Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Tony Deyal | The return of Voldemort

Published:Saturday | October 14, 2017 | 12:00 AM

In the evening after football, the boys used to gather by the big drain at the side of the road, sitting on the raised concrete edge and teasing the young women passing by. It started with what Trinidadians call 'sooting', essentially a loud and prolonged 'pssst' designed to attract the attention of the passer-by.

It was then followed by comments starting with "Good evening, my love" expanding into terms of endearment like "Darling, of all my sugars, you are my granulated" and "If you was a ladder, I would climb up on you right now. Even if you break my back, I happy." If there was no answer to the "Good evening", it was enough to precipitate a stream of abuse and comments about the woman's character, looks and habits, including who or what she fornicated with.

For the younger boys, regardless of how you felt about it, you either joined the 'fun' or left long before the games began. As a rite of passage, it was neither right nor a passage to anything but never-ending disrespect for women.

Some people have never outgrown that contempt for women. A few months ago, J.K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, tweeted, "Just unfollowed a man whom I thought was smart and funny, because he called Theresa May a whore". The Voldemort-like treatment for the friend who she thought must not be named (though shamed) was part of the firestorm against Prime Minister May when her snap election backfired.

Ms Rowling stressed, "If you can't disagree with a woman without reaching for all those filthy old insults, screw you and your politics. I'm sick of 'liberal' men whose mask slips every time a woman displeases them, who reach immediately for crude and humiliating words associated with femaleness, act like old-school misogynists, and then preen themselves as though they've been brave.

 

ENDURED ABUSE

 

"When you do this, Mr Liberal Cool Guy, you ally yourself, wittingly or not, with the men who send women violent pornographic images and rape threats, who try by every means possible to intimidate women out of politics and public spaces, both real and digital. 'C**t', 'whore' and, naturally, rape. We're too ugly to rape, or we need raping, or we need raping and killing.

"Every woman I know who has dared express an opinion publicly has endured this kind of abuse at least once, rooted in an apparent determination to humiliate or intimidate her on the basis that she is female. If you want to know how much fouler it gets, if you also happen to be black or gay, ask Diane Abbot or Ruth Davidson.

"I don't care whether we're talking about Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon or Kate Hooey or Yvette Cooper or Hillary Clinton, femaleness is not a design flaw. If your immediate response to a woman who displeases you is to call her a synonym for her vulva, or compare her to a prostitute, then drop the pretence ... ."

In Canada, MP Tom Lukiwski denied he referred to a female politician belonging to the New Democratic Party (NDP), Rona Ambrose, as a "whore". His reply was, "I did not say 'whore,' I said 'horde', as in NDP gang."

In Sweden, politician Delmon Haffo was fired after accidentally streaming a sexist rant against Social Service Minister Annika Strandhall. The media reported that Haffo, who promoted himself as a digital communicator for his party, was trying out a new video camera with colleagues when he made comments about Minister Strandhall that were broadcast on the party's YouTube channel.

 

NOT OKAY TO JOKE

 

Ms Strandhall had earlier joked on social media about how the right to vote should be withdrawn from men following the election of Donald Trump. Haffo said in his video, "Annika Strandhall, it was not okay to joke about men's right to vote. Go to hell, you whore."

In the US, the Daily Banter site made an important point about what it called the "slut-shaming" of Melania Trump, "Suddenly, people who have always maintained that a woman should not be slut-shamed are doing exactly that. Their excuse is that she deserves to be called these horribly offensive names because she married Donald Trump.

"Let's be clear. It is absolutely acceptable to call out the right for their hypocrisy. The anti-porn crusaders who slammed Michelle Obama for committing the horrible crime of showing her arms suddenly have no problem with the new first lady's past. It's perfectly acceptable to point out the double standard they clearly have. However, that doesn't mean that the way to point out this hypocrisy is by calling Melania a 'whore'. Melania Trump is not a whore or a slut because she took off her clothes for a photo shoot. She is an adult woman who felt comfortable enough with her body to pursue a career in modelling. She has the right to do whatever the hell she wants with her body, and nobody has the right to shame her for her decisions."

Which brings me back to Trinidad and Tobago, where the prime minister accused his female predecessor and leader of the Opposition of whore-like behaviour (Jamettry), of leaving the back seat of a car so stained that he was forced to buy a new one, and of receiving a business guest in her hotel room wearing a "duster" and slippers.

His behaviour is supported even by the female members of his party who see nothing wrong in his using a word synonymous with the lady's vagina ('kyat') or describing her behaviour as akin to a prostitute's. This truly makes me shudder and yearn for the good old days of mutual respect when the worst things that Margaret Thatcher was called were "The great she-elephant", "Atilla the Hen", "Rhoda the Rhino", "La Pasioniara of middle class privilege" and "the Enid Blyton of economics".

Even Churchill, despite his acid tongue, never went that far. When Nancy Astor said, "Winston, if I were your wife, I would put poison in your coffee" he confined his response to, "Nancy, if I were your husband, I would drink it."

- Tony Deyal was last seen repeating a comment made in 1820 by the British Chief Justice about Queen Caroline who had an affair with the Dey or ruler of Algiers, "She was happy as the dey was long."