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Say what I95.5?! Women respond to “feminist” attacks after Tim Kee scandal

The following open letter is directed to Ralph Maraj and Darian Marcelle for alleged comments made towards women activists and feminists during “The Afternoon Drive” on I95.5 FM.

This letter was sent by: Jacquie Burgess, Merle Hodge, Dr Sheila Rampersad, Attillah Springer, Eintou Springer, Folade Mutota and Verna St Rose Greaves.

Photo: Protests against Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee in Woodford Square. (Courtesy Facebook)
Photo: Protests against Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee in Woodford Square.
(Courtesy Facebook)

An open letter to the hosts of The Afternoon Drive on I95.5FM:

Gentlemen,

You really need to inform yourselves a little better before you wash your mouth on specific people or groups in our society, as you have done in this week beginning 15 February 2016.

You have been freely insulting the women who demonstrated to demand Mayor Tim Kee’s resignation, with your onslaught spreading to women activists in general/ the women’s movement/ feminists.

(As an aside, men who utter the word “feminist” as though they were cussing, or spitting out phlegm, are often those who harbour some insecurity about their manness.)

Your discourse betrays a great haziness about women’s activism in Trinidad and Tobago. As media practitioners speaking from an influential public platform, it is your responsibility to be informed before you speak.

Photo: Late Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya performs with Silver Stars at the 2016 Panorama. (Courtesy Facebook)
Photo: Late Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya performs with Silver Stars at the 2016 Panorama.
(Courtesy Facebook)

Perhaps, though, it is easier to just grab on to the name of one visible activist—Hazel Brown—and constantly demonise her.

“Not a word from Hazel Brown,” says Mr Marcelle, referring to some issue he thinks she should be speaking out on.

You renting Hazel mouth? What obligation does she have to speak at your behest?

It is the most dotish thing to hear talk show hosts using up precious air time to foam at the mouth about who should be saying what on which issue, and cussing them for not doing so.

You gentlemen are accusing us of having no interest in domestic violence, because we haven’t organised any demonstration against the abuse suffered by Ms Rachael Sukhdeo.

You even want us to go and protest against the killing of Mr Clement in Moruga, as a “real issue” for us to tackle.

Photo: Late journalist and television host, Marcia Henville. (Courtesy Mark Lyndersay)
Photo: Late journalist and television host, Marcia Henville.
(Courtesy Mark Lyndersay)

The sentiments of Mr Ralph Maraj: The abuse of Rachael Sukhdeo is a “juicy case,” such an excellent opportunity for women’s rights activists; but these activists are not genuinely concerned about abused women. 

Why don’t you women mount some kind of public awareness campaign about domestic violence? It’s not too late. You can still do it.

Well, Ralph Maraj, who died and put you in charge of our workplan and our modus operandi? How condescending, how presumptuous!

You don’t know who we are, what we do, or what we have done, but you want to tell us what the real issues for us are and what to do about them?

So we don’t have brains of our own?

Photo: Former PNM Minister Ralph Maraj (right). (Courtesy Guardian.co.tt)
Photo: Former PNM Minister Ralph Maraj (right).
(Courtesy Guardian.co.tt)

For your information, it is decades of public awareness work by women activists, impacting on people’s thinking as well as on public policy, that have led to the following:

  • That you gentlemen in the studio have the consciousness that you do today about domestic violence and (hopefully) other gender issues. Don’t take it for granted, or assume that this consciousness has always been part of the society’s thinking.
  • That there is legislation in place today about domestic violence.
  • That training has been done among police officers to equip them for dealing with domestic violence.
  • That shelters and counselling centres have been set up by NGOs, mostly through the activism of women, for people affected by family violence.
  • That certain institutions have come into existence, such as the Rape Crisis Society; the Police Child Protection Unit; the Police Witness and Victim Support Unit; the Family Court; the UWI Institute for Gender and Development Studies; the Ministry of Gender and Child Development; and the Children’s Authority.
  • That there now exists protection for children in the Children Act (2012); the Children’s Authority Act; the Children’s Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act; and the Adoption of Children (Amendment) Act.
  • That any women at all are now emboldened to speak out about being abused and to seek help.
Photo: A female victim of domestic abuse.
Photo: A female victim of domestic abuse.

We work quietly. These are some of our strategies:

  • We go all over the country and hold workshops and conversations with groups of people in their communities.
  • We work through vigils, popular theatre, the media.
  • We engage in lobbying and advocacy.
  • We commemorate relevant UN days of observance, for example, International Women’s Day (March 8), and the Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25), involving, among other activities, a march through Port of Spain, with some men along the route telling us (like you) what we should be doing, e.g. “Why allyuh don’t go home and cook allyuh husband food.”
Photo: A woman cowers in the face of her assailant in the depiction of a domestic abuse incident.
Photo: A woman cowers in the face of her assailant in the depiction of a domestic abuse incident.

We don’t often make use of the street demonstration strategy, but when we find it necessary, we do. We, not you, will determine that.

You expect of us a street demonstration for each situation of domestic violence. Do you have any idea of the volume of such situations?

Please, let us decide for ourselves how we are going to use the energy and the minimal resources that we have. Don’t dictate to us.

You gentlemen want to give us instructions regarding what to do about domestic violence, but what are you doing about it?

Violence against women is not an issue for only women to act upon. The Rape Crisis Society, for example, has been trying to get more men to come in and be trained as volunteer counsellors to staff their hotline call centre.

Photo: A victim of domestic violence. (Courtesy Batchwilliams.com)
Photo: A victim of domestic violence.
(Courtesy Batchwilliams.com)

The men who have been working with Rape Crisis over the years are to be highly commended; but there is room for many more.

Tell us: what work have you done?

The women who demonstrated are seen by Mr Marcelle as having done it “to fulfil agendas of their own—political and other agendas.”

Well, Mr Marcelle, you have, indeed, done your darnedest to politicise the event, reducing it to a PNM-versus-the-enemy affair. Do you think we give a rat’s tail that Mr Tim Kee is PNM?

Do you think women would have failed to protest against what he said if he were UNC or of some other persuasion?

Photo: Former Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee (second from left) and councillor Farai Hove Masaisai. (Courtesy Farai Hove Masaisai/Facebook)
Photo: Former Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee (second from left) and councillor Farai Hove Masaisai.
(Courtesy Farai Hove Masaisai/Facebook)

The “political agenda” accusation is an unfortunate, uninformed and insulting one, but predictable. What is harder to fathom is your impassioned cry: “Don’t let those people take us to Sodom and Gomorrah!”

Say what, Mr Marcelle?

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205 comments

  1. To darians defense he always stated that the mayor’s words for some time has been out if timing. However we as Trini’s have been taking things way to personal instead of raising serious questions on and about issues within a society where by the institutions of churches are replaced by clubs devaluing the necessities of virtues we seek to trivialize politicize demonize and look for soft targets. This is not a situation where u could choose a side for backing the mayor 95.5 or feminists it is one where people should be more sensitive and bachanalise situations and look for positive results. The only good thing that came out is that Tim kee resigned. But where are the killers and how do we prevent future atrocities from occuring . crickets continue to chirp cause the silence continues on serious matters

  2. They deliberately morphed his words into something totally different to suit their pointless agenda.

  3. Strange ! people demanding their right , but protesting any one who dare talk .this is just the start

  4. they said they will protest what they want to protest, no one can tell them what they should protest, so they making decisions as to what is an important woman’s issue as to what is not, I think they should protest the killing of the foreigner on our soil,but instead what was worrying to them was what the mayor said, it never bothered them that an innocent woman was killed

  5. Heard just the beginning of the broadcast and when I heard the disdain in the way the words ‘feminist” and ‘woman’s activist’were pronounced, I knew where this was going and I changed stations. Unfortunately it seems I was correct. SMH.

  6. So once you do not agree with them yuh dotish. Well I will be dotish. Ring bell Verna lost her wuk because she wanted to stop minors from getting married. The number of years this poor lady said she was abused indicates that she involved since she is a minor. Even if she was not married. This was a perfect opportunity to return to the issue. So we make all yuh out. You still have a right to decide what you will accept or not accept.

  7. Darren an Ralph is two dumb asses

  8. you’ll does choose what to act for

  9. they claim to have as their agenda the equal treatment of all..but when a women is before the courts for child abuse..they scream she was a victim too and needs counseling not punishment…but a man for the same charge… they and their supporters chant”hang him in woodford square”…. Any man worth his salt will have nothing to do with them

  10. Men placed clocks on stoves so that women will know the time too, and now they are saying that they are not being treated equally! What more do you want! They’ve been allowed permission to drive, so that they can go to the grocery and return home quickly, and they are still angry.

    Where is the thanks?

    Seriously though, I thought I would have heard from the feminists on Dr. Rowley’s cassava discourse, but I didn’t…..guess it was ok for him to say it.

  11. Reading the language of this letter from WOMANTRA is in keeping with the groups BULLYING of ‘soft targets’ and complete lack of interest in ALL women.

    First sentence in their letter they maintain the collective nature of their condescending and Sexist agenda – telling MEN to ‘wash their mouths’. SMH. How mature would it be for men to tell women to do same?

    The tone of the letter is in complete keeping with their agenda. Calling the Men ‘dotish’, ‘who died and made you…’, and I am sure more as the digusting and vile tone of the letter by then was sufficient and repugnant for me to stop reading.

    As I have told other females – before you report any matter be sure to bathe in some water based White paint if you expect the support of WOMANTRA.

  12. Those ladies have real patience to respond to Ralph Maraj. I would have just said Hush allyuh stink mouth!

  13. some people really live in bliss with their ignorance

  14. A man beating a woman is a criminal matter hence the absolute folly of having a march/demonstration/protest every time such a horrible incident occurs. Those are matters best addressed by the police, courts etc etc.
    A mayor making an outrageous statement about a group of people (in this case female victims) is not a criminal matter hence the logic of engaging in civil action via the form of a march/demonstration/protest.
    People injecting race and skin colour into this have issues that are just wow…
    Nobody is picking and choosing which female situation to protest based on race and skin colour. The choice is being made based on logic and what best serves the desired outcome. And probably also what is just downright practical. If ppl think there can be a march/demonstration/protest for every female victim of domestic abuse in this country then people are gleefully misguided regarding the prevalence of violence against women.

  15. I have to say that people aren’t developed enough in terms of brain usage in this country. They are too used to accepting nonsense from all and sundry and not questioning it because it’s what has always been said.

  16. so by this letter is seems men have not contributed to gender nor women’s issues in TNT– but again I believe the concern is why some causes are deemed more significant than others -maybe it is because the activism was in the comfort of an area before the Lighthouse, maybe the international attention and it was a foreign light skinned woman to capture the attention of the ‘west crowd’ . At the end of the day more advocacy has to be done and beyond writing a letter for women, men, children and cats.