Diary of a Mothering Worker
DR GABRIELLE JAMELA HOSEIN
WHAT IF women, so tired of seeing other women and girls threatened, controlled, harassed, abused and killed, took vigilante justice into their own hands? Every man who harmed and killed his partner was now at risk of being violently injured by a gang of ordinary, angry women with pipes, poui, batons, broomsticks, bilnas and more.
Women who couldn’t stop the partners of their daughters, sisters, mothers and friends would find this gang of women and they would enact the kind of punishment which sends a message to all that women will no longer be passive in the face of such impunity.
What if the gang of women began to grow as more joined and any violent man became vulnerable to being beaten by masked women secretly connected across the country in defence of those so failed by our justice system?
Any man abusing his partner or any other woman could be found out and dealt with immediately, violently and collectively. Would those men begin to feel afraid? Would violence against women decrease as such punishment acts as prevention? Would women across communities begin to feel as if they were empowered to make such violence end?
What if women began to do this, would it really be so bad? How would they be judged in the court of public opinion, amongst those who resist violence of any kind as a solution, amongst those for whom morality is defined by law, amongst those who have dreamed of just this scenario many times, amongst those inspired by these women to pick up a pot spoon or an iron pan to stop the next lash? And, when it comes to this gang’s judgment to kill perpetrators of violence against women, what decision would you support?
What if? This is the provocative question put to the audience at UWI’s Department of Creative and Festival Arts production, Baddesse, directed by Brendon La Caille, and featuring a powerful cast of young actors.
There were many things I appreciated about the play. The cast of young women played assertive and complex characters, showing themselves as both experiencing violence and refusing passivity to it, yet conflicted by its many contradictions. Indeed, the relationships and negotiations amongst the young and badass women, of different ethnicities, were some of the play’s richest material.
Yet, the production was much more, creating several settings in which violence is discussed, enacted and resisted.
We are taken into the bedroom of a politician and his wife, herself a women’s rights advocate, psychologist and battered woman.
We are taken on set where the glamorous host, who represents the character of a flamboyant gay man in a way stereotypical of Caribbean theatre, addresses this issue, bringing the audience into the conversation.
We are shown commercials, created for the production, that show how violence becomes normalised as part of consumption of popular culture.
We are taken into the safe house of the women’s gang, whose leader is called “Black Widow,” and where we get intimate insight into the difficulty of embarking on this dangerous path – out of trauma, frustration and anger.
The play constantly draws in the audience through use of the theatre space and through direct engagement with audience members. You don’t know if to cry, sometimes despite yourself you want to laugh and mostly you watch the production heartbroken that this is where male violence has led women – to desperate self-defence when there seems to be nowhere else to turn.
In TT, 30 per cent of women report physical and/or sexual IPV in their lifetime and six per cent in the last 12 months, 19 per cent report lifetime non-partner sexual violence, 11 per cent report economic partner violence, and 35 per cent report emotional violence in their lifetime with 12 per cent reporting emotional violence in the last 12 months. The 2018 Women’s Health Survey also found that approximately 11,000 women are likely to still be in abusive relationships. Conviction rates following reports are grossly low.
Where is justice in such a society? Indeed, this is what stands out in the play’s well researched script. Black Widow herself grew up witnessing and experiencing violence.
The final scene, played using Arts in Action’s long established “hot seat” facilitation approach, features an abuser confessing to the trauma of his own father’s violence. Where so many abusers were once victims, their killing cautions even the most angry about vigilantism.
Go see the play. Strong women. Serious questions. It runs April 12-14 at Cheesman Bldg on Gordon Street, St Augustine.