I feel like pontificating this week. I don’t know all about everything, and I don’t even know if you care about the little I’ve found out. So I apologize upfront for making you endure this.
Men only like to be in “friends-with-benefits” relationships when they are the ones dictating the benefits and the rules of the friendship. Well, I should not say men. I should say Barbadian men.
Go to most Barbadian men, tell them: “I am completely fine. The only thing I wish of you is ‘services’, and we can be friends.”
They puff their chests up and they enter the arrangement, but after the fourth or fifth encounter and you not “catching feelings”, the discussion quickly turns to “what is wrong with you?”, or the excuses start to flow.
I felt the need to outline that because several Barbadian women are encouraged to believe the arrangement is “hip”, partly by the validation of it by the recent calypso and popular culture. I suggest that most Barbadian women are not in a financial or liberated enough state to take on a friend with benefits.
If you find yourself in a relationship where you exchange sex for bill payments or services such as hair or nail care, you do not have a friend with benefits; you are engaging in transactional sex. If you have emotionally invested in a man and you believe in “holding on to this until more comes”, you do not have a fun friend; you have a man who is getting your best effort and attention for the price of a candy cane and an intermittent snack special.
A friend-with-benefits arrangement is nothing more than “services”. Both adults walk to it with that understanding, and both leave with that understanding. Nobody depends on the other financially, and certainly there is no emotional attachment. These arrangements usually occur on vacations or short trips, and afterwards the parties leave and never look back at each other.
The geographical realities of Barbados make fun friendship tricky. Above that, the socialization of the “man” presets
him to reject the conceptual framework associated with the arrangement. A woman is to “want” a man and she is to “depend” on him. Women also have no sexual agency in the traditional socialization of men; so women are not to need sex or be able to negotiate it in any arrangement, much less one as loose as fun friendship.
I wanted to put these issues squarely on the table without judgement. The arrangement a woman chooses and her reasons for her choice are hers alone.
I get a little jumpy though that popular culture is perpetuating the “wutlessness” of the Barbadian male under other guises –– and now with the willing participation and encouragement of Barbadian women.
Right! That felt good! So I am jumping a little further in. I want to pontificate on a historical matter next. I was extremely disappointed with some of the distortions of history made over the last few days in our national debate on the position of the Speaker of the House and the unfolding saga.
As a student of history, I have always been told that two things are fundamental and basic to the telling of a historical account: context and chronology. Both of these were thrown to the wind in order to compare former Speaker of the House Burton Hinds with the current Speaker Michael Carrington.
Walter Clare Burton Hinds first came to the House of Assembly in 1966 as the representative for St Peter. In 1976, he was made the Speaker of the House by Tom Adams. There was an outcry from the then Opposition Democratic Labour Party because Hinds had been convicted of criminal libel in 1960.
On the face of it, it is correct to say that there was a former Speaker with a conviction in the Barbadian House of Parliament; but context and chronology make it hard to compare this fact with the current state of affairs.
First to chronology. W.C. Burton Hinds ran a little paper called The Truth, which was headquartered opposite St Mary’s Anglican Church in Bridgetown. Hinds was one of the many fierce journalists who were an integral part of the nationalist movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
The trial of Percy Bushell commenced before Justice Stoby in the High Court. Bushell had been charged with armed robbery. The case was specially watched because Bushell was a member of the elite class. During the affair, Bushell had the editor of The Advocate, Ian Gale, charged with contempt for an account of the robbery reported in the paper. The motion was filed while Bushell was at Glendairy Prisons.
The motion was called the same day as the start of Bushell’s criminal trial and it was to be heard by the same Justice Stoby. While all this unfolded, a foreign (white) journalist was admitted to the hearings, but local (black) journalists were not.
On October 12, 1960, an article titled Justice Is Not A Cloistered Virtue appeared in The Truth. The article inter alia made a case for (local) journalists to be present in the court when Ian Gale was being tried. Hinds was charged with contempt of court. He was found guilty and sentenced to six weeks in prison without hard labour.
Now the context. The 1960s can be categorized as the peak of the nationalist movement in the Caribbean. The Truth was one of several similar publications that emerged as an important element of the nationalist culture. One historian notes that publications such as Abeng, Kyk-Over-Al, The Beacon and Bim (to name a few) were catalytic forces in the nationalist movement. The periodical/newspaper/pamphlet tentacle was connected to a wider literary movement that was engulfing the nationalist Caribbean.
Writers and artists were finding space and philosophical support for the “new vision of the Caribbean” in Cuba. Groups like the Caribbean Artists Movement provided focus and energy to the call for expanded self-governance in the region. These activities climaxed in the late 1960s with activities like the student riots at Mona and wider acceptance of Rastafarian and Black Power ideologies.
For those who know and understand the chronology and the context to just “pluck out” the event for a particular narrow purpose is a national disgrace. The circumstances surrounding Speaker Burton Hinds and Speaker Michael Carrington are in no way the same. No comparison can ever be accurate when the premise upon which the argument is constructed are apples and oranges.
Are we now going to rewrite the history for mere political survival?
Many freedom fighters were charged; but we do not say that Rosa Parks, for example, broke the law by sitting down, do we? My mind moves faster than my logic and thus this week, as in others, questions abound where answers are few. Are we at a crossroads in our land?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and a part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies. Email: [email protected])