Living room scant, brush in hand, positioned in front of the mirror wearing my turban, I wait for the music, ready to channel a calypso heroine, a true woman’s champion, the indomitable Singing Sandra. The music starts and I am across the room, belting out lyric after lyric as if my life depended on it, as if defending my crown. “You want to help to mind your family, you want to help your man financially, But nowadays it really very hard to get a job as a girl in Trinidad, You looking out to find something to do, you meet a boss man who promise to help you, But when the man let down the condition, nothing else but humiliation, They want to see you whole anatomy, they want to see what you doctor never see, They want to do what you husband never do, still you ain’t know if these scamps will hire you, Well if is all this humiliation to get a job these days as a woman. Brother they could keep their money, I go keep my honey, and die with my dignity!”
Little did I know back then as an impressionable young girl, who dreamed of one day dominating the stage like my “idol” Singing Sandra that her lyrics would somehow implant themselves into my fiber, and shape my identity and worth as a WOMAN. Little did I know that one day I would find myself in a position, where I would have to say, “I have me pride and I have me ambition, I want to hold up me head up high as a woman, So brother you could keep your money, I go keep my honey and die with my dignity!” Never did I imagine that I would have to look another human being in the face as if he was stark raving mad, and ask that person for clarification. Clarification was indeed necessary, as I just didn’t want to believe that this madman, this disrespectful vagabond was trying “to put question to me,” asking that I compromise my dignity. Never did I imagine such an emotional violation, such an assault of my person, as it seemed that this man had serious, serious expectations and thought that he would be guaranteed instantaneous satisfaction.
I searched his face, for some sign that this man was a “prankster.” I really wanted to believe that somehow he celebrated April fool’s every day. When I realized that he was dead serious, I thanked him for his time, and eased up from my chair.My face was “set like ten rat traps.” All the while the lyrics of the great Singing Sandra were rushing to my head, particularly the lines, “So before I have to lick down somebody and cuss them so the police come for me. I tell them they can keep their money, I go keep my honey and die with my dignity! I am a woman, who don’t make any skylark, before I slap them and they die of heart attack, tell them they can keep their money I go keep my honey and die with my dignity!”
When a man is going to look at one’s resume and imply that there is no way that a woman of my age could have possibly accomplished or achieved the things that she has without compromising her dignity, it is not only insulting but rather infuriating. Being a driven or ambitious young woman doesn’t actually translate into, “I will do whatever it takes to accomplish my goals, sell my “treasure,” or as Singing Sandra puts it, means that I would be willing to “cock up like a bloody acrobat.”
It really makes you question whether what the Nobel Prize Winning President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said has any credence, that in order to be respected by the Old Boys Club, that you have to work twice as hard and be twice as good. Why work twice as hard or try to be twice as good, when a trip to the “promiseland,” with guaranteed satisfaction, equals success, and replaces drive and ambition?
You see in the year 2011, with all of the advancements that women have made, and with all of legislations, the declarations and treaties signed onto, women regardless of who they are or what they have achieved; women are still viewed as meat and as mere objects for sexual gratification by some men; men who so willingly use their power and positions to abuse and exploit women. This isn’t just a local, regional but also an international pandemic. Yes, it’s a pandemic! Most recently we have had the Dominique Strauss-Kahn accusations. Allegations were rampant that the former head of the IMF used his influential and powerful position in the exploitation and violation of women. Now U.S. Presidential Candidate Herman Cain is making headlines, accused of sexual harassment, so it’s not a local or regional issue, it’s a power, and violation of women’s rights issue.
When a man is going to tell you that in order to land the job, get a raise, hold onto your job, climb the corporate ladder or in order to be welcomed into the “Old Boys Club” you have “to cock up like a blinking prostitute,” it really does make you question not only the way in which women are viewed or valued in our society, but also whether women who find themselves in such unfortunate predicaments, whether these women actually buckle under the pressure and end up compromising their dignities. It makes you question, how many women have found themselves in similar situations. I am certain, very certain that I was not the first person, who had that encounter with that slothful vagabond. I can say with much certainty, that if he had “buck up on a woman just like me, one who had immense integrity, and would never compromise her damn dignity, he wasn’t going to continue taking such liberty.”
It really makes you question, that is with the din of championing women’s rights, now drowned out by the countless reports of shootings, killings, robbing, and kidnappings, where and to whom do these women turn? It really makes you question, that is, with the “reverse empowerment” of women with lyrics sung by women, encouraging women to take charge of their sexuality by offering their dignities up for sale on their own terms, it makes you question the lessons that our young girls are being taught? I can tell you that this is no longer 1987 when I was eight years old with Singing Sandra’s lyrics blaring on the airwaves. All I can say is, “what a sad, sad condition!”
It really makes you question those who dismiss such violations and the exploitation of women, as a mere disagreement or misunderstanding between a man and woman. I have heard the comments by both men and women, “What is the big deal, he is a big man, she is a big woman, he put question to her all she have to do is say no, simple as that… aint like he rape her… this is bloody nonsense…I don’t see what all the blinking noise is for…oh she is just like Anita Hill…these women just trying to cause confusion and tarnish a man “good” reputation…” Do you know how it feels to be objectified? All I can say is that I do not wish this predicament upon your mother, daughter, sister, aunty or cousin. I wish this predicament and exposure on no woman.
When a man is “wrenk” enough to tell you, that it would be a fair exchange, “something for something…. When a man is going to tell you, stop going on so, is not like you are the Virgin Mary, what is it if you give him a lil piece, aint like it going mash up…When a man is going to tell you that it will be your lil secret, who but the two of you going know…When a man aint going watch no face, don’t think twice to tell you, you have a husband, he has a wife, that can’t stop the show… When a man is barefaced enough to tell you that every woman has a price… When a man is going to accost you and tell you that you done give it away for free, what wrong if you give it away for position, favour and money… As Singing Sandra says, “if you value yourself as a woman, you have to demand respect from the vagabond, Stand up to him and let him know the truth, that you not a blinking prostitute…you have to let him know that you have you pride and ambition and that you want to hold you head high as a woman.” Say, “Brother you can keep your money, I going keep my honey and die with my dignity.”