Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Press fearful of shaming Portia

Published:Wednesday | November 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones was right, very right, when he remarked that there's no woman who has never been objectified or trivialised because of her gender. Maybe that's the reason why the Jamaican media tread so carefully when critiquing the actions of Prime Minister Portia Lucretia Simpson Miller.

Journalists great and small who've hammered prime ministers, leaders of the Opposition, and other Cabinet ministers with words that question their intelligence and state of mind always seem to find those middle-of-the-road adjectives and phrases to describe the actions of Mama P as prime minister.

Whereas we have condemned certain prime ministers and Cabinet ministers as liars, criminals, dunces and intellectual featherweights (as Cliff Hughes and the late Hugh Crosskill did A.J. Nicholson years ago), we always seem to get mealy mouthed when it comes to the woman from Wood Hall, seemingly bullying our tongues and lips into not verbalising the sentiment being transmitted by our brains.

Maybe this different treatment for Portia is because of a fear by media practitioners of the backlash from the Outrage Police, who view criticism of any woman in public office as an attack based purely on gender.

This is the same Outrage Police which would've staged a naked protest march through Half-Way Tree Square, calling on the earthly authorities or God to strike Everald Warmington dead, had he said what A.J. Nicholson slipped up in saying.

phones abandoned

Yet when sought by reporters for a comment on A.J.'s faux pas, the selectively vocal members of that force abandoned their phones like a Kingston-based travelling salesman leaving behind pregnant girls in rural parishes.

Perhaps Mama P views the things said about her management of the Government and the country as a mark of the respect, or even fear, which media practitioners have for her as an individual and the office she holds.

Perhaps it has never dawned on her that journalists are in a lose-lose situation where criticism of her is concerned.

When a female journalist hits the prime minister hard, questioning her intelligence and competence, that practitioner gets styled and classed as a bitch and much worse.

The Outrage Police then ask how she, a woman, dare criticise another woman in such a fashion. The Outrage Police then use the situation to highlight what they say is proof of why women in Jamaica cannot thrive, because a female prime minister cannot get respect from her own sex.

The female journalist now has to deal with a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey-type sideshow, with women sneering at her behind her back wherever she goes in public just because she had the balls to criticise Portia.

no hitting the pm

And then what happens when a man hits Portia hard? Oh, Lawd! The first thing that happens is that the male minions who trail Portia's camp followers start questioning your sexuality. For how can a man who loves women even think of heaping harsh criticism on the woman who leads us?

Perhaps the worst things about this aspect is that even the boy-lovers within the ranks of the camp followers are bold enough to put this question to the male journalists who lash Portia with the same whip that welted Bruce's back and flayed Patterson and Seaga before him.

By now Portia understands very well the power of the gender card, and her astute political mind knows when to trump it from the deck and when to threaten to do so. She knows she can kill any direct confrontation with a reporter or a colleague in Parliament by merely accusing her antagonist of trying to exert pressure on her simply because she's a woman.

Witness how she counter-punched Audley Shaw in Parliament on November 12 during the NHT-Outameni debate, by suggesting that he was raising his voice and shouting at her, simply because she's a woman.

I smiled when she did it and broke into a grin at the realisation that this country has an ultimate leader who it cannot really criticise.

Today's column serves as notice that I've broken ranks with my respected colleagues. I'll not treat her like a man or woman. I will criticise her as a leader.


n George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.