Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Letter of the Day: No shades of grey on sexual violence

Published:Saturday | February 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I thank Mr Astor Tate (Letter of the Day, 14.2.15) for the sentiments expressed in condemning the violent attack on a female UWI student last week. I support his call for positive collective action in order to tame the beast of violence.

Mr Tate suggests that anthropologists, historians and psychologists should weigh in the cause of the 'anger'. However, the triggers of such aggression are not unknown. What is lacking is the collective will to do something about it. Naming the wrong behaviour is a start. Demonstrating what is right and better will have a stronger impact.

Does the average Jamaican boy or man have a healthy sense of self? Do they realise their own value as human beings and not animals without will? Are Jamaican boys and other men actively encouraged to treat women and their fellow men with dignity and respect? Do they have a clear idea of what good male behaviour is?

The messages sent from the primary socialising institutions in Jamaica - family, church, school, media - are conflicting. High rates of fatherless homes, declining church attendance by youth, and schools struggling to balance educating with substitute parenting have left media and entertainment with open access to young minds. What do media, actively, not passively, teach? Herein lies an answer to Mr Tate's question.

A significant impetus for the 'conjured' thought that women are children or property is our highly sexualised culture. Sexualised depictions in the media adversely impact the psychological development of children. The depictions come through lyrics or visual images such as in advertisements, TV shows and movies, among other sources. Portraying women as objects for men's pleasure sends the message to men that respect and restraint are not necessary. Additionally, studies have shown that men's consumption of sexualised imagery such as in pornography has been directly linked to violence against women.

 

MOVIE ABOUT EMOTIONAL ABUSE

 

A local cinema is now carrying a movie about male physical and emotional abuse of vulnerable and victimised females. This movie, featuring pornography, was premiered over the Valentine's weekend. Is the intended message that the movie's content is synonymous with 'romance'? Will this type of messaging not entrench the negative perception that women 'must' be subject to a man's demands or be harmed?

Mr Tate rightly recognised that a sick input will yield a sick output. Either we will be serious about dealing with violence, especially sexually motivated violence, or we are not. Either we shut down the sources of the sick idea that women and children are things and men can do as they wish, or the damage will escalate. There are no shades of grey on this matter.

Collective action is necessary by every well-thinking Jamaican, especially those who work in media and entertainment, and with children. The collective action must address the socialisation deficiencies affecting boys AND girls. The health and well-being of both genders are fundamentally necessary for the existence and flourishing of any society.

PHILIPPA DAVIES

seivadap@gmail.com