Post 162.

Feminism is getting hotter. Sparking a global spring, girls and women are taking on the world political-economic order on the ground and through technology. More power to this movement for equality, equity, and transformation of all forms of domination. Welcome to a moment that tireless struggle has again born.

Once the dilemma was about the ‘I’m not feminist, but…’ kind of feminism, the belief in and practice of its politics that nonetheless ran from the backlash stereotypes associated with its identity and community.

However, going more mainstream has attached feminism to wider practices and representations, raising questions about the relationship between feeling powerful and undoing powerful hierarchies, as well as making us look harder at feminisms mix with capitalism, its long-marketed racist and sexist ordering of women, and its containment of the broadest goals of empowerment.

Take bootylicious feminism, also seen in Nicki Minaj’s dancehall queen version. Beyonce’s brand champions women as flawless and sexy, smart and powerful, economically in control and unanswerable to the politics of respectability. It also sells sex as it sells feminism. Indeed, here, sex sells feminism, potentially popularizing a narrower project than dismantling the beauty myths still packaging the meanings of female sexuality. What do hypersexual feminisms do for kinds that are not or refuse to be sexy?

I’ve wondered about this when my friend Nicole was shamed for playing Jouvay topless but for nipple coverings, and in an old shortpants, making explicit just how little pretty mas nakedness has opened a space for women’s non-prettied bodies on the road, on their own terms, even on Carnival days. I’ve thought about this when women face censure for shamelessly breast-feeding their babies. I’ve reflected on this as I envision the postcolonial feminisms I want for my little brown girl.

There’s feminist struggle for sex positivity. Existing double standards shame women in ways that men, even those who are molesters, rapists or adulterers, don’t face, and strippers, sex workers and ‘skettels’’ usually scorned behaviour means they are least protected by the law, unions, immigration officials and health institutions. This must change.

The question isn’t whether women have a right to make the choices they do. Instead our attention should be on the choices available, and the ones still determining women’s greatest rewards, pleasures and value. It’s no coincidence that just as girls have been ‘taking over’ education, media and labour markets, they have been increasingly pressured to still embody specific femininities and stilettoed super-sexiness. What does this mean for feminisms’ trenchant critique of women as objects for consumption, and for black and brown women’s refusal to reproduce reduction to their bodies at the expense of their humanity?

Freedom from sexual and other forms of  violence. Choice regarding marriage, children, and same sex desire. Access to reproductive justice, including safe and legal abortion. Transformation of the colonial gender stereotyping still pervasive in contemporary pop culture, advertising, nationalism and tourism. Value not for how we look nor for the femininities we do, but simply because we are. The kinds of economic rights that mean we neither gain greater wealth nor greater vulnerability from the exploitation of our bodies in public and private life. For me, this is what feminist goals of sexual liberation mean.

All women know there is no pure place for resistance. This is more rather than less reason for thinking critically about diverse instances named feminist. It’s reason for differentiating between the gender consciousness we now have of rights and inequalities, and feminist consciousness that aims at more than women’s individual wealth, choice or leveling of power to a radical re-imagining beyond current terms and boundaries.

Post 66.

Every morning, I drive from Santa Cruz, along the Eastern Main Road, to work at the UWI. Every evening, I return home by the same route. My baby girl Ziya, so acutely observant, sits in the backseat gazing out of the window absorbing it all, her mind working faster than the speed limit. Along the way, I point out the colours of the traffic lights, and letters and numbers on signs, so that she could learn from and become observant of the world around her.

Daily, I drive by billboards that in large print tell her, “It’s a man’s world, you wouldn’t understand”, even now, when people think that women have everything they could ask for. We pass multiple such signs, like a looped soundtrack, telling this little human that she is not equal in power or status, that her equal claim to the world will be shouted down from billboards, that she will have to fight simply to not be made invisible or positioned below others just because she was born female. What does it mean when the landscape you live in assures you that this world is not yours, and not an adult in sight cares enough to go and tear down a message as full of violence and disdain as my tiny blossom is full of promise.

Despite Stag’s view of her, my girl is not dumb and mindless, and when she understands exactly what that sign means, what reasons will find for the fate of living in a world denied to her before she can claim it? Will she decide this is right and give in like a slave whose spirit has been broken? Will she decide this is wrong and live with anger at the casual brutality scattered everywhere, continuously aiming to cut her down? Will she, more responsibly than me, stop her car one day and call on anyone anywhere with a conscience, a sense of outrage at gratuitous injustice, or even a boy or girl child who deserves a world better than this, to tear down these billboards, just as citizens who decide they deserve better tear down the statues of dictators and walls that divide us against each other for generations?

Daily, I feel sick that the men and women at Carib Brewery put their minds and their money to so deliberately put down capable, hardworking and flourishing women and girls who only ask for an equal chance to aspire and achieve. Daily, I turn the blame inward, against myself, for trying to get us home amidst the afternoon traffic, like everyone else, rather than destroying those signs however I can because my baby girl deserves more than these people with power will allow her. Daily, I feel helplessness, anger, frustration and fear that maybe I am the only one that knows this company understands women as plantation owners understood coolies, as bodies to use and control, and persons to disrespect and dismiss, because it’s good for profits.

Daily, this is the Trinidad my girl is witness to. Daily, I stop myself from stopping the car as any mother with a girl child and a conscience, and the will to stop those billboards from beating her down, should do. Mothers, fathers, am I alone? Will you help me? Please say yes because Ziya and I need you.