There are some serious ideological problems in Rasta women confronting the sexism within society and within Rasta itself. Any criticism regarding the status of Rasta women within the movement has been discarded as a white construction of reality unsuitable to Black cultures and any mention of gender liberation berated as western, feminist ideology. While a feminist ideology may not provide all the ingredients for a holistic African liberation, for too long has there been little real strategic change for women in Rastafari. In the same way Black men, in negotiating their freedom, have rejected the patronising efforts of white liberals in favour of an innate desire to chart their own liberation, so too must women design their own path to empowerment. The fundamental hurdle to the solution is that racial oppression is more readily understood and addressed than gender oppression.
Black women’s liberation is already stilted by the time they realise that their oppression is tied to their relations with their own brethren. In my experience, Black men support women’s protests as long as they are aimed at the white middle classes. However, when the subject of gender oppression is revealed and the Black man himself is implicated in this oppression, their tones become hushed.
Found in: The movement of Jah people!
Great Black Warrior Queens: An examination of the gender currents within Rastafari thought and the adoption of a feminist agenda in the Rasta women’s movement
by LISA-ANNE JULIEN (2003) Agenda.
Image source: Meet the Most Feared Women in History
BREEZE: I think the whole Caribbean is naturally schizophrenic [laugh], and most of all about sex. I think it’s one of the most sensual, sexual sets of people, but with more hang-ups and still very Victorian about their sexuality. So you have a kind of freedom and spontaneity about the body, and at the same time all kinds of dogma and taboos about different kinds of sex, or the nature of the sex you are having, or who you’re having sex with. I think it’s a schizophrenia that stems from the meeting of Europe and Africa in the first place, which can sometimes be a perfect blend and sometimes can be completely destructive. And I think it shows up most strongly in sex. So you have Lady Saw, for example, who is very explicit in her sexual lyrics and is loved by the majority of Jamaicans. Yet, there is the whole social establishment that says she must be banned from the stage for the kind of lyrics she’s performing. And then you have a man like Beenie Man, who sings completely sexually about women, yet his audience is full of women that love him and think that he’s the greatest thing that ever happened. You have poets like me talking about how slackness is degrading to women, and at the same time it’s all women who are jumping up to the slackness at the dancehall. So it’s really hard to kind of say that there’s a true line. I do find it very schizophrenic, and that’s a word that I use a lot. [laugh] My current work is getting much more sexual. I think it’s about time.
From: Dub and Difference: A Conversation with Jean “Binta” Breeze
by Jenny Sharpe.
Source: Callaloo, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Summer, 2003)
Image source: Ken Ryan