Sometimes – scratch sometimes – advocacy in the women’s and girls’ space is always lonely, painstaking and melancholy work. The frustrations are many; there are people who seem to thrive on perpetually misunderstanding and misrepresenting what women are agitating and fighting for. Most disappointing and confusing of all though, are the women who remain deeply invested in patriarchy.
Trinidad Carnival is gearing up and the music sweet, sweet as ever for days. One song has struck a chord with me though, and it is not for good reasons. Farmer Nappy has a tune called ‘Hookin Meh’ that is to be added right up there with some of the more problematic songs in the various Caribbean genres of music.
I think the most dangerous thing about the song is that it is not ‘Ragga Ragga’ neither is it bashment. The sound is a mellow, methodical, sweet soca but the lyrics make a mockery of women’s right to safely negotiate the end of a relationship and to have the power of a ‘done’.
The song is penned as a rejoinder to his girlfriend who has invited Nappy to her house for one last meal where she announces that she no longer feels able to carry on their relationship. Nappy informs the woman that due to the way she cooked and looked he was already hooked on her and he was not going to let her go.
The song glorifies possessive and obsessive tendencies in men and confuses them with markers of love. We have been trying to teach women that the possessiveness and obsessiveness in relationships are warning signs of toxic unions and this behaviour should not be tolerated or encouraged.
Past the lyrics, there are also some alarming and, in my mind, insensitive images in the video to the song. Machel Montano brands the woman a trophy in response to an image that Nappy sends of her. This reinforces the objectification of women and diminishes her worth as anything other than an appendage that is to look pretty and not cause her owner any stress.
What looks to be the male child of the couple portrayed is present through some of the ‘adult’ conversations in the video. He is also pictured dragging the father’s bags back in when his mother puts them out. Again, the suggestion that the child gets between the father and mother and upholds his father’s wishes is problematic. The child is portrayed as an upholder of the toxic masculine traits of obsession and possession. He is ‘another generation of man in training’.
In a cruel and memory triggering scene for many victims of attacks and families who have lost loved ones, Nappy is seen next to the woman he vows not to be leaving carrying out a task with a knife. Those of us who work with victims of intimate partner unrest know that men are very good at manipulating objects such as knives, or guns, or other implements while threatening their victims covertly or overtly. The scene in the video is downright reckless and insensitive.
One of the subtext scenes in the video portrays Nappy’s inability to have a mature discussion when his partner indicates that she wishes to end the relationship. This is another image of toxic masculinity upheld. Men are not to have emotions or express them and it is often that inability to adequately deal with problems that arise that leave men feeling as though harming others and blaming others for their actions is acceptable.
Nappy concludes that relationships are stress – again he is removing responsibility from himself and placing it on the women who ‘hooked’ him and relationships – everything outside himself. It is unfortunate that after all the time and money spent, this is what is produced as a top hit for this year’s carnival.
Perhaps I would not feel so badly and dejected explaining these things over and over if it were only men we still needed to educate. However, Farmer Nappy’s manager is female. That she seemingly could not conduct the requisite gender analysis on the song is troubling. It really makes me wonder if our work to teach women relationship red flags and problematic behaviour is strategic and intensive enough.
Worse, when we put our stamp of approval on those songs as women by grinding to them in fetes, we defeat our purpose and send confusing messages to our men. I think that at the rate that women are being killed and maimed across these islands we can no longer simply condone faux passing such as this song.
(Marsha Hinds is public relations officer of the National Organization of Women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)