Like so many other women, I’ve been called a whore, a hypocrite and worse. On a daily basis women are forced one way or another either to justify undeserved labels or to come out fighting in defence of their good name, as if already we do not have more important matters in which to invest our fine minds and boundless energy.
This year’s celebration of Women’s Month and the ritual acknowlegements of female accomplishments left me wondering yet again about who I am and want to be—notwithstanding the pressures to be like the latest official role model.
Should I choose character over reputation? Idiotic convictions over public praise? Should I apologize for my sexuality or should I cover myself under a shroud of shame?Should I throw caution to the wind and live as only a young woman is privileged to live, if only for a relatively short time? Or should I act my grandmother’s age despite that I’ve barely said good-bye to my teens? And if I am caught just once (God forbid!) with my pants down, should I gird my youthful loins for a lifetime of punishment—simply because mine were of a particular cut worn only by women?
I’ve more than once caught myself admiring for their courage women with colourful histories who defied the sinning stone throwers, too often including members of their own gender. Sadly, to be a public person, and female to boot, is to declare open season on yourself.
It seems nothing is more entertaining to their listeners than politicians pretending to be comedians, however scabrous, misogynistic and hypocritical. Legendary is Sir John’s 2006 comeback—in effect a public invitation to Menissa Rambally to “come see what a toothless tiger can do!” (Granted, the lady had opened up her own Pandora’s box when she suggested at a rally that Compton was way too old for her, way past his sexual prime. Besides, she volunteered, she already had a man, meaning her party leader and prime minister. At least Compton still retained his ever-sensitive male ego!)
Of course, burdened as he was with a certain reputation, Compton might have done better to let Menissa’s ball fly by, but then that’s for another show, as they say.
Our current batch of female MPs is a strange breed. One is burdened with a speech pattern that turns off rather than entrances listeners. Comical hardly describes it. Another has a set of lungs that permits her to speak for hours at a trot and yet say absolutely nothing worth taking home. A third, though at times impressive, could do with a lesson or two in dressing to impress. Some pointers about her make-up certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Which is not to say the particular female MPs referred to are less talented than their male counterparts, most of whom are permitted to get away with their own well-known proclivities On the contrary. It’s just that by not paying sufficient attention to style, they sacrifice their substance. Not that the average Saint Lucian Jane or Joe cares about that. Not when their attention is focused on the area between the female MP’s collarbone and her knees, and on her “bumper.”
Regardless, sometimes I find myself dangerously overlooking their shortcomings while giving them perhaps undeserved respect simply for being bold enough to enter Saint Lucia’s political arena.
At the wising-up age of 23, only now setting out on the daunting journey to womanhood, I think of the one woman whom I have always respected and now see her more and more morphing into a martyr. Were I still a news reporter, I could not resist asking Mary Francis whether she had ever experienced a greater feeling than vindication, after all these years of mindless persecution by unfeeling imbeciles who’ve never learned to respect human beings, let alone their rights, largely because whatever was human in them at birth had a long time since died.
I am inspired by the fact that what Ms Francis lacks in physical terms, she more than makes up for with character. To stand in the face of thousands who threaten and ridicule; to stand up against Neanderthal police officials and politicians; to be considered a fool by over-cautious self-deluded peers—all in her attempts to see justice done is worthy of the highest praise.
Alas, in our country such praise must first come from our leaders, Mary’s prime targets. I say to her, keep on keeping on. Your day will come, hopefully when you still can hear and see. Our legal system must and will change. And when it does, count on it, there will be many to sing your praises as an epitome of bravery and, dare I say, virtue.
I look forward to a time soon, when, thanks to your work, women will no longer be considered inadequate just because we are women. Or deserving of whatever violence is dished out to us, physically, mentally or psychically, because we “asked for it.” A few well-placed real men and women of courage and the character of Mary Francis can overnight bring much-needed change to Saint Lucia.