Whatever you will celebrating today, I trust you do it in good health, good spirits and in the sight of your loved ones and family. In months like the last few, it is our grounding in the companionship of friends and family that has kept us emotionally healthy enough to press on.
Whether there is as much food as last year, old curtains or new, the significance of December 25 for me is not the birthday of a white god. It is that we get the time to reverence our tangible family and friends who are truly created in our image.
I have followed the principles of Rastafari for over two decades and have struggled at times to find dishes I could consume at my family gatherings. I have, however, never stopped going to these gatherings, because “hard or soft”, at the end of the day, family is all we have.
I frown upon religions that restrict families from reaching out to each other at Christmas or at other times of the year. It is the manifestation of the intolerance upon which most religions are founded.
Practically, if you cannot go to a family gathering and believe what you believe for one day and let others believe what they believe for one day, how do you love your neighbour as yourself 364 other days of the year?
Family units in Barbados need all the time they can get to become stronger entities. This is true of both extended and immediate families.
A big concern for me out of the prolonged economic condition in the island is the social fallout that commands less attention. We seem to be becoming immune to the shootings and murders; the public outcry dwindles more after each episode.
The individualism in the social consciousness is fast becoming a feature of the “Bajan way”. With increased work hours on the horizon, I anticipate more negative fallout for the family unit.
The Government of Barbados never followed through on a campaign promise of 2008 to ensure that there were supports for Barbadian families, including but not limited to an increase in nurseries for working mothers. Even if the nurseries had been provided, I wonder if we realize that a 24-hour workday will mean a necessity for 24-hour child care services.
Are we prepared for the national support which has to be provided for a nation of largely single mother-headed households? Long after the economic issues have been rectified in Barbados, if we do not pay closer attention the social issues we are fostering, we will continue to destabilize the development of our island.
Another outstanding issue which I have with the church is its continual restriction of the female body. The Caribbean church is in celebratory mode because singer Lady Saw is now a convert. I am not sure exactly what being a convert is, but I suspect that Saw will have to become more “lady-like”.
In the context of the church that usually translates to being sexless, or at least only sexual in the confines of a marriage.
I do not think Lady Saw can stay true to who she is and be a Christian, and that will be a loss to a generation
of Caribbean girls.
People read the raunchiness of Lady Saw’s music, but many missed the wider womanist contextualization of her work. Saw came to dancehall on her own terms. She came with the message that she could interpret her own sexuality and that the dance hall was not only a space for men to tell women how to pleasure them.
She showed that women also had a right to tell men what they needed and to draw boundaries on the power
of sexual relations.
Saw gave permission to the women of my generation to embrace our sexuality. She told us that it was not okay to be monogamous for a polygamous man, and that we were not “tramps” for giving what we received in relationships.
This was perhaps a creolized legitimization of the white feminist message. Lady Saw was blamed for corruption of impressionable minds; but, again these analysts were misreading her lyrics which always demanded respect for self, cleanliness and protection against sexually transmitted diseases and other complications.
I am not glorifying Lady Saw by any stretch of the imagination. There remained some problematic stereotypes in her portfolio, but interestingly these were not the ones attacked most
in her body of work.
She advised us to find “rich men” and to ensure that sex was properly compensated by monetary favour. These aspects of her message were so in keeping with cultural norms that they went unchallenged and unquestioned. Such are the double standards of the Caribbean church and why I believe it has lost the moral capital to weigh in seriously with the 35-and-under segments of our society.
While it attacks the outward raunchiness in society, it turns a blind eye to the male hegemony and the elements of the system that uphold the hegemony.
The only contemporary female dancehall artist who comes close to Saw is perhaps Tanya Stephens, but her repertoire is not as extensive. Other female dancehall artists seem not to be as liberated or purposeful in their offerings as Saw was.
If scrutinized they would perhaps be found more guilty of simply perpetuating the role of woman as provider of men’s sexual needs without attention
to their own needs and desires.
It is with sadness that I bid Saw farewell from the dance hall. I was looking forward to a mature Saw continuing to write music that let older women know that sex and sexuality as they aged were still normal and allowed. I await to see what “the saved Saw” will be; but I suspect she will be only a shell of herself.
Anyway, to return to the beginning –– I take no more time away from your merriment. The takeaway is that it is perfectly fine to allow family and friends to do the things that please them, and for you to do the things that please you.
It is also not necessary to convert anyone around the dinner table today. Just fellowship and support will do. Those are the two central things which every human soul needs, and I hope, for at least a day, we can put our differences aside and provide that for our close family
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.