There was a time in Barbados –– and that was not so long ago –– when secondary school girls and young women carried themselves with such pride and dignity that they were correctly referred to as young ladies. The few exceptions so stood out that they were easily recognizable either within the school environment or their home communities.
The Oxford Dictionary, repository of the Queen’s English, defines a lady as “a courteous, decorous or genteel woman” –– in other words, the kind of woman any self-respecting bachelor would unhesitatingly consider an excellent candidate to be a future wife and mother. When last have you heard our young women being referred to as “ladies”? Hardly lately for sure.
It is not that most schoolgirls and young women are no longer deserving of the appellation. It just happens to be unfortunately a case where the rowdy or “scabbical” behaviour of a minority, to draw an adjective from contemporary youth parlance, is tarnishing the image and reputation of our schoolgirls and young women.
Examples of this “scabbical” behaviour abound –– the frequent videos on social media showing schoolgirls engaged in vicious fights, to the amusement of cheering onlookers. Then there are the sex videos starring our young girls, some of whom proudly proclaim they are “bitches” and “whores” –– additionally, the filthy language and booze drinking which previously was only associated with some men.
Recently, our young women have notched up another notoriety –– making it on to the police wanted list.
This is certainly not the lady-like behaviour for which Barbadian women were previously known. In a recent address to a constituency branch meeting, social commentator and long-standing Democratic Labour Party (DLP) member Dr Leroy McClean drew attention to the worrying behaviour being displayed by some young women. He also presented a thought-provoking thesis on how this behaviour is having a negative influence on men.
Contending that women have historically played a critical role in maintaining society’s moral standards, Dr McClean hypothesized: “If the women of the society ‘go bad’, then the whole society is in trouble.”
He also contended that if our men are in crisis, as some commentators are saying, then women to a large extent must shoulder some responsibility because they have lowered the bar for men by their behaviour.
He explained: “Every man wants a particular type of woman. If he has to wear clean clothes; must have a job; and he must live a certain way to get that woman, he will do it. If the woman is satisfied that he does not have to bathe, he could walk around anyhow, that is what he will do. So if women keep the bar up, the men will strive to get over the bar.”
Dr McClean made some valid points that provide a good platform for kick-starting a much needed debate. The worrying behaviour of some young women is certainly deserving of a much deeper investigation which must consider the current context of the crisis in gender relations, evident, for example, in the rising incidence of domestic violence, and the increasingly dysfunctional nature of Barbadian families.
Pinpointing the underlying causes is not a simple and straightforward matter. However, what seems to be a contributing factor is overexposure to negative media images of black women on cable television. Many young women now in their late teens and 20s would have grown up on hip hop music videos which were a staple of Black Entertainment Television (BET) or Black Embarrassment Television, as some persons call it. These videos often showed scantily clad women gyrating as sexual playthings for the pleasure of gangster-looking black male characters.
Indeed, the lyrics of hip hop music often referred to women as bitches and whores. Add to that the fascination with Jamaican dancehall culture where “scabbical” female behaviour, including engaging in live sex, is portrayed as a big achievement –– and the popular reality shows where women verbally abusing each other and getting into fights are celebrated.
What the so-called “bad girls” seemingly fail to understand in their immaturity is that while most men, including the “bad boys”, will gladly partake of what they have to offer, when it comes to choosing a life partner and settling down, their preference is for a woman with traditional values whom they consider decent and respectable.
What we have here is another case that underscores the need for the introduction of media literacy classes in our schools, a call we previously made. Media literacy will enable our girls and boys to recognize that the media images they see are generally not a true representation of reality, but the construct of some creative imagination aimed, in most instances, at making money.
The time for intervention to save our girls is now!