of spending 9.5 years in the U.S. and decided to return home… Reading this interview will give you great insight into some of the considerations that can be made about returning to the Caribbean after a long absence. 

Kerlea Joseph | 21 | St. Lucia (currently residing in Canada)

Follow Kerlea on Instagram! Here you can find black and white illustrations and in the near future, photos of gorgeous calligraphy.

IG: dynamodandridge

Tell me a little more about yourself? What do you currently “do” in your spare time? What are your interests?

I’m extremely interested in Illustration particularly Fashion Illustration as well as Calligraphy. While I’m not currently studying either at school I really hope I can make a career of it someday (at least part-time). A good chunk of my time is spent researching sources of visual inspiration to keep my drawing habit going. I’m also an avid reader so I invest a lot of time reading all kinds of books (I don’t have a particular genre or type of book I favour over another) because I am also a huge fan of storytelling.

How would you describe your ethnic/racial background?

Well racially I would describe myself simply as black. While I know there’s a high possibility of having indigenous blood from my dad’s side because of my paternal grandparents features, even if it was confirmed I probably still wouldn’t list it as part of my racial identity

You’re no longer living in Saint Lucia, do you plan to return? Why do you wish to return?

Yes to the 100th power. I’ve been living in Canada for what will be ten years as of next year, and while living in a first-world country comes with a lot of benefits and incredible amounts of access to things we’ll probably never be able to have in St. Lucia, it’s also been very hard in ways people back home will never understand and people overseas will rarely admit to.

First off, in terms of weather, no matter where you live in Canada, a full-blown Canadian winter is no joke, like that shit is relentless and overbearingly oppressive. Like as a person who has suffered from depression and general anxiety for as long as I can remember far back into my childhood and only had to deal with two seasons (both hot) before I moved here, I really could not anticipate the profound effect it would have on my mental health. Winter is ALWAYS the time I feel most close to going over the edge. I always feel trapped and suffocated, like life is trying to metaphorically and literally bury me. Even if I was sufficiently medicated, I really don’t see myself coping with weather like this for the rest of my life.

(null)Secondly, I live having the support system and sense of community that I just don’t have here. I feel like this is a big one people often take for granted back home because I know I did. Like I know for my family in particular, even though we’re not the most well off and a lot of times we have disagreements and don’t always like each other, we’re still there to support and help each other where we can. Even though I consider myself a highly independent person, not having that invisible support system has just made it 100% harder to navigate the minutiae of everyday life. Like yeah I have friends and realistically I can ask them for help with things, but with a lot of stuff I just feel more comfortable asking my family. Like if I’m hungry and totally out of food, I can’t just call up parents to drop some dasheen and green figs off for me, I’m just screwed. If I’m looking to buy a car or apartment, I have to manage it all on my own. There’s no one to say “Aye, I know somebody selling a car for this much” or “I know somebody renting an apartment for this much let’s go” which I would have back home have back home which is really hard.

Thirdly, I hate the general feeling of not belonging I have living here. I would probably feel a lot better about it if I did live in a community with a lot of black people, not even other St. Lucian/Caribbean in particular, just black people but it’s been very difficult for me to connect with or even find those types of communities. It’s incredibly tiring, always having to navigate mostly white spaces in a country that likes to pat itself on the back for “being more open minded and not as racist as America”. Canada has done a pretty good job of branding themselves as the polite, inoffensive middle power. Like racial anxiety is not a joke and I am 1000% over it. I’m looking forward to living in St. Lucia, where I won’t have to worry about how I express myself, at least racially anyway.

Lastly, I just really feel a lot of guilt at the thought of being one of those people that leaves home and never turns back but always has something shitty to say about St. Lucia. I want to be able to use what I’ve learned during my time overseas to help people at home in whatever way I can. Like building up the country so it’s a place where people feel like they have more opportunities than leaving.

How informed do you feel about last month’s election season? (If you feel informed, what were your perceptions of the election season activities?)

To be honest, I felt very disconnected from the whole thing in the sense that while I did have general news information about what was happening, I wasn’t able to listen in on radio discussions/debates which I know where a lot of the action traditionally happens. Obviously I would talk to my mom about it, but it’s very different when you’re on the ground and it’s all around you.

Flambeau, Labour or neither?

Even though my family is staunchly red all the way, personally I would say I’m not for either one.

Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself and your gender/sexuality in your family and/or your community?

This is a very interesting question because right now, I’m at a point in my life where my gender and sexuality are really in a state of flux where I’m really questioning whether I am a cishet woman or if I mostly identify this way because I’ve been forced to. But to answer your question, I definitely would not feel comfortable expressing my gender/sexuality if it deviated from the traditional cishet framework that my family is used. Even now I don’t always feel comfortable expressing even my sexuality because I think there’s too thin of a line of what counts as an acceptable display of heterosexual sexuality and what isn’t when it comes to being a woman in West Indian family and the youngest daughter at that. In that role of the good, ambitious hard-working youngest daughter, I feel like I have to present a decent interest in men but nothing overly sexual or lascivious. I can be cute but not too cute, I can wear short shorts and skirts but nothing where “my business would be hanging out for the dogs” (one of my mom’s favourites). But in the same token I can’t present asexual either because that would be equally as ostracizing.

So for me, most of the time, these subjects can be very frustrating and uncomfortable when it comes to my family because I often feel trapped by the narrow examples of sexuality presented to me.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why is feminism/womanism important to you?

I actually consider myself more of a womanist. Obviously I have a lot more researching and reading to do, but by what I’ve learned so far of womanism (feel free to correct me, I love learning more information), it sounds more focused on developing and nurturing a community wherein the focus is placed on black women outwards, as inorder to dismantle the global system of white supremacy the most oppressed individuals in society need to be cared for first.

In terms of feminism, while I do think of course agree with a lot of its ideals my biggest sticking point is seeing how it can be applicable to individuals living in third world countries like St. Lucia. I’ve also been really put off with some of the condescending attitudes of a lot feminists living in first-world western countries and the unrealistic solutions they have sometimes when trying to solve issues in third-world countries. I can’t think of any specific examples right now, but usually these “solutions” get thrown around without any real understanding of the local culture or social dynamics of our countries.

Are you fluent in creole/patois/patwa? If not, are you interested in learning?

This is such a sore spot for me because the thing is, while I can understand creole fine, my accent is horrible and I get the worse, the absolute worse anxiety when I try to speak it around my family (mainly from getting teased so badly about it as a child) that I don’t actually speak that much creole when I’m around family. I’ll toss around a few phrases but nothing too complex because I really don’t want to get roasted. If I do speak any creole, it’s usually around friends or people my age because, in that context I care a lot less about being judged and we’re on a more level field socially.

However, with all that said, I am really hopeful that one day I can overcome my creole anxiety around my family because right now, I feel like I’m not fully connecting with them. Especially with my grandparents that mostly speak creole and have a harder time speaking English, it’s hard for us to really know and connect meaningfully with each other because of the language barrier.

It’s really sad but everyday I do make an effort to practice saying some phrases out loud here and there. I’ve also find that incorporating creole into practicing calligraphy has really motivated me and gotten me to expand my vocabulary with words that I’ve found from the St. Lucian creole dictionary (which I found online) which I had never known about previously.

Is being a feminist acceptable in your community?

Within my community of friends yes because we’re young and more open-minded, but I find because my friend group in Canada is mostly white, feminism is mostly discussed from a mainstream perspective with a dash of intersectionality here and there. Most likely because that’s the most common narrative that is pushed when it comes to feminism, but fortunately when I do speak to my friends about more intersectional matters there hasn’t been any resistance to learning more information so that’s good

In terms of my family, while my mom in particular seems interested in learning more about some facets of feminism, overall I don’t think being a feminist is acceptable amongst them. I think it’s mainly because they have this stereotype of angry white lesbians with hairy armpits in their minds as being the “real” feminists and don’t really see how it connects with them or their lives as black people living in a majority black society. To my family being a feminist is being a white woman who hates men and spends the majority of her time complaining about how men have done her wrong.

What are the biggest priorities feminists in your country should have if they’re looking to change things?

Well in terms of everyday St. Lucian women concerned with enacting change from a feminist perspective, I think the top priority would be to stop worrying about displeasing men. Like it sounds very simple but it’s such a big part of St. Lucian society, the fear that women have of displeasing or offending the men in their lives that I think simply overcoming that , would set them on a really good path.

Did you have any brothers growing up? If so, did you notice any differences in how you were treated? What were some of those differences?

OMG, I’m so triggered right now lol. But really there were so many ways that being the only girl negatively impacted my childhood and in fact negatively impact me as person today that thinking about it a lot makes me extremely angry.

For a little background I have 3 brothers. 2 half (1 of which I only learned about as I was older and dont have a relationship with) and one by both of my parents who I mainly grew up with. As children, my brother was allowed to just do whatever while I had to stay home close to my mom. He was always allowed to climb trees and explore the neighbourhood, staying out til dark, while I had to chill around the house never out of sight. In the summers, when we would go down the coast and spend the time with our grandmother in Mon Repos my brother was the one taught how to use a cutlass, how to farm , how to take of animals while I always had to stay inside or at least out of the way and tidy.

The worst part of the whole thing was while I was not being actively taught how to do anything useful in an outdoorsy sense, every-one would tease and make fun of me for not knowing how to do those same things. I can’t tell you how many times my cousins laughed at me for knowing how to climb an ackee tree in the summer (even though no-one would teach me or even let me learn on my own). Or if my mom and grandmother were clearing some bush to farm and I would grab a cutlass to help, I’d get laughed out for not knowing how and sent back to the house.

As I got older, the differences were particularly noticeable with my parent’s double standards when it came to dating. My brothers were both allowed to pretty much “run” girls from like 13. I mean sure my mom disapproved and she would talk to my brother about it but neither she nor my dad actively tried to stop anything from happening. Meanwhile, my ass was basically under lock and key, particularly by my dad who would always freak out if any male figure even boys my age, looked in my direction. As a result, I never bothered to date in high school even when I did move to Canada because I just saw it as too much of a hassle (sneaking around always seemed like waaaaay too much effort for any high school crush).

Even now as 21, I still have never dated and I’m pretty averse to the whole thing while both my brothers had live-in girlfriends at my age.

If you had to raise a child in Saint Lucia, what would you keep from your own upbringing and what would you change?

Well in terms of things I’d keep, I think one major thing would be to replicate the emphasis on reading and in general, nurturing a passion for learning like my mom did for me. She always says I came out of the womb reading (she really really wanted me to be a literature professor) and I do think I came out a better, more empathetic and self-reflective person because of it. I also liked how my parents taught me the importance of always finding ways to help out family members, especially those who maybe struggling and are too proud to ask for help but at the token, to never be anybody’s doormat or “lavabo” as my mom says. I’d also take my kids to the beach ALL the time and just in general, take them around to see the different communities so they get that, just because St. Lucia is small doesn’t mean there isn’t any variety like my dad did with me (He always takes me places in St. Lucia that I’ve heard about before and I’m like how is it possible that I’ve never heard of this place before??)

However in terms of stuff that I’d change, that’s a loaded list. But mainly I’d want my kid to know that there’s no appropriate age to get mentally ill. That they don’t have to have stress from a wife and kids to be feeling terribly depressed, which was always a big sticking point I had with my parents. Like I said earlier, I’ve suffered from general anxiety and depression from as far back as I can remember but a lot of times as a kid, I remember feeling horribly guilty because I didn’t have a “reason” to feel the way I did and was just being a brat. I feel like if my parents had respected my mental illnesses as a child, I probably would’ve been farther along managing them than I am now. Secondly , especially if I had a little girl, I would do my very best to ensure that my child never for a second felt ashamed of their body because of perverted attention from older men. As a child, I grew very very quickly. I started going through puberty around 8 and I was 5″ 8ft by 10. As a result, I looked A LOT older than I actually was and disgustingly enough, I always attracted the attention of older men often times, leading me to feeling ashamed and confused about my body. I love my mom, and although she did do her very best to defend me from those types of men, I feel like if she had spoken directly to me about my body and made me understand that their negative attention had nothing to do with me, I probably wouldn’t have wasted all those years being ashamed and frightened by my body and had more of a jumpstart on accepting myself.

Thank you so much for reading through this interview! I’d like to remind you to check out Kerlea’s page on instagram: @dynamodandridge. For more interviews like this one, check out my interview with Veronique from St. Vincent & The Grenadines!