Your Honorable Hotness Hanna
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Was she showing off, No, it is just something that is, like an ail shik's wealth, an Indian's hair, etc.
This week, I had planned to follow up on the matter of music charts, which was started last Saturday, with the definitive statement that despite a multiplicity of song rankings, there are none in Jamaica. However, the matter of a picture of a woman in a bikini bottom on a beach has intervened and needs to be addressed.
First, let me get the corniness and far-from-seriousness out of the way. In the now (in)famous picture, taken on a beach in Westmoreland last weekend, the honorable minister of youth and culture is wearing a Bob Marley T-Shirt. You have to give the Tuffest Gong credit. In Bad Card, he said, "Dem a go tired fi see mi face" and damn, it's true. Thirty-three years after his death, Jamaica's beauty queens still have a thing for him.
Put it this way: Jamaica has had three Miss World beauty pageant winners, and Bob Marley has definitely been on the chests of two of them.
Ok, serious thing now. I am surprised (with a hint of resignation) that this picture of Hanna has created such a stir. It really is a non-issue which, by being constructed through social media into something of such national import that it made the front page of this newspaper (at the bottom, fittingly so, as it is the bikini bottom that is causing the rumpus), has become an issue.
Still, in our obsession with the irrelevant, there are lessons to be learnt about our national psyche, which is what this previously unplanned edition of Music and More With Mel is about (and this is definitely about the More) attempts to recover from the generally painfully redundant chatter that surrounded this non-issue.
We have not had a minister like Hanna before, a beauty queen in her near full bloom of womanhood (no pun intended). We are used to women who don tons of clothes to walk towards Gordon House from one end or the other of Duke Street - ladies who construct their images for attention to the cloth, not the flesh. Hanna, on the other hand, has no qualms about showing the results of many years of gym work as she did before in a Carnival outfit posting.
And we have had another beauty queen putting up some body shots not too long ago as Yendi Phillipps' dancing videos have had their fair share of attention. But the response to her moves (and one was done in a beach setting, too) has been nowhere as contentious as a single Hanna beach pic. That would be, of course, in no small part, because she is not a minister of Government.
And that is the crux of the matter: that under our society's conventions, a woman who is in a position that should command respect should not exhibit any hint of sexuality. Look at pastors, judges, corporate managers, headmistresses, and women in such positions. They tend to be remarkably devoid of sexuality, even if they have offspring to indicate that they have been involved in matters between the sheets (or the kitchen, or in the car back, or wherever).
For those women understand that, unfortunately, the level of respect they are accorded is in inverse proportion to the overt sexuality they exude, including showing their flesh. A proper woman must dress proper at all times. And woe be it unto the lady leader who takes on a man judged to be not befitting her status.
Not so with Hanna, who is dressed 'proper' for the beach, but by the flawed reasoning of some, not the public social space in which she has chosen to put the picture of herself. So she has chosen to break social conventions - with the inevitable results. Still, it seems there are enough of us who do not believe in those constructed restrictions to maintain some semblance of sanity.
Hanna is also breaking another conventional restraint on women's sexuality, which is motherhood. It is actually related to that notion of respectability that once a 'good girl' becomes a mother, she must behave in a way that shows regard for her new status and offspring. For a mother is a different concept of femininity than a mere woman - a supposedly more elevated status. Mothers should be circumspect, discreet, and certainly cover up.
However, this mama is no matron, and by putting her pictures out on social media, whether she intends it that way or not, Hanna is doing a superb job of controlling her image on social media. She may or may not have thought it through like I am looking at it, but it matters not - the effect is the same.
Unlike many others who are public figures, Hanna embraces the public space (like the beach). So, chances are there is going to come a point where someone who has a picture-taking device and a data connection is going to snap and share. But it won't have the desired effect if she does it first - which she has before, has done now, and will, I believe (and hope), do again.
There will be those, I suppose, who will take all of this as a defence of Hanna, which is to miss the point. For I seek only to put a picture of a woman on a beach in the context of our society, to examine why it has become such an issue when it should not have been. She does not need, nor I suspect, want anyone to leap to her defence in the court of public opinion,
For, above all, Hanna, as minister of Government, as mother, as beauty queen, or ex-beauty queen, does not need our collective permission to simply be a human being - a woman.