Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Debbie-Ann Wright | Are women still just tits and ass?

Published:Friday | March 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Every day, social media users cook up a new word or new use for an existing word. One such is 'triggered', often used on social media to describe someone who gets irrationally hurt or angry about a post on social media. Often such descriptions are reserved for 'social justice warriors' and 'feminazis'.

I'm in my 30s now, and I really think I'm growing up and learning to ignore things on social media. I even have a few friends on Facebook who remain such, solely, for the purpose of building my character in the area of ignoring stupid, bigoted people. However, this week, two of my favourite subjects came up in one post and I had to wade into the fray. In other words, I was 'triggered'.

The two subjects that intersected? Women's rights and religion. It all started with the Sunday Gleaner story headlined 'Women take lead - Females to head three of Jamaica's larger Christian denominations'. A friend on Facebook shared the story with the question of whether the development was even biblical. His take? No.

Then followed the quoting of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which, to paraphrase, basically says women should be quiet and submit to men, and a man should not "permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man". It was all legit. The Bible says so.

Now, this was not a new idea to me. The first church I attended as a child is run on this principle. Women do not speak in church and they do not lead. The issue also came to the forefront during recent discussions surrounding the notorious Pastor Steven Anderson.

In addition, on a weekly basis, Jamaicans are treated to the teachings of the venerable Pastor Gino Jennings, through the 'Truth of God' broadcast on CVM. I've also got an uncle who has told me to my face he would never vote for a female prime minister, because women do not manage well and should not rule men.

So, why was I 'triggered'? The post was by one of my peers. A man who is university educated and of sound mind. It hit me because no longer was it just old or middle-aged men saying these things, but a man who is in that group of people who will form the next tier of leaders and decision makers for our country and the world.

I shuddered for the daughter I didn't have, because little girls still are many years from being equal to the boy child and being able to have the same opportunities as him. This is particularly why it's hard for me to join the 'save our marginalised boys' being pushed by many, including women.

Now, I know that last statement is problematic for many. I apologise to all the well-read, educated feminists out there working hard and offer the disclaimer that my views do not represent them. I don't call myself a feminist; I really have not done all the intellectual work to be able to speak authoritatively on the subject; I merely speak about my experiences and observations, as a woman.

Do I believe that educational outcomes for boys in Jamaica are much worse than for girls? Are more girls attaining tertiary level education than boys? Are boys receiving less supervision at home than girls?

Are there more female teachers in schools? Are boys more likely to have to fend for themselves or enter the job market earlier than girls? Does Jamaica have the highest proportion of women managers globally? The answer to all of these questions is yes.

However, I believe these outcomes are the result of patriarchy and continued male chauvinism. Sorry, asking me to focus on marginalised boys is like asking a black man in America to go campaign for trailer-park whites.

Why do more men enter the workforce earlier than girls? Because patriarchy says men are breadwinners, and their economic advantage will give them power over women. The same reason for which many men don't take low-paying jobs like teaching, hence the gender gap in the classroom. Why are girls more heavily supervised than boys? Because girls 'can't do what the boys do and still be a lady'. So we stay home, we apply ourselves to our books, we get into university.

As for Jamaica's record on having more women per capita as managers than anywhere else on the globe, shouldn't the statistical advantage have also already been tipped in our favour at top management?

So, until women can go to interviews and not be asked if they plan to have children soon, or do their jobs without harassment, or be sure their male counterparts aren't being paid more than they are, or stop being judged for their sex lives or their clothes, I won't be singing kumbaya walking to Jerusalem.

- Debbie-Ann Wright is a journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.