I posted that tweet at 12:15 this morning after scrolling through yet another thread of sanctimonious Trinbagonians eager to condemn women (it’s almost always women) for daring to bare their flesh during an annual national festival that has long been associated with that very thing.
Imagine my surprise (but not really) when I awoke hours later to the news that the Mayor of Port of Spain responded to questions about the death of a masquerader by referencing an earlier statement about the “vulgarity and lewdness” of some women during the Carnival season. He went on to place the blame for sexual assault squarely on the victim’s shoulders (“… the woman has the responsibility to ensure that they are not abused…”) and to speculate wildly about the death (“You have to let your imagination roll a bit…”). Remember, at the point that he made these statements, the victim hadn’t even been identified and the cause of her death remained a mystery. Lest I be accused of taking the mayor’s words out of context (as he has since claimed), feel free to watch him say it all right here.
Of course, the victim has since been identified as Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya and the cause of death has been determined to be strangulation. This was followed by a petition calling for the Mayor’s head and, unsuprisingly, an “unequivocal” apology from Mayor Tim Kee, dedicated to anyone who was offended by his “misconstrued” remarks. As the so-called apology went on to reference the support he’s received from several women who share his views, I suspect His Worship is less than familiar with the definition of the word “unequivocal”.
Still, it’s those women, and the numerous men who agree with them, that I’m concerned with. Those people are why the mayor of this nation’s capital city felt comfortable publicly resting the responsibility for crimes against women on the shoulders of women, rather than on the shoulders of the people committing the crimes in the first place.
You don’t have to look very far for them, either. They’re in just about every public thread about the story. Most condemn the Mayor’s statement in relation to Nagakiya’s death, but support it otherwise. The general sentiment, which emerges every single year in response to the wave of scantily-clad masqueraders, seems to be that women who dare to show their bodies in public deserve whatever they get. Unless, apparently, they’re foreign nationals.
I have to say, I’m perplexed. Carnival is a deeply-embedded part of T&T’s culture. However you celebrate it (and whether you celebrate it at all) is completely irrelevant in the face of that fact. It’s incredible that a country that could nurture such a festival of such freedom could also harbour such antiquated, sexist and downright dangerous views at the same time, but here we are.
Since we’re here, though, let’s stop for a minute and examine the message we’re sending: We teach our daughters to be modest and blame them for what men choose to do to them, while sending the message that our sons are wild animals who are unable to control themselves. Then, when those same sons commit heinous crimes against women, we label them demons, blame our daughters for vexing or tantalising them and call on Jesus to fix it.
We’re not serious about life and we’re not serious about fixing this country.