Good Day people of St. Martin.
Last Friday, St. Martin joined the world in commemorating the "International Day for Awareness towards the Eradication of Violence against Women and Girls." Several major local organizations made sure to contribute to the awareness of the above, including the eradication of "Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence."
I had the honor of being invited to several events about violence against women and girls as a panelist or speaker. I noticed that all these events were completely organized and attended to by women, exclusively. Men were almost non-existent in the audience. It was as if the idea of men being involved in events like these were considered taboo. While sitting with an old classmate, who was also invited to the same 3 events, I wondered why? Why are women so appreciative of me and Jamal accepting these invitations and showing up?
Throughout the panel discussions, we have learned that the Caribbean as a region has more instances of violence against women than the global average. Women were admonished to report their abusers; instead, what was evident is more, women protected the abusers.
As the conversations went back and forth, it became very obvious to me why we were invited and what was missing.
What was and is still missing in the fight against violence against women and girls is the men. It's evident men are not a part of the fight at all.
Where are the male organizations speaking out against domestic violence against women and girls? Where are the churches, the sports clubs, the service clubs, and the fraternities? Why aren't groups of men speaking up against domestic violence and respect for women and girls, and why aren't men at the forefront? This is not as much a women's problem, but everyone's problem, MEN included.
Traditionally, women and girls see us (their men, their fathers, their brothers) as their protectors. Are we really protectors? Are we protecting our women and girls? Most men would proudly say: "I'm protecting mine," but is that true?
We are definitely not protecting our women and girls when we laugh at jokes and sing songs about a woman being beaten or mistreated... We as men are definitely not protecting our own daughters when we share a video on social media of any woman being mistreated. This might read harshly, but we need to realize our part in all of this.
Even if a man has never abused or would never ever ever ever think they would abuse a woman or girl but he allows another man around him to tell a story of mistreating a woman, that man is not protecting his daughter or sister or mother from future disrespect by other men.
What about mistakes, we all make them. The Caribbean cultural norm of "If he doesn't bang me, he doesn't love me" needs to be brought into context as well. We have for too long allowed, hidden, and protected violence against women in our culture. The male's integrity is protected, while the female is told to move on and to not aggravate men again. The women are told not to wear short dresses, don't speak up or else. The sad truth is that these statements are sometimes told by other women they trust, too.
Dear Caribbean, it is 2022. Let us forgive ourselves for allowing violence in our culture against our own. Let's collectively change our mindset to protect our own. Caribbean men, you know how we feel about our mothers and grandmothers, we know there is nothing manly or macho about abusing those we are supposed to protect.
We need to immediately begin to change this "Caribbean" way of dealing with violence against women and girls so our next generation of young boys and girls dont continue experiencing this nonsense.
We, as men, can not think we are protecting the women closest to us by allowing the disrespect of women anywhere else. This is a tough thing to realize. Most men would dread having to "pull up" another man if being told a story about how the man had to use violence to "handle his woman" or "put her in her place."
Caribbean men, imagine you have to stand up to your brother, your friend, your father, your faithful pastor, a police officer, a work colleague, a neighbor, a man you respect, about something that most men would consider not your business. Well, if he is that comfortable saying that around you, then he made it your business bro, be a man. You are not protecting women and girls (including yours) if you keep letting it slide and say nothing. Why? Because by not standing up for that woman, we are not standing up for every woman, including our own sisters, girlfriends, wives, daughters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. By laughing as if it's a joke, or feeling a sense of machismo, while hiding behind the onus of "cause that's our caribbean culture" we allow another man to continue thinking violence against any woman is ok, acceptable, funny, or macho.
Men, its never too late to change your perspective on this even if you as a man have committed violence to a woman or girl in the past, if you are sorry, if you feel you were wrong, let us redirect this karma into making a difference in other men and boys lives.
Times change, it is 2022 and everybody has a phone. The violence that would have been hidden 20 years ago is now trending on the timeline, 1 act of violence can be seen, laughed at, and shared by millions of people influencing their own sensitivity about violence. Friday morning on the day, I read a news article about a young man shooting his pregnant girlfriend in the belly, and 2 hours after that saw a picture captioned that another man had thrown his companion out of a moving car, in St. Martin.
There's a lot we #asmen need to talk about, a lot of healing that still needs to happen, most women have no idea whatsoever of what we are going through because we hide it so swaggy. We need to work on that. But let us not forget, Caribbean men, all around the universe are well known as the subspecies with the sweetest words, the best cooks, and the most romantic accents, and for being the best lovers the world about, it is time we change our mindsets, learn to forgive ourselves and each other, begin to hold each other accountable and add 'best protectors of women and girls to that list. #bigmanting We can't protect ours if we can't protect all.
A Caribbean Husband, Father, Brother, Son, Grandson, Nephew, Godson, Colleague, Cousin, and friend to many Caribbean women.
Alston A. Lourens