A political blog about Bahamian politics in The Bahamas, Bahamian Politicans - and the entire Bahamas political lot. Bahamian Blogger Dennis Dames keeps you updated on the political news and views throughout the islands of The Bahamas without fear or favor.
Bahamian Politicians and the Bahamian Political Arena: Updates one Post at a time on Bahamas Politics and Bahamas Politicans.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Bahamian women have not sat by silently in the wake of the suffrage movement by any means ...but today’s calling is for more organisation, more mobilisation, and more united action... ...And importantly, there is a need to bridge the generational gap, to harness the wisdom of elders and the energy of youth... ...Today’s calling is for a movement that will inspire new generations of women to continue the good fight
Voices Of Women Must Be Heard
By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Features Editor
the most recent general election in the United States of America, I
came across an interesting online flyer captioned “The Republican Party
Rape Advisory Chart”. It listed a set of talking points on the seven
types of rape in the minds of a “Republican rape apologists.”
“Gift-From-God Rape” was aptly described by Republican Senate candidate
Richard Mourdock: “When life begins with that horrible situation of
rape that is something that God intended to happen.” “Legitimate Rape”
was described by Republican Congressman and Senate candidate Todd Akin:
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that
whole thing down.”
Congressman Ron Paul expounded on the category of “Honest Rape”: “If
it’s an honest rape that individual should go immediately to the
emergency room; I would give them a shot of estrogen.” Republican Senate
candidate Linda McMahon was the spokesperson on “Emergency Rape”: “It
was really an issue about a Catholic church being forced to offer those
pills if the person came in an emergency rape.”
“Easy Rape” was described by Republican State Representative Roger
Rivard, who said: “If you go down that road, some girls, they rape so
easy.” Republican legislators sought to have “Forcible Rape” clearly
defined in law under the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, which
would prohibit federal funding of abortions except in instances of “an
act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest’.”
Gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams is cited as the “father of
Republican rape apologists” for his championing of the concept
“Enjoyable Rape”. During his Gubernatorial campaign he publicly made a
joke likening rape to bad weather, claiming that: “If it’s inevitable,
just relax and enjoy it.”
results of the US election were widely panned as a rejection by women
of the Republican platform on women. Calls have been loud and furious
for Republican men to shut up about rape “forever”.
comedian and political satirist Bill Maher called Republicans
“vaginaphobes” on his late night HBO series, asking the question: “For
Republicans to do well in the future, they need the woman vote: Women
out vote men by 10 million. Okay. Don’t the Republican men, even if they
have these views, in the future, have to shut up?”
answer from Democratic commentator James Carville invoked Southern
culture: “You know, in order to get that boy’s attention, you got to hit
him upside the head with a two by four. Well the sound you heard on
election night was pine on skull.”
has become increasingly clear in US politics is that women have power
at the polls: not because of the demographic distribution that sees more
women voting than men; because of their capacity to organise and vote
for their own self interests, exerting their influence at the polls.
the Bahamas, we are not so fortunate. For all of our efforts over the
years, which have led to much advancement for women, today there is no
women’s movement to speak of; we have many women voters, but no
collective women’s agenda.
at a panel discussion held last week by the Bureau of Women’s Affairs
in celebration of National Women’s Month, “Women in Leadership: the
Untold Story”, women’s rights activist and gender specialist Audrey
Roberts described a movement as a sustained effort of mobilising and
organising around a set of issues that represent the collective voices
of women, opposed to a series of disjointed single actions that respond
to issues that arise.
best model we have in the Bahamas of a women’s movement was the women’s
suffrage movement. While much has been achieved since the 1960s –
thanks in large part to the contributions of Bahamian women who became
political leaders – it is questionable whether or not the movement has
are at that time again when there is a need for a women’s movement,”
said Mrs Roberts, speaking to the burgeoning call from the spirits of
Bahamian women for power and agency in the exercise of their collective
will. I agree wholeheartedly.
recent discussion of marital rape revealed so much about where we are
as women, and the patriarchal strong hold that still grips our society.
It is very much relevant to the patriarchal psychology that runs so deep
in the Republican Party, as described above.
the Bahamas, the Republican Party is represented by fundamentalist
factions of the Christian church, the most aggressive force working
against the advancement of women in Bahamian society. Along with
partisan politics, but even more harmfully so, is what Professor Olivia
Saunders described at the panel discussion as the “religiousising” of
women’s issues in the Bahamas.
the way in which partisan politics results in the politicisation of
issues, Mrs Saunders invented the term religiousising to speak to the
way in which religious dogma and religious doctrine is continuously used
to undermine arguments for the advancement of women.
Saunders posed the point as a question to Rev Carla Culmer, Rector at
Wesley Methodist Church, who was a speaker on the panel. I was very
interested to hear a female church leader speak to the point; however,
Rev Culmer opted for a conservative answer, encouraging women to ask
their predominantly male pastors to speak from the pulpit about issues
that are important to them. She also called for more education and
mentoring, which would result in the empowerment of women.
in more private forums, at first, it is important for women of the
cloth to start speaking directly to the point. The rise of the feminine
in church leadership must be accompanied by the rise of the female point
of view. Women in ministry must play an important role in the women’s
movement, and they must become vocal advocates of women and women’s
rights in public spaces. They must contest the dogmatic views spouted by
their fellow clergymen or church followers when those views are spoken
in the interests of patriarchy and not righteousness.
Culmer has had an interesting journey in the Methodist Church. In all
of her leadership capacities, her appointment was a first for women in
the church. And even as Rev Culmer continues to rise through the ranks
of church ministry, the battle continues, as there are traditions in
which people “expect the pastor to be a man.”
view that men are ministers and women are wives is so entrenched in the
church, for one of her parishioners it took him 11 years to come to
church to listen to her preach, she said. The position of wife is a
standard fixture in many churches with duly assigned responsibilities.
Rev Culmer, the church was confronted with the image of a single woman,
who in the context of religious patriarchy could never been seen as a
minister of religion with the moral authority to be a spiritual advisor.
The church is slowly moving along a progressive learning curve, but
the journey remains long. After all the Anglican church recently voted
against appointing female bishops.
“As a woman, you have to prove that you have a right to be there,” said Rev Culmer, speaking of the struggle.
has had instances of officiating events in which the letter “a” from
her first name Carla was dropped off her name by someone assuming they
had received mistaken information. The senior pastor after all would
surely be named Carl and not Carla.
Culmer’s story is an important one to share and so are the stories of
countless women who continue to battle against patriarchy and sexism in
their respective spheres of influence, two central pillars standing in
the way of gender equality and equity.
sad reality is that women are not sufficiently creating their own
platforms and using existing platforms to tell their stories; to let
their voices be heard and to stand and be counted in a united front. Our
stories are hidden under bushels and our voices are muted by our own
excuse themselves from having participated in the public debate about
marital rape, politicians often say, the government never brought a bill
to Parliament. Seeing Parliament as their primary platform, politicians
use the opportunity to debate bills to speak to national issues, and
when no bill is brought to the floor they hide behind that cover. And
even when they do speak on the floor, much of what they say gets lost in
the partisan hackery. Outside of Parliament, politicians can take
advantage of existing platforms and create their own platforms, as can
activist Michelle Miller spoke at the forum and lamented the fact that
every time she turns on the radio she hears men talking; every time she
turns on the television she sees male talking heads. “Women are not
speaking and presenting our agenda to the public on a regular basis,”
said Ms Miller.
is the platform? We need to create a platform, a consistent platform
that allows us to use the power of influence,” she said.
far as engendering a movement is concerned, Ms Miller suggested that a
critical need exists for women to create and utilise public platforms.
She said young people model the behaviour of their elders, and young
women need to see female leaders making representation on their behalf
in public; they need to see the fire in the bellies of their female
leaders to spark their own spirits.
completely understand the sentiment. Such was my only real
disappointment about the ceremony held last week in the House of
Assembly to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the women’s suffrage
movement; our political leaders said the expected things, praising the
legacy of the suffragettes and calling women to work together, but I did
not see the fire in the bellies of our female parliamentarians.
was hoping for a presentation from at least one of our political
leaders to match the stature of the presentation delivered by Dame Dr
Doris Johnson in 1959 on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement. In her
delivery, PLP Senator Cheryl Bazard reminded me the most of what I
imagine Dr Johnson to have been like, but all of the speeches lacked a
event was truly commendable and inspiring nonetheless, based on the
strength of the 1959 speech, which still holds such relevance today. It
was a moving display of bipartisanship in ancestral remembrance. My
critique is not to take away from that fact. The entire presentation was
if there was one thing missing, it was the bold articulation of a 21st
century agenda that could really light a fire in the consciousness of
Bahamian women. The love fest we witnessed amongst the various
government and the opposition members around the constitutional issue,
which was the subject of the 2002 referendum, was welcomed.
Bipartisanship on this issue is long overdue, but the current efforts
are redeeming efforts on the part of the government and opposition.
emphatic statements made by Dr Johnson in 1959, asserting the
invincibility of womanhood, seem farfetched in the climate of
conservatism that exists today, but that kind of leadership is exactly
what is needed today, not only by our political leaders, but all of our
women in leadership positions.
achievements of the women’s movement over the past fifty years seem to
have put women in the Bahamas into a comfortable stupor, which is so
unfortunate because our work is not done.
invincible womanhood, mother of men and ruler of the world raises her
noble head and approaches the courts of justice with the clarion call of
equal rights for all Bahamian women… We women press this demand and ask
such enactment on the basis of not who is right, but what is right for
our country. We judge expediency only on this basis. We seek no
compromise. There is no alternative. We abhor any delaying action. We
women ask only that you gentlemen move now to secure the rights of
54,000 women, including your wives and daughters.”
audacity of these words spoken from the mouth of Dr Johnson on behalf
of the women’s suffrage movement in 1959 is truly moving. I admire the
fact that Janet Bostwick, the first woman to be elected to the House of
Assembly, had the privilege of sitting in the magistrate’s court when
they were actually delivered. I am grateful that I was present last week
when they were read again by the women of the House and Senate in a
joint sitting of Parliament.
the suffragettes were galvanised around the issue of enfranchisement at
the ballot box, they were also clear on the wider women’s agenda. In
fact, they asserted there are issues which specifically require the
“insight and interest of women to investigate, report on and seek
improvement”; they suggested men were not naturally interested in these
issues. I wonder to what extent women still hold this view.
women wish to serve our country and assist your efforts in attending to
such projects as housing schemes, slum clearance, establishment of
libraries and museums, local welfare services, supervision of food and
drug supplies and the establishment of reasonable and respectable
lodgings for temporary visitors from our Out Islands,” said Dr Johnson
in the landmark speech.
in the processing and operation of school medical services and milk
distribution, care of our many weed-covered cemeteries, registration of
births, deaths and marriages, proper filing system of registration of
voters, suppression of nuisances, maternity and child welfare, birth
control information centres, jury service, notification and disinfection
of infectious diseases, care of the aged, etc, are only a few of the
areas to which women can make their contributions. This is a task so
large that it takes the energies of everybody, men and women, to better
conditions in our islands,” she said.
suffragettes were clear about their agenda and specific in their
demands. They were persistent in their pursuit, organised in their
action and united in their efforts. They affirmed the value in their
very womanhood and demonstrated their worth through action.
women have not sat by silently in the wake of the suffrage movement by
any means, but today’s calling is for more organisation, more
mobilisation, and more united action. And importantly, there is a need
to bridge the generational gap, to harness the wisdom of elders and the
energy of youth. Today’s calling is for a movement that will inspire new
generations of women to continue the good fight.