A woman's right to say NO!
Donia Fuller, Guest Columnist
Recently, my colleague and I were making our customary journey home after a very hard day's work. As usual, when we got to her stop, we lingered a little bit to talk. However, on this day, the topic was serious and urgent concerning the office's impending move to New Kingston. Notwithstanding the depth of the conversation, a man saw it within his right to interrupt us because he saw one (or both) of us as his pound of flesh to devour. We were in the car so he could not see our attire, so, dear reader, do not even begin to think that somehow we invited him to disturb our conversation with how we were dressed (as if that's ever a valid excuse!).
Not wanting to be disturbed, I rolled up the window without breaking the conversation. The following day, my colleague let me know that he almost accosted her on her way home and told her that he hoped I drove "down di road go crash an' dead".
I could have been a mother, a nurse/doctor returning from a difficult day on the ward, someone's daughter (oh wait, I actually am!) or plainly a woman who just does not want to be disturbed! The point is this; he knew absolutely nothing about me, yet because I refused his advances, which I am well within my right to do, he wanted me dead.
Now the more reasonable individual will readily recognise the flaws within this man's reasoning (if it can be called that) and also acknowledge that this and similar situations face Jamaican women and, indeed, women the world over.
We can always advocate for legislation that addresses sexual and street harassment, however, the solution has to go much deeper than that. It must begin in the homes, in our communities and what we teach our boys as acceptable behaviour. It is patently clear that ideas of male/female roles that are being communicated in our homes and communities have gone horribly awry. It is for that reason that "man fi have nuff gyal and gyal inna bungle" is acceptable, yet the minute a woman does the same, the vile words that are used to describe her flow in abundance.
I am appalled that many Jamaican males genuinely feel that, as soon as they see a conquest, she dare not refuse him.
To answer or not
Based on what my colleague told me, I started to second-guess myself. Should I have answered to appease him? What if he had physically attacked her? However, you must recognise that the fact that my thoughts went in that direction highlights another problem.
Over the years, women have had to adapt to harassment from men by seeming malleable, out of fear! Is it so unreasonable to want to leave your house as a woman and not be harassed?
To take the discussion a step further, one can point to numerous reports of women being beaten for 'dissin' a man within full view of several spectators who do nothing but watch AND FILM, because surely a woman being beaten is a novelty sport to be watched and, irrespective of the circumstances, women dare not say no to males.
If a woman is affirmatively responsive to catcalling and other forms of harassment, then that's her prerogative. The fact that some women may like it is no indictment on the rest of us who don't, ergo telling us to relax, reviling us, and, of course, wishing death upon (that takes the cake for me) is not an appropriate response. Recognise this Dear Jamaican Man; women have a right to say no, to refuse your advances verbally and non-verbally!
Donia J. Fuller is a final-year student at the Norman Manley Law School and is currently employed at Lex Caribbean, Attorneys-at-law. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.