It takes a lot of balls to wade into this issue all willy-nilly. But I miss Carnival and I feel for a challenge. Hopefully I won’t offend and the feminists won’t skin me alive. But if I do unintentionally lapse into ‘mansplaining’ when offering my perspective, I apologize in advance.
Let me admit up front that I love tiefing a wine. By “tiefing a wine,” I mean enticing in a largely non-verbal manner a complete stranger to wine with you. Personally, I have worked on it by trial and error over the course of many years and have developed a set of techniques that maximise my chances of success under different circumstances. Indeed, I daresay, perhaps immodestly, that I have now really refined it to a fine art.
Well, I used to think of it as art as I always assumed these techniques were within the bounds of acceptable social behaviour.
Now, I’m not so sure.
Here, succinctly summarized, is my m.o. Sometimes, would-be bumpee makes eye contact beforehand and, through this eye contact, non-verbal consent is expressly given for bumper contact. On many occasions, though, the request for permission has taken the form of a tap on the shoulder or the waist or of some other acceptable, unequivocal physical touch; then, the lady looks back, thinks about it and decides whether or not permission is granted.
For Carnival 2018, however, this question has to be asked: Is this initial, unsolicited, physical, tactile ‘request’ okay?
If I were to hazard a guess at the response to this question, I’d say some people (mostly women) will answer ‘no,’ some people (mostly men) will answer ‘yes’ and most people (men and women) will answer “It depends.”
Depends on what, you ask? Well, on the situation and the nature of the touch, be it a nudge, a thrust, a jook, a smack, a grab, a pull or a grope. Surely a reasonable person can sift through these options and determine what is appropriate, what is inappropriate and what is downright criminal?
However, in the context of the organized chaos that is a soca fete or mas on the road where alcohol is often a factor, is it really that simple?
Even the definition of ‘stranger,’ I submit, gets blurred. Is the friend of a friend a stranger? What about the person who you’ve seen around, have never been formally introduced to but whose Facebook page you have on occasion maccoed and now the two of you happen to end up in the same crew in a party or on the road?
Under the current status quo, a lot of these issues are negotiated informally and arbitrarily. For example, a woman firmly indicates “no thanks,” and an unembarrassable and/or slightly intoxicated male continues to verbally or physically abuse her. She may deal with the matter herself or raise an alarm to get help. Or both.
Even among strangers, there is usually a mob rule mentality that metes out a kind of rough justice on behalf of the aggrieved party and the transgressor is ‘checked’ (sometimes very harshly). Either way, the lesson is learnt—if only temporarily!
The relevant authorities—we’re talking from simple band security to some nearby poldier—get involved only if the situation escalates beyond a certain point.
Now are these sorts of resolutions ideal? Of course not! But it is the status quo which I, like so many of the Carnival population, have grown accustomed to.
Put myself in a woman’s shoes (flats, preferably), however, and the status quo becomes way more problematic. For one thing, mob justice is wildly inconsistent and by nature non-preventative.
Moreover, even when we’re dealing with the more harmless physical prompts (the sort I’m guilty of), it must be very annoying to be constantly nudged, prodded or even poked (some people get a little too excited) while trying to enjoy yourself.
Granted that, over time, women have organically developed their own techniques to non-verbally indicate lack of interest but these are not 100% foolproof and often restrict their freedom to enjoy the festivities to the fullest.
The fact is that the CoP’s recent announcement has suddenly opened up a Pandora’s box because, vague and unhelpful as it was, it gave no real indication of what the new normal might be. ‘It depends’ is nice and non-committal, convenient even, but it is hugely problematic because it does not cut it legislatively. Law and ambiguity can’t live in the same house and laws often are pitched at the lowest common denominator because certain people just cannot be trusted to deal with nuance.
You have to read and spell for them. In black and white! And when it’s people’s bodies involved, brother, there can be no room—wiggle room?—at all for individual interpretation of the vagaries of human touch.
So what does a world look like where only verbal permission is acceptable to tief a wine?
How many men are even going to get past the first two words: “Ah could…?” without finishing the sentence with a non-verbal shake of some part of their body?
Assuming this new paradigm can take some degree of effect immediately—I have my doubts—I feel sure the incidence of harassment will drop significantly. How many men are seriously going to take the trouble of verbally asking a complete stranger for a wine?
More importantly, how many men are going to wait for the answer even if they do get around to asking the whole question?
Still, we can all agree that less overall harassment is a definite pro. The flip side to this, however, is that people may just end up wining exclusively on who they know, there will be less social mixing, and the Carnival becomes even more segregated. There will definitely be less bacchanal, and dare I say it? the festivities will lose some of their magic as a result.
Or maybe not. Perhaps now, under the new rules, women will become the new leaders of the wine tiefing movement. Sure there have always been dedicated female wine tiefers in our ranks, but now perhaps even more will feel empowered and/or forced to go hunting for bumpers. Yes, the laws will apply to them as well but I don’t see many men being aggrieved by unprompted physical provocation from an empowered woman. Even if his response is ‘thanks but no thanks,’ he will probably still feel flattered.
The culture of wine tiefing may be under new management but still in good hands after all. Or, more accurately, in good waists.
At the end of the day, it’s not up to me or to men in general and I’m relieved by that. So, ladies, when you all decide how you want things to go, let me know; I’ll adapt.