It was the same Governor-General and same venue, King's House, but a different year and a different woman as Zaila McCalla was sworn in as Jamaica's eighth Chief Justice on Tuesday. Last March, of course, it was Portia Simpson Miller who was holding the Bible, a woman-hating piece of historical fiction if there ever was one, and swearing fealty to all the relevant persons.
Back then some hens clucked triumphantly and many a cock crowed ruefully that it is 'woman time now' and, chances are, there will be some who murmur the same thing now.
And once again they would be, unfortunately, wrong. Change in the most visible parts of an area that needs change does not mean a transformation of the whole. Portia Simpson Miller and Zaila McCalla's giant steps, all the women who graduate from the University of the West Indies, all the Lisa Hannas entering politics make absolutely no difference, unfortunately, to the status of women in this country.
There is individual progress (and I am aware that there are some women who make that supposed forward movement publicly who are reminded of their place now and then with a backhand slap or overhead stroke of a cricket bat, privately or not so privately), but it is the exception, not the rule.
Just as acceptance of Bob Marley as a performer has not ended discrimination against Rastafarians; just as adulation for Jesse Owens for his dismantling of Nazi supremacy on the track at the 1936 Berlin Olympics did not negate the need for a civil rights movement in the USA 30 years later; and just as Trevor MacMillan creating a Never Never Land for suspected brutal policemen to count traffic tickets instead of bodies did not stop the Flankers and West Kingston police killings from taking place, the dramatic event has absolutely no effect on the underlying situation.
So even with a female Prime Minister and Chief Justice, women will be teetering on impossibly high heels in go-go clubs tonight; the massage parlours will be offering services quite different from what athletes and some ill people require; a male boss somewhere will be demanding a hike of the hemline for a hike in the paycheque. For those women who are willing to hike and massage for the financial rewards, fine; I do suspect, though, that given a real choice not many would be willing.
For a real change or maintenance in the status of a group as a whole, it is important that there are very few or no examples of someone in the same category as the prominent example being less than they should be. This is why the U.S. still searches for bodies of their troops in Vietnam; this is why the Israelis hunt down prison camp guards even when they are senile and cannot even remember what they did 60 years ago.
This is why you will not see a crazy white or Chinese man on the streets of Jamaica. I am sure there are some with mental problems, but they will never be seen roaming Kingston's streets in rags, keeping time with their personal pendulums, because it would damage the status of the group as a whole.
This is why, legend has it, that when an old Rolls-Royce was being used to carry bananas on an estate in St. Thomas and a visiting engineer from England saw it and told the relevant people back home, the car makers bought it and had it shipped back to England. There is simply no way that a Rolls, no matter the condition, could be used to carry the produce that weighed down the backs of labourers snaking on to a cargo ship.
And when a man sticks a few bills into the G-string of a woman on a stage, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice, the women with the higher degrees seem rather insignificant. So it is far from being woman time, very far.
Melville Cooke is a freelance writer. Responses welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org