Calypsonians reflect on gender issues

Calypsonians addressed many issues for Vincy Mas 2012. But issues related to male and female relations were quite prominent in some of the calypsoes. In particular, domestic violence was one of the issues they highlighted, showing that calypsonians continue to be relevant in a time when many are questioning the value of the calypsonian as a meaningful advocate for social change and development. And for sure, our society needs social change in connection to violence in male-female relationships.

Impact of gender violence

Gender violence came under scrutiny by several calypsonians. They describe the horrible ordeal of domestic violence in our society. The 2011 Calypso Monarch Tajoe is very clear in his song “Read Between The Lines.” He highlights the fact that many women are beaten and battered by men. He points out in his song the treatment of women as hookers, and the situation in which underage daughters are been sexually abused. He sadly declares that the grievances are too many.

Diya, formerly known as Lady Diamond, in her song “Chant Down Domestic Violence” highlights the impact of this kind of violence. In the second verse of her song, Diya gets graphic and descriptive. She sings: “Many women have been beaten and killed/Gruesome crimes bring our heart to a standstill/Bones are broken and body parts are chopped off/The perpetrators seem to be having a good laugh/Many are badly injured and traumatised for life/All because of domestic strife/In villages and towns/You could find ah victim/For them this song I Diya must sing.”

Sunny Banks, in his song titled “Violence Against Men,” also sings about domestic violence but not against women; this time it is against men. He sings about his friend’s experiences with domestic violence and describes his friend looking like Adam when he was deceived by Eve. His friend was pushed around like a shopping cart by his wife, and in his home, he feels like an intruder. In the end she got 68 per cent of the wealth and he got 32 per cent. He informs us that some men get buss head, beaten with frying pan and spoon, and even get hot water thrown in their faces.

In her song, “Under His Thumbs,” Joy-C observes a relationship and she is of the opinion that the man’s intention is to keep the woman under his thumbs. If the wife does not consult him about the family planning methods she is using, he gets upset. It is as if he is saying that babies should be born every Monday morning. This means that for everything she wants she must depend on him. She cannot have friends. The husband seeks to control how she relates to her friends and even her diet.

Causes of domestic violence

Calypsonians explore what could be causing domestic violence. In this connection, Tajoe says that women are failing to identify potential abusers. He is baffled at domestic violence and asks: Why do men want to abuse women? How could ah man hurt a lady; as a man he cannot understand violence against women. In addition, Sunny Banks says that his abused friend thinks his wife is ungrateful. She is possessed by the devil and displays demonic behaviours. He also hints that maybe his abused friend is not satisfying his wife sexually.

Diya was very direct in highlighting the causes. She points to drugs, insanity, poverty, inability to manage conflicts, power play within relationships, bully mentality, and extreme jealousy.

Solutions to domestic violence

The calypsonians share with us their conclusions about the solutions. In her song “Woman”, 2012 Calypso Monarch Fyah Empress reminds us that if we look at women from certain perspectives, violence against them might be reduced and eradicated. She asserts that women are symbols of hope, trust, harmony, and strength of the family. Motherhood is an honour; thus men should cherish women, since they bring their children into the world. She goes further to indicate that if a man treats a woman right, she will always be there for him. She appeals to women to uplift themselves with education, because this will help build a better nation.

Seeing women as wonderful and beautiful, Poorsah in his rendition “Woman Is For Loving” reminds men that women are for loving, and it is time for men to realize that women are not pieces of merchandise. And with firmness, Tajoe asks, is violence the only solution? He proposes that women could avoid domestic violence committed by men against them. He wants women to read between the lines. He also wants men to seriously remember that women carry them for nine months in their stomach and then give birth to their lives; thus women should be treated with dignity. They deserve to be cherished and protected, and they should be treated as treasures.

After he got to know the details of his friend’s situation, Sunny Banks advised him don’t forget to pray and thank the Lord that you still have life. According to Sunny Banks, part of the solution to avoid the domestic violence his friend was experiencing was to improve his sexual power. To do this he must stay away from cheese, eat shark fin and various kinds of peas, and engage in exercises.

Diya also points out solutions such as finding ways to peacefully resolve conflicts, getting the entire nation to address domestic violence, awareness-raising about power issues in relations between men and women, and the need to internalize the principles of respect and love for humanity.

Joy C sings about breaking the cycle of poverty and making women more self-reliant. She must be educated and qualified in a profession. Queen B adds her voice too; she suggests that “Women Are Their Biggest Enemy.” She seems to be suggesting that once women start protecting and promoting other women, maybe the negative things men do to them will stop.

Certainly this year, calypso has shown again its capacity for addressing issues of social change and development. Hence the need to ensure the art form is protected and given the support to continue growing.

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