by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 02 November 2006)
I wish I take ownership of the phrase, “sexism can be cured” since it is absolutely genius. However, I only just saw it for the first time last week when browsing an antique store with my mother-in-law and stumbled upon a green field jacket with several appliqués strategically placed on it.
I am a sucker for historical items, especially if that item seems to reflect my personal taste. As I was admiring the field jacket the proprietor of the shop approached and told me the jacket belonged to a woman who had previously served in the military.
As I checked over the jacket for quality and defects, I noticed the tags in the well made pockets said it had been made in 1951, which sparked my interest even more. However, I would have never given this jacket a second glance had it not been for the appliqués.
There were a couple of unassuming patches, one was a small apple and the other appeared to be a medical symbol, which made me think the previous owner was a military nurse. However, my supposed nurse converted her jacket into a fighter’s garb with the statements covering the rest of the jacket.
On the upper part of the right arm, one red-stencilled statement simply said, “Woman Power.” On top of the back, across the shoulder blade, another red-stencilled statement said, “Equal Rights For Women.”
The other arm had a patched that appeared to be military related, but easily fit the general aura of the strong woman’s jacket. It read, “Hell On Wheels.” All of these statements alone made this jacket extremely interesting to me, but it was the declaration stencilled in big fading black letters across the bottom of the back that truly transformed it into an item that spoke to me.
The statement read, “Sexism Can Be Cured.”
This single statement said so much. It implied that sexism is a sickness and something that is not good for society. It inferred that it was not normal to be a sexist. It also explicitly said there was cure for this sickness.
I was sold and although I did not want to fork out the cost of the jacket, my husband insisted that I buy it. I haggled with the shop’s owner and talked her into a more reasonable price and proudly walked out with my new antique jacket.
I do not know the real story of the jacket, but in my imagination, the previous owner was a military woman who returned to the states after her overseas tour during the mid-century and became an activist for women’s rights, thus transforming her field jacket into a militant statement for all women.
I bought the jacket last week and have since been thinking about the ways sexism can be cured when I read the front page story of the Chronicle yesterday entitled, “Death sentence for butcher who butchered wife.”
After a jury of his peers unanimously found him guilty following a brief two-hour deliberation, the article said, “Demerara Assize Court Judge Yonette Cummings-Edwards yesterday sentenced Buxton Side Line Dam butcher, Vaughn Barth, 41, to death for butchering his 38-year old wife Ronin Chester-Barth.”
This is one of the many ways sexism can be cured. When men begin to realise that society will not allow them to kill, rape and abuse women, those who suffer from the sickness of sexism will find healing.
When women realise that society will indeed defend them, they too will finally begin to heal from millennia of sexism and victimisation. Judge Cummings-Edwards’ court made a strong statement by finding this killer guilty and giving him such a severe sentence.
This is one time Guyana has stood up for the women instead of flagrantly dismissing their plight. It is my hope that these types of incidents become more frequent until they are the norm; replacing the current norm of turning a blind eye when a woman is harassed, beaten, raped or killed by a man.
Indeed, sexism can be cured and this week a Guyanese jury and judge gave us hope that society may yet one day be restored to complete health.