Thu | Mar 22, 2018

Crisis! - Scores of Jamaican men wanting a gun to prove their manliness

Published:Sunday | November 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris

Jamaican men are reportedly looking more and more to a gun, legal or illegal, to reinforce their masculinity in the face of changes in the local landscape.

That is one of the major findings of researchers at the Institute of Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.

According to the researchers, the yearlong study found that the gun has become a symbol of power for many Jamaican men who are currently experiencing an identity crisis, as the society shifts towards the acceptance of women's equality and empowerment.

Warren Thompson, one of the researchers of the study dubbed 'Males, Community and Crime', said the current social expectations of Jamaican men contributes to the perpetuation of crime in the country.

"In Jamaica, a man is still expected to be the breadwinner of his family. He is expected to be rough and tough, to have power and authority and status," said Thomson.

"One way of attaining this power is by becoming the owner of a licensed firearm (or illegal), as firearm owners are elevated to a different level," added Thompson.




Today is being celebrated around the world as International Men's Day, but lead researcher and lecturer at the IGDS, Dr Natasha Mortley, said the study found that Jamaican men are suffering from an identity crisis.

"There is a high youth unemployment and an economic crisis which puts a strain on gender relations and masculinities in Jamaica," said Mortley.

"Men are highly conflicted, which impacts their identity, their attitudes and practices," she added.

The researchers concluded, from focus group studies and interviews with stakeholders, that manhood and masculinity in Jamaica today is not what it used to be.

"In the past, it was expected that a man should have multiple female partners, but currently, one cannot have as many as in the past because a man can only keep as many women as he can financially afford," said Thompson.

"A young male, therefore, cannot have too many female partners, but he is still expected to have more than one. The (participants) indicated that the ideal number of female partners is about seven, but now, most men can only afford to maintain relationships with approximately three women at a given time," he said.

The researchers found that this desire to prove their masculinity leads some men to commit crimes because they often want to retaliate when they feel disrespected.

"On a larger scale, retaliation is not just fighting it out, but rather stabbing, killing, burning down a house. The need to prove you are a man is in the type of retaliation," the study found.

The pilot study was funded by the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport. It is part of a broader project on Contemporary Caribbean Masculinities by the IGDS.