by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 30 April 2006)
Female leaders sure have been busy this week in the Caribbean. In Trinidad, Kamla Persad-Bissessar was appointed as the new leader of the opposition party, United National Congress (UNC) after the former Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, was imprisoned for not being as forthcoming as possible to T & T’s Integrity Commission.
Also in Trinidad this week, Jamaica’s new female Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, made her first official visit since assuming her new position last month. She and Trinidadian Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, reached an agreement that Trinidad will supply Jamaica with a long-term supply of natural gas.
Meanwhile, back in the states, a former baseball player for my favourite team, the Cardinals, let his mouth move faster than his brain. Keith Hernandez, who is now a sport commentator for the New York Mets, was seriously upset when he saw a woman in the San Diego Padre’s dugout last Sunday.
He said, “Who is the girl in the dugout, with the long hair? What’s going on here? You have got to be kidding me. Only player personnel in the dugout.” Little did caveman commentator Keith know that “the girl with long hair” was the Padres’ massage therapist and a legitimate part of the team’s training staff.
In an attempt to apologise, Hernandez only fell further into the misogynistic hole. He said, "I won't say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout. You know I am only teasing. I love you gals out there -- always have."
Sure Keith, as long as we don’t step a foot anywhere near your precious boys club sanctuaries, right? It is a good thing that the new female Prime Minister of Jamaica and the new leader of the opposition party in Trinidad didn’t have to ask Keith for permission before they decided to become political leaders.
Should we blame Keith for being a caveman? Or is he merely a product of a sexist environment? Did he learn this behaviour from his fellow team mates or did it start much earlier at home? A book entitled, “GenderSpeak” by Diana K. Ivy and Phil Backlund, explores such behaviour and its origin.
The book maintains, “The family is by far the most significant agent of socialization. Gender differences in treatment of female and male children begins before birth. For example, parental preferences for one sex over the other is strong.” In fact, the book says that most couples prefer to have a male child over a female child.
How the family treats the different genders is very obvious too. Studies have shown that boys are expected to be independent and develop wings to explore the world while girls are to be interdependent and develop roots to stay at home. I suppose this is why Keith had such a difficult time coming to grips with a female in a baseball dugout.
Poor Keith, it seems no one has told him that women have wings now too. In fact, women have always had wings, but society just kept them clipped so the more restless ladies couldn’t fly the coop while their husbands were off exploring the wonders of the world.
My daughter just finished her final paper for an English class at college. She decided to write on Infanticide in China. Her ten-page paper explained the need for China to institute a policy for population control if it wanted to be able to feed and clothe all of the people.
I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the outcome of China’s One Child policy, but once again it was the females who paid a very hefty price. Male children are valued very highly in this culture since they are the ones who carry on the family honour and support the family when the parents grow old; therefore, since the family can only have one child, many females are killed before or at birth. Some are shipped off to orphanages too.
When a female child does get to grow up in China, she will take her husband’s name and all the money she earns will go to his family. This is why female children are not as desirable as male children. GenderSpeak quoted a Chinese proverb that resonates this socialisation, “Raising a daughter is like weeding another man’s garden.”
However, after killing so many baby girls, China now has another very serious problem. As I read my daughter’s paper I found that China now has far to many men and far too few women. It seems young single men with no hopes of getting a wife and starting a family are now forming gangs and wreaking havoc in the nation.
Further, men from rural villages are kidnapping women from the cities and taking them back to their village as a wife. Some women are even being sold. Therefore, women are suffering at every stage.
First they are treated as insignificant in a patriarchal culture that was imposed on them, then they are killed at or before birth simply because they were born a female, and then when society realises it needs women to reproduce, they are stolen away from their families and friends to be the wife of some stranger from a village.
How ironic that the very man who has to steal a woman from the city because there are not enough women, will then turn around and kill his daughter because he wants a male child to carry on the family honour. If you ask me, there is no honour in any of this.
Has anyone else picked up on the fact that women are being treated like a piece of property instead of the intelligent and capable beings they really are? Women! You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. I bet that is something like what caveman Keith Hernandez would say.
Meanwhile, back in the Caribbean, women are taking their rightful place in society as leaders. I would just love to see caveman Keith try to tell Jamaica’s new Prime Minister that women do not belong in politics (traditionally, another boys club). And I would love to serve as the commentator for that competition. I bet I know who would win that game.