on "Love Puny Bad"
Misogynistic Masculinity in Dancehall Culture
In spite of the
very lengthy discourse presented by Ms. Hope in the above referred
series of articles (Sunday Gleaner) the question of whether
the dancehall is misogynistic is still a moot one.
One comes to such a discussion with the devotion born of an
emotional response and goes away with an un-tempered opinion.
All pretenses to the contrary the answer is already given
before the deliberation commences.
It is YES, or, NO, theory and argumentation not
withstanding, depending on one’s position in the gender war.
But what does
it really matter if DJs are misogynists? Misogyny is considered deviant behavior.
Official society has long branded dancehall culture as
deviant and butoo-ish (low class). And seldom has anyone thought
it worthwhile to contest this slander. Certainly not the guardians
of polite society represented by the Jamaica Gleaner. So
what is going on here with all this energy being spent to show
Here is a
reminder for those with amnesia. Bob
Marley was for so-called "decent" Jamaicans a "dutty
nasty niega [nigger]" until the youth of North America and
Europe acknowledged him as "King."
This once "deviant" son of the soil is now
synonymous with all that is good about Jamaica. Since his death in
1981 his image and his work has been co-opted in the service of
the national interest, i.e., the interest of the ruling elite. The
point I’m making here is that if the cultural and artistic
expressions of the dancehall
are to be so regarded, then "deviancy" is a positive
aspect of Jamaica’s cultural experience.
sterile upper and middle class have no custom of their own. They
borrow shamelessly from the Europeans in Europe and America. Now
that the Europeans are embracing Dancehall music the middle class
has to de-stigmatize it. It just will not do to embrace "low
life" Jamaican (African- proletarian) culture without
sanitizing it and divesting it of its "unsavory"
qualities by scholarly reinterpretation.
Weed smoking and misogyny aside, the Jamaican elite has to embrace
the Dancehall or find itself left out of the loop of euro-hipness.
And, that is the rationale for this reassessment of the gender
politics of Dancehall. Co-optation is the name of the game.
It is an
especially urgent exercise in view of the emergence of a
Portuguese-Jamaican, the quintessential Euro-Jamaican, Sean Paul,
as dancehall icon.
To be truthful
the DJs are irrelevant; the dance hall is a grotesque masquerade,
a new age Jonkunoo (a slave dance); and the punaany debate is a
farce. The real
debate is about relations of power (gender politics included) and
about the political drama in a stagnant and derelict society.
Common sense tells us that!
There is a hint that Ms. Hope (the writer of the articles)
understands the important issues but she sacrifices the
illumination of this understanding to enter a meaningless debate about DJs and Dancehall Queens (DQs). The
DJs and DQs are the symptoms. The
disease is the corrupt power structure that has shunted the
aspirations of a nation – the aspirations of the intellectuals
included – into the dancehall. (The dancehall is a publicly
acknowledged safety valve!)
world one might abandon common sense, and understanding, and
safely make a vocation, in the arena of scholarship, of pursuing
an absurdity. In fact, the more perverse the absurdity the more
highly prized the scholarship associated with it. And we have the
very essence of an absurdity here in these articles.
I shall borrow
copious quotes from the article in the course of making a few
observations about the matter under discussion.
Under patriarchy, the cultural norm of
male identity consists in power, prestige, privilege and
prerogative as over and against the gender class women.
That is what masculinity is. (John
Stoltenberg in Toward Gender Justice quoted in
In so far as masculinity consists in power,
prestige, privilege, and prerogative as over and against the
gender class women, femininity is implicitly defined in
antithetical terms. To the point, femininity is powerlessness,
lack of prestige, privilege, and prerogative over against the
gender class women. By definition then, this is what it means to be female!
The larger proportion of men in the world, therefore, is
feminized, indeed, by this proposition, are female under
The corollary of this is that, by these
criteria, a significant number of the world’s female population
who have wealth, power, prestige, and prerogative over against
women have become masculine. Martha
Stewart, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, and Oprah are rich,
powerful, newly minted men. (Perhaps
there is something to the outrageous allegation that these women
have balls.) It is a concept which borders on the preposterous! It is not
gender that is at work here; it is the power of wealth, the power
Indeed, the existence of what has been
labelled homophobia, I argue, may be more correctly
labelled "femmephobia," as in Jamaica, this
dialogue speaks to some core issues affecting not only the
masculine and feminine identities in the dancehall, but
also a broader masculine and feminine identity in Jamaica.
The author consistently confuses identity with
The identification of “homophobia” with
"femmephobia" is not at all illuminating.
The conception runs into trouble on this account:
homosexuality transforms some women into masculine beings and some
men into feminine ones. In these states of being (roles) men are conquered by the
penis and women are conquered by the punaany. The “receptive”
subordinate men are feminized;
the dominant women are masculinized.
It must be pointed out that women are as
anti-homosexual as men are. If this non-acceptance of
homosexuality represents a phobia, a fear, then women fear
homosexuals just as much as men do.
Extending the writers logic, women fear masculinization
just as men fear feminization.
So homophobia for women is masculinophobia
(if I may coin a word) as it is femmephobia
for men. Homophobia is both femmephobia and masculinophobia, not
just the former as the writer asserts. The writer’s theorization
produces a lopsided analysis that implicitly incorporates the
fictive non-analytical notion that “homophobia” is a male
affliction. So, even in this subtle manner, heterosexual men find
themselves under attack.
In any event, it is absurd to say that people
who are not pro-homosexual are homophobic.
Most people simply find this conduct abhorrent and are not
any more afraid of homosexuals than they are of heterosexuals (men
and women) who are profligate.
Gay women are the ones, who evidently need to
be fearful of the "repository of power," the punaany,
for, finding themselves subordinate to other women, they are the
ones who are conquered by it. The
men in this drama, of course, have something more repulsive to
fear – the overpowering penis. Homophobia (read, in the biased
language of the author of the Jamaica Gleaner articles,
fear of the phallus) is the appropriate response.
The DJs have properly identified this source of fear.
The academician is wrong. It seems, though, that all these
fears must be ascribed to homosexuals and not heterosexuals.
It [patriarchy] is masculism in a
political context and is supported by all the institutions
operating within that system or society. One should note
here that patriarchy is not only male dominance in its
strictest sense, but also a persistent ideology of male
super-ordination that both men and women maintain
consciously and unconsciously.
The alternative to patriarchy is of course
matriarchy, female "dominance."
It is a system in which both men and women would continue
to be "victims!" Any notion of a genderless society is
deception. Only a
very stupid man could believe this absurdity. Politics is about
who rules in society and gender politics is no different.
Women want to rule, plain and simple.
The feminist agenda is not domestic as the
title of the first installment of the article suggested.
This agenda is patently and overtly political.
The gender war is a political struggle not a "bedroom
conflict." (My woman and I have bedroom conflicts.
She pouts at me for being insensitive.
I pull a “long face” back at her for not getting my
lovin’. A little later we
make up. No political
issues arise.) This
political drama is played out in the public arena, in this
instance the Jamaican Dancehall.
The objective of this struggle is the institution of a
system of Matriarchy. In
short, it is to substitute the domination of women by men for the
domination of men by women.
It is a proposition that I cannot abide. I much
rather mine to be at the helm if a gender has to rule.
When the time comes, mine will be the most reactionary role
– I will take up arms to subdue those "feminine rebels."
I am as serious as a heart attack! Those who have not suffered the
wrath of women in America, or the brunt of pro-women legislation
to the extent of having their wages taken away or their meager
property divided in half are free to lend their support to the
feminist agenda. I am patently against it! Gender rule is every
bit as bad as class rule.
And that, incidentally, is what the issue is,
in the Jamaican dancehall. The
DJs have taken a firm stand against the feminist and gay-lesbian
agenda even though official Jamaican society has submitted to
these. In this respect the Jamaican DJs are political activists.
They are resisting what they perceive to be the alien political
ideologies of Feminism and Gay-Lesbianism which is taking root
within the cultural and political landscape.
They are articulating the sentiments and giving expression
to the will of the overwhelming majority of Jamaican people.
In a profound way this is a life and death
struggle for a people whose very survival hangs in the balance
(courtesy of AIDS, starvation, fratricide, economic and cultural
stagnation, etc.) They are moved instinctually to guard against
attempts to curtail reproduction. Feminism and Gay-Lesbianism runs
counter to this imperative for survival in Jamaica where, as in
Africa, breeding is a MUST.
Mohammed notes that crucial sites for
power struggles in gender relations are generally located
in the sphere of sexuality and reproduction.
One of the most powerful political currents is
the advocacy of gay-lesbian rights.
The "sphere of sexuality" is
practically synonymous to gay-lesbian activism. This, in essence, is the political struggle of the homosexual
population to secure concessions. It
is a struggle instructed by reformism, a struggle for "civil
liberties," and a struggle for gay people to be integrated
into mainstream society. It
is a constricted political agenda informed by a pernicious
hedonistic philosophy, which does not challenge the status quo
fundamentally. Homosexuals are not trying to abolish Capitalist
society, they are trying to "fit
in" and live a more un-closeted life.
Reproduction is a non-issue on this platform.
Homosexuals are not trying to breed.
By contrast reproduction is the focal point of
the radical feminist struggle (as distinct from the gay lobby).
Here in the USA, it is styled the pro-choice agenda.
The womb has found legal recognition in America
as a means and instrument of production (surrogate motherhood at a
price). It is the source of a most valuable commodity – the
human individual. The struggle between the factions (working class
women, on the one hand, and conservative Capitalist America, on
the other) will persist until labor power becomes obsolete; until
a satisfactory industrial means (bio-robotics, let us say) is
developed to produce laborers; or, until state-sponsored welfare
motherhood is legislated universally.
One observes that the society becomes more
"permissive" toward abortion, homosexuality, punaany for
hire, and welfare-ism (a ghetto vice which is worse than crack
cocaine) as industrial production progresses through phases of
mechanization. This reflects a progressive devaluation of
reproductive labor-power (the ability to breed) in accordance with
the replacement of human labor-power by machines. It signifies a
decline in the power of the punaany.
The feminist struggle for so-called "reproductive
rights" is a struggle to appropriate to women the "means
of production of human labor power."
It is gender politics with profound implications.
The seizure of the means of production (reproduction) by a
social class, in pursuit of exclusionary class interests, is the
hallmark of capitalist revolution.
The gender-class women are reinforcing private ownership
over public resources.
The feminist movement constitutes today the
most radical element among the capitalist class
(a concept with which University of the West Indies (UWI) intellectuals are very
familiar). They are
not the redeemers of the society they profess to be!
It appears to me that the working class has no
economic incentive to reproduce itself. The economic motivation lies with the capitalist.
They have to renew the supply of labor.
The struggle, therefore, is between capitalist (men and
women) on the one hand, and working class women on the other, for
their reproductive power and rights of control over it.
"Liberated" women will have to fight
tyrannical capitalist women for this right as long as labor is in
the economic equation. The
liberation of women from male tyranny hands them over to female
tyranny in much the same way as black people are handed over to
black tyrants after they have been liberated from white ones.
Because of their tenuous place in the
relationships of production, many black men have little
real power over black women.
All right then! The premise of gender politics
is false where a population of powerless men and women are
concerned. The power
brokers are to be identified and the real struggle pinpointed.
It is not about sex, or, the punaany!
But let us talk about the punaany if we must.
Urban society reduces the power associated with
the punaany – more aptly the womb – for it diminishes the
important link between reproduction and the sex act. Sex becomes a past time, a mode/source of entertainment, a
recreational activity (as opposed to creational). In this manner the punany is transformed from a "repository
of power" to a mere orifice; from sacred vessel to a
utilitarian receptacle – a disposable thing!
It is delusional to think otherwise.
Women liberated from the traditional gender
relations and, in consequence, from their habitual roles in
society are free to participate fully in the market. Thus are women made free in capitalist society, free, that
is, to offer themselves as things in the market (the universal
cultural space). Just as the wage earners price (wages) may be set
at a piecemeal rate so too the price for the sexual commodity.
Punaany becomes a thing to be bought, used,
discarded, and generally ill-used, as are all commodities.
A man may “love” punany in the same sense as he "loves"
fried chicken, sushi, a glass of red wine, and dumpling.
He may treasure it as a sacred chalice, or, discard it like
rotten fish. And, of course, he may talk about it in a shameless fashion, for
what is in the public domain is already publicized – no more
privacy for punaany!
Women too are free to engage, and do engage, in
the punaany market as buyers and abusers of said commodity. It is
a consumers market subject to all vagaries of the marketplace and
completely tied to the power of money. Women with the power of
Capital behind them can do what they will with other women. They
can have as much punaany as their money will buy. That is the
trouble with punaany nowadays, it has no
power. Money has divested it of all its power.
As a resident of the golden state, I can attest
to the benefits, or, lack thereof, of liberated womanhood.
Punaany galore! And
a lot of angry, unfulfilled, vindictive women besides.
Contrary-wise I have maintained a monogamous
relationship with my woman secure in the knowledge that punaany is
free. She is assured of the
complementary prospect. Yet
for all this liberated pubis we feel no "freedom."
Ours is a bond in the struggle of life, so, we keep our
"stuff" strictly between the two of us.
It is a compact between equals.
There is simply no room for conquest. I do not have to
negotiate my masculinity – I take it for granted.
of black bedroom conflict, Jamaica Gleaner,
and conquering the feared p---ny, Jamaica Gleaner,
for ‘Mama’ in the dancehall, Jamaica Gleaner,
* * *
Mukoma wa Ngugi
Her womb pressed against the desert to
bear the parasite
that eats her insides like termites
drill into dry wood.
He is born into an empty bowl, fist
choking umbilical cord.
She dies sighing, child son at last. He
couldn't have known,
instinct told him - always raise your
arm in defense of your
own -Strike! Strike until they are all
dead! Egg shells
in your hands milk bottle held between
you have been anointed twice, you strong
enough to kill
at birth and survive. You will want to
name the world
after yourself but you will have no
name- a collage of dead
roots, tongues and other things. You
will point your sword
to the center of the earth, duel the
world to split into perfect
mirrors after your imperfect mutations
but you will be
too weak having latched your self onto
too many streams
straddling too many continents, pulling
patches of a self
as one does fruits from an from an
orchard, building a home
of planks with many faces. How does one
look into a mirror
with a face that washes clean every
He has an identity for every occasion -
here he is Lenin
there Jesus and yesterday Marx -
inflexible truths inherited
without roots. To be nothing to remain
nothing, to kill
at birth - such love can only drink from
our wrists. We
storming from our past to Jo'Burg eating
wisdom of others
building homes made of our grandparent's
gathering momentum that eats out of our
earth, We standing
pens and bullets hurled at you, your
enemies. Comrade, there
are many ways to die. A dog dies never
why it lived but a free death belongs to
a life lived in roots,
roots not afraid of growing where they
stand, roots tapped all over
the earth. Comrade,
for a tree to grow, it must first own
* * * * *
The Slave Ship
By Marcus Rediker
* * *
Wild Women Don’t Have the
By Ida Cox
I hear these women raving 'bout their
About their fighting husbands and their
no good friends
These poor women sit around all day and
Wondering why their wandering papas
don't come home
But wild women don't worry, wild women
don't have the blues.
Now when you've got a man, don't ever be
on the square
'Cause if you do he'll have a woman
I never was known to treat no one man
I keep 'em working hard both day and
because wild women don't worry, wild
women don't have no blues.
I've got a disposition and a way of my
When my man starts kicking I let him
find another home
I get full of good liquor, walk the
streets all night
Go home and put my man out if he don't
Wild women don't worry, wild women don't
have no blues
You never get nothing by being an angel
You better change your ways and get real
I wanna tell you something, I wouldn't
tell you no lie
Wild women are the only kind that ever
Wild women don't worry, wild women don't
have no blues.
Prather,25 February 1896 in Toccoa,
Habersham County, Georgia, United
States. Died 10 November 1967 (aged 71)
Genres Jazz, Blues Instruments Vocalist.
* * *
* * * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
The Last Holiday: A Memoir
By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)
* * *
Hunger for a Black President /
Introduction I Write What I Like
Speaks on Africans
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
7 March 2012