“The fact is that almost all the calypsoes that are deemed sexist are calypsoes which, in one way or another, express the power of women over men. Growling Tiger’s “Money is King” (1935) says: ‘If you have money and things going nice/Any woman will call you honey and spice/If you can’t give her a dress or a new pair of shoe/She’ll say she have no use for you’.”
In the following Letter to the Editor, satirist Kevin Baldeosingh argues that calypso and chutney music are not inherently sexist:
In the ongoing commentary on Nermal ‘Massive’ Gosein’s “Rowley Mudda Count,” commenters who are calling for the song to be banned and those who are arguing for freedom of expression both take it for granted that calypso and chutney songs are typically sexist. This assertion, however, is not based on any close reading or reasonable interpretation of calypso or chutney lyrics.
Take the most famous calypso where women are the central focus, Lord Invader’s 1943 “Rum and Coca Cola,” where the chorus line is “Both mother and daughter/Working for the Yankee dollar.”
This can be taken as sexist only if you accept (1) moral condemnation of prostitution and (2) that women should not be free to trade sex for money. But one could reasonably argue that what Invader is really lamenting is the power of women to do exactly that.
Thus, Sparrow’s celebrated 1956 follow-up, “Jean and Dinah” is actually sexist because, in singing “If you catch them broken/You can get it all for nutten,” Sparrow is celebrating the reduction of these women’s independence from local men.
The fact is that almost all the calypsoes that are deemed sexist are calypsoes which, in one way or another, express the power of women over men. Growling Tiger’s “Money is King” (1935) says: “If you have money and things going nice/Any woman will call you honey and spice/If you can’t give her a dress or a new pair of shoe/She’ll say she have no use for you.”
Growler in “Stupid Young Men” (1937) says, “The young girls today they don’t make no sport/As you slip, believe me, they put you in court,” while Attila’s “Women Will Rule the World” (1935) warns that “If women ever get the ascendancy/They will show us no sympathy/They will make us do strange things goodness knows/Scrub floors, even wash clothes.”
And Beginner’s “Second-hand Girls” (1938) bad-talks promiscuous women but admits, “Some call them bats and some call them rats/But I will call them diplomats/You hardly find one with simplicity/All have the mind like Mussolini.”
Sexism, like racism, assumes an inferiority on the part of all members of the group being denigrated. The lyrics of both calypso and chutney at best condemn women as morally inferior, and even then only on the narrow basis of sexual morality.
But the assumption that calypso and chutney as musical genres are generally sexist is not supported by the lyrical evidence.