Gender Roles: The Vincentian Scenario

Questions: Are there differences between men and women in your home nation? (Jobs, roles,

treatment, etc ) If “yes,” please explain and give some examples of the differences between men

and women.

In most countries, men and women are not “equal” that in fact men are considered better or more important than women. Do you think that in the future, it will be possible for women to achieve 100% equality with men? Yes or no, and why?

Should women be permitted to serve in military combat? Why or why not?

Responses: If one were to read the short story “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, then one would get a very clear idea of what life is like, traditionally, for the West Indian (Caribbean) female: a long lesson in what to and what not to do.

“Girl” is a one-sentence, 650-word dialogue between a mother and daughter. The mother does most of the talking; she delivers a long series of instructions and warnings to the daughter. “Girl” is based on Kincaid’s own life and her relationship with her mother. The story takes the form of a series of lessons; the point of which, according to the mother, is to teach her daughter to behave properly.

Though much has changed since the context of Kincaid’s story, women in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, like much of the Caribbean, are expected to fill the traditional roles of caregiver, child raiser and homemaker. Their male counterparts, on the other hand, are mostly considered to be breadwinners and the ones who discipline the children and provide a safe and comfortable environment in which the household can live. And even as women have been incorporated into the labour force, they are expected to be able to fill their traditional roles in the home in addition to those at the workplace.

Therefore, it would be common to see a household where both the mother and father work. The man gets home earlier than the woman but he relaxes in front of the television. When she gets home, she heads straight for the kitchen to prepare supper, in many instances without even changing her clothes. However, in most cases, you will never see that woman cutting the lawn or tightening clothes line. Work on the outside of the house is mostly a mans or a males responsibility.

Socialization of males and females in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is characterized by some fundamental differences. Young males are given toy guns, truck, etc. as playthings while their female counterparts are given dolls and house making toys. Teenage and young adult females are kept under the watchful eyes of their parents with much restriction on their freedom while the males lime (hang out) on the “bloc” (street corners). Vincentian women are expected to be able to cook, clean and iron. They should be intimately involved with one man at any one time. Men are expected to be able to provide for the material needs of and protect the household and infidelity is often tolerated, though not accepted. In fact, a man who is involved with more than one woman at a time is often hailed by his peer as a scenes man (macho).

As regards jobs, the line separating what is a traditional occupation for each gender is increasingly disappearing. There are female politicians in St. Vincent and the Grenadines though they are significantly fewer than their male counterparts. The country in 2001 saw the appointment of its first female attorney general though it is yet to have a female prime minister. More men are willing to become nurses, though Vincentians always make the distinction, referring to them as male nurse rather than simply “nurse”, suggesting that nursing is still considered a female occupation. Males dominate the construction and manufacturing industry, with most females in these sectors doing more clerical rather than manual work.

Gender Equality: Pie in the Sky?

Gender inequality is so pervasive that sometime it takes a real exercise in faith and optimism and veritable stretch of the imagination to foresee a world in which women have achieved 100% equality with men. In some instances, there is the political and social will and the feminist, human rights and other movements have indeed laid many cobblestones on a road that seem to be heading in this direction. I am wont to think that not because a situation exists or has existed for a very long time it must remain that way. I am however tempted to thing that while it is possible for women to achieve 100% equality with men it is highly unlikely.

The world in which we live has been shaped historically by males. One of the greatest challenges to achieving gender equality is religion (left) since many mainstream religions promote gender dominance and inequality. Christianity, with its male God and male Saviour is one such faith. In fact, Christianity is explicitly patriarchal with sections of the Bible, the religions holy writing claiming commanding female insubordination: “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (1 Corinthian 11:3)

However, Cherie Booth, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair was right when she said that differences of culture or religion cannot be used as a justification for denying equal rights to women anywhere in the world. Ms Booth, a human rights lawyer, denounced the unequal treatment of women on religious grounds in some societies as a “distortion” of the true message of faiths, saying that in many areas “proclaimed adherence to a specific religion or system of belief or culture is intimately tied to women’s continuing discrimination and abuse,”she said.

She was critical of human rights advocates in the west who suggest that women’s emancipation cannot be exported to the Middle East or parts of Asia and Africa because of cultural and religious sensitivities.

Women’s rights are a “universal ethic that cuts across all cultures and all religions … and imperative for our shared humanity,” she said.

Undoubtedly, men and women have gone nearly full circle in their relations with one another. There was a time where the balance of respect and roles never existed between the two, but today, men and women are truly redefining themselves and their relationships with each other. Male and female relation is not entirely a dispute on inequality that women received from society, although that is what propels finding equality between the two genders. Rather, male and female relation resolute this emergent society to work together as a unit. Therefore while there are challenges to attaining 100% equality among the genders, it is very much possible.

Women in Military Combat

There are challenges to having women involved in military combat. But there are opportunities, too. Women MAY be easier targets for capture and may be raped and tortures in such instances. There is the possibility of sexual tension and rivalry, which could have a negative and undesirable impact on troops as far as discipline is concerned.

Feminist Phyllis Schlafly argues vehemently that women should not serve in military combat. She says, “There is no evidence in all history for the proposition that the assignment of women to military combat jobs is the way to advance women’s rights, promote national security, improve combat readiness, or win wars.”

I would tend to think that should women pass the same qualifying test as men and they are physically and emotionally prepared for the job that they should be allowed to serve in military combat. To bar a woman from combat because she has a different set of organs or because of any preconceived notion about the impact of her sex on her abilities is a form of discrimination.

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2 thoughts on “Gender Roles: The Vincentian Scenario

  1. Good and interesting article. However, I beg to differ on the religious aspect in that in the church which was purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, women are not permitted to preach or usurp authority over the men 1Tim. 2:12; 1Cor.14: 34-37. This is God’s design and while equality is accepted in other areas of life, in the church we MUST abide by God’s rules. God knows best in all things.

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