AMONG our political elites, man, woman and dog attacking man, woman and dog.
It’s remarkable to see how gender and womanhood have been being flung in this fight. Let’s start with Dr Rowley.
“The way she loves the accolade of being the first woman prime minister, one would think that she would behave properly and with a modicum of respect for the first female President, her superior,” he lambasted, invoking the Opposition Leader and the President’s womanhood as definitive of their public identities, roles and relationship.
For Persad-Bissessar, this gendered accolade was always a double-edged sword.
Rowley could have said the Opposition leader was being disrespectful or any of his usual litany of insults.
However, he highlighted her sex and the sex of the President as a disciplinary tactic. It is one thing to fail as a politician and a next to fail as a woman, and to be the first woman in the nation to do so.
The PM deliberately tapped into debasement of females who don’t know how to behave with deference and propriety in public. When schoolboys fight, we shake our heads. When schoolgirls fight, we bawl that all broughtupcy in the world has collapsed.
When two public officials, one already “inferior,” are pitted against each other and their sex is made the basis of comparison, it’s a gendered weapon in a war of words.
PNM PRO Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing called the Opposition Leader “an embarrassment to women,” again invoking her womanhood and expanding the wielding of gender by referencing all other women in the nation, who may have been foolishly considering an issue of how today we have no Commissioner of Police, for the first time in our history, and missed the relevance of femininity to the public call for answers.
The PM’s “imps, pimps and chimps” line again brought both gender and sexuality into political mud-slinging. Pimps are usually (but not only) men who (sometimes violently) force women to have sex for their profit. But what does prostitution have to do with 19 parliamentarians? Who is or are the whores? Aspersions of licentiousness and immorality land implicitly.
In his latest salvo, the PM described the Opposition Leader as an “abusive man,” continuing, “It’s like some of them fellas outside there...if I can’t get you I go mash it up. If I can’t get you I go kill you. I will mark your face with a knife...I go throw acid on you. That is what you are seeing there.”
This was a move from womanhood in disrepute to the kind of violent and depraved manhood that brought historic crowds to the streets in protest just earlier this year. This was highly cynical from a man who has blamed women for their choice of men, without apology.
It was also highly consistent in its blame on the population and women, and a warning against choosing someone who will kill you, stab you and throw acid on you, politically speaking.
It’s like we are all, or perhaps just us women, witnessing a woman being battered for being a woman, rather than pressured because of a brouhaha. The violence of the analogy was desperate, even for Dr Rowley.
The reference to “domestic” abuse is again deliberate, for this is the domain of women and one we are called on to protect. In such times, the solidarity of women against degeneracy and abuse is necessary to save us all.
It makes sense, then, for him to urge women to “stand up and support their female counterparts instead of bringing each other down,” like Persad-Bissessar.
We all know that women who bring each other down are “our own worst enemy.” The PM even brought up her failure to protect young girls from child marriage, throwing in the whole kitchen sink. But what does that have to do with the CoP?
Finally, Nizam Mohammed described the President, who is not a mother and was not appointed because of her representation of or identification with mothering or reproductive issues, as expected to connect with the public in a “motherly and exalted” fashion.
Idealisation of “good motherhood” here is bizarre to say the least.
I’m not defending the Opposition Leader or the UNC. There’s atrociousness on all sides. Rather, I’m observing how sex, gender (often femininity), and sexuality are being politically mobilised.
Such logic, like much of what I have highlighted, reveals the labels and stereotypes still targeted at and governing women in political life.
Diary of a mothering worker