Noble: ‘No woman, no cry’! Hypocrisy, misogyny and bullying—the Mohit matter

On the eve of the 2007 general elections, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar quoted the famous Marley lyrics ‘no woman, no cry’ as she dug in against the treatment from the men in her party.

When she later won the internal elections and appointed Jack Warner as Chief Whip, Roodal Moonilal and Ramesh Maharaj objected bitterly. Mr Warner then parachuted Natasha Navas into the Chaguanas mayoral seat—ostensibly to side-line Mr Suruj Rambachan—but she rose and fell so precipitously that the concerns and objections of Mr Orlando Nagassar about her residential qualification did not matter.

Now comes Vandana Mohit, the newly appointed Chaguanas Mayor, and she is immediately bullied by persons unknown.

Photo: Chaguanas Mayor Vandana Mohit (left) is congratulated on her appointment.

Because Trinidad is a nice place, Mr Faris Al Rawi chimes in to support Ms Mohit as though he missed the recent clear rebuke of Ms Foulade Mutota. Or maybe, he believes that there is truth in Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s affirmation that there is ‘nobody in my Cabinet that is guilty of misogyny’. Women remain dispensable tools in politics and our country.

The male mindset is often that women should stay at home and actions are taken to remind them that they are not fully wanted. In this, the disrespectful Naipaulian quip that women who wear bindis (the red dot on their forehead) signify that their heads are empty is apt.

Unfortunately, many men still think this way. Publishing stories about believing the survivors of gender discrimination but not addressing the root cause of toxic masculinity will not change things.

Professional women run the gauntlet of threats, negative comments and rumours. The aim? To undermine their work, portraying them as being unqualified and without scruples.

It is more than the unauthorised sharing of nude pictures, they do that to demonstrate their silly conception of male power as they seek to fulfil the need to dominate women. These reputational attacks are essentially bullying, in which a woman’s history—real or imagined—is used to harass her.

Photo: Former Minister of Sport Darryl Smith and PM Dr Keith Rowley at Brian Lara Stadium opening in 2017.

Interestingly, the word ‘slut’, the disparaging word used to characterise women, originated in Middle English and at the time meant ‘dirty’ in the context of personal hygiene and housekeeping. There were no sexual connotations. But Eighteenth-century Americans applied it to ‘women who were perceived to be not in their private space, not in a parlor with other women, not being escorted by their husbands walking down the street, not at church with their families’.

Women who were alone in public were perceived to be prostitutes. Edmondson (2003) speaks, in the Caribbean context, to the confining of public spaces to men and the sexualising of women who dared to enter the public arena without the protection of a man. Women who do not conform are vilified.

Gabby Hosein (2012) helpfully discusses the particular plight of the East Indian woman—a discourse worth visiting in the context of both Navas and Mohit.

These attacks are only effective because adult men are still squeamish and judgmental about women’s sexuality. They revel in hypocrisy. They declare its appropriateness at Carnival, they want the women to be as bare as possible and to be raunchy and to be a ‘Wining Queen’.

But God forbid, should the same women dare to declare their independence. It would be viciously shut down. Men are celebrated for their sexual exploits, but women are humiliated for theirs.

Photo: A controversial Dolce & Gabbana advertisement.

The Millennials’ relationship with digital culture is tricky to comprehend. Taking selfies and consensual erotic photographs are a new norm. Precisely because of their youth, they may not consider the implications about the permeance of those images. Before we condemn, let us be thankful the technology was not present in our young days and recall our own indiscretions.

A study, based on 1,000 university students, showed that women were more likely to take these pictures to keep their partner interested but also as a form of self-empowerment (Johnstonbaugh, 2019). It is a conflicted part of modern dating. Half of all young people exchange explicit messages voluntarily (Data and Society, 2012).

If as some commentators have said, Ms Mohit should not be a Mayor because of the photos, are we prepared to disqualify half of our young people from leadership? Why do we accept the male politicians who cheat on their wives and pretend as though they are paragons of virtue?

The double standards persist and now worsen because older people do not like photographic evidence of their misdeeds, but young people do what they do unapologetically.

Taking such consensual photographs is not a crime, even if we think it unwise. The intent is not to share with the world but with a chosen one. The man, who shares them beyond the expected boundaries, is an exploiter.

Photo: Vandana Mohit (second from left) at a Chaguanas Borough facility.

He violates trust, making public an intimate moment without consent for the purpose of denuding the woman, who loved and trusted him, of her honour. He terrorises the woman and objectifies her to like-minded men.

Women, under 30 years, are 10 times more likely than their male peers to be threatened by the possibility of non-consensual public image sharing. Why? Because of the male toxicity that is being passed down to the new generation of boys.

Our discussion should focus on how we treat with such deviant despicable men. They are traitors and perpetrators of violence. How do we trust men who actively seek to destroy a woman that trusted them? That is a step too far. This is not about Ms Mohit.

She should do as Marley sang, ‘observing the hypocrites… mingle with the good people we meet’.

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About Noble Philip

Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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  1. “Women, under 30 years, are 10 times more likely than their male peers to be threatened by the possibility of non-consensual public image sharing. Why?”
    You are right, it is the same male toxicity. There is no ‘dick pic’ that has the kind of trade value as a woman’s body. That value is more exploitable. Why do we have a culture of exploitation being passed down? It would also help to understand if that mindset of exploitation is coupled to devaluing the worth of a woman in terms of her rights, her independence and her intelligence.

  2. “The double standards persist and now worsen because older people do not like photographic evidence of their misdeeds, but young people do what they do unapologetically.”
    Now here is a powerful statement. Sexual liberality categorized as ‘misdeeds’ alongside a tech divide in making those misdeeds manifested for public scrutiny. Why should it be strange that young people are unapologetic? Why are they unapologetic? That divide has restructured a new reality in the new generation and their understanding of sexual dynamics. This is a sad time for trying to unearth the biases and stigmas that surround sexuality and for these young people to understand their own sexuality. Privacy, respect and boundaries are necesaary to cultivate healthy sexual awareness. The younger generation will have to fight to reconcile the invasion of tech into this area of their sexuality. And dont expect the older generation to be of much help. They seem to be more interested in maintaining face and control. It may be so because it is easier than what they would need to confront if they had to ask difficult questions.

  3. “Before we condemn, let us be thankful the technology was not present in our young days and recall our own indiscretions.”
    What indiscretions? The older generation will likely never be reminded of their indiscretions so they may as well have never existed. The millennials dont have that luxury. They must learn quickly that the follies of their youth-even if it is because of ignorance, circumstance or naievity-will follow them unforgivingly. Is it any surprise that they are willfully deaf to self-righteous condemnation by the older generation? Additionally, the absence of indiscretions recorded on some millennials is not necessarily indicative of good moral values, it may just mean that they have become more savvy at manouvering the tech and social media minefield. I am sure in the arena of what is sexually explicit and tit-for-tat amongst millennials, many young ladies weigh in and keep some ‘dick pics’ handy as collateral. It was the first thing that crossed my mind when I read about the case with Navas and now this one. It is unfortunate that such a valuable tool for spicing things up in the bedroom can equally be used to tear down the fabric of sexually progressive steps between the sexes.

  4. “They revel in hypocrisy. They declare its appropriateness at Carnival, they want the women to be as bare as possible and to be raunchy and to be a ‘Wining Queen’.”
    The mother-whore complex. The way that they are able to relate to a woman sexually is affected by very strong cultural taboos that dictate womens’ sexual purpose and limits. Sometimes I believe that mens’ attachment to negatively exploiting womens’ sexuality has less to do with women and more to do with their own insufficiencies. They have a desperate need to feel powerful. And what is it about our society’s mindset that makes this manifestation of belittling so readily celebrated in some quarters?

  5. I am just wondering aloud, whether a PNM female in a similar predicament, would have been, or would in the future be defended, with similar zeal and gusto.

    • I am assuming the question is being asked of me. The short answer is yes. Take a stroll through my writings and you will observe my unequivocal stance in defence of all exploited woman. You may wish to review my note about the women of Laventille as a starter.

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