Woman imprisoned

My friend, Andrea Baldwin recently wrote two pieces about female prisoners in one of the United states worse jails, Tutwiler Women’s Prison , which I felt I should share with my readers. Here is the first. I  am sorry that you have to hit another link to reach these articles  but I am still searching for an easier access. The articles are worth the time spent though.



Prisoner on the loose (via www.feministaliens.com)

I teach an Introduction to Women’s Studies course at the Tutwiler Women’s Prison in Alabama.  I have been doing so for the last 2 months and the experience so far has been nothing like I expected.  Going to that prison and interacting with these…


Is social media doing the job for us?

Social media has a lot of hype… it is new, knows  no  boundaries  and therefore cuts across racial, gender and geographical  lines with energy and confidence. What is the effect of this  creature that is moving like wild-fire in our lives.

Should we know? Do we want to know or are we too breathless trying to keep pace with its vertical  jumps as it forces the market to open new devices and platforms for its spread?

Are we too busy to care  as we  try  to  suck in all the information; view all the pictures and unravel all the data, it sends our way during its dizzy horizontal race across time lines and through man-made gates?

We, at Feminists Aliens are interrogating the role of social media in activism, especially as it relates to feminism and development. Our findings will be included in a paper to be presented at the University of the West Indies,  Institute for Gender and Development Studies 20th Anniversary Conference on “Continuities, Challenges and Transformations in Caribbean Gender Relations” to be held at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, 6-8 November, 2013.

We invite you to join this quest, not as passive bystanders but as active participants for whom the research will be beneficial.  Share your opinions. Please completing the below questionnaire. It will take you one click to reach and seven minutes to complete.






Marva Cossy

Forget about the tourists; make the Caribbean a paradise for us first

I cheered with them at the Summer Olympics; I cried with them over the last weekend and my heart continues to burn with them today over the unfathomable killing of eight year old Imani Green.

The high command of Jamaica’s police force said Imani was “mercilessly slaughtered in front of family members in a hail of bullets as gangsters sought to exact revenge on their rivals”.

Imani Green

Who de hell would spray gun shots in a shop where an eight year old is sitting on a stool? Who the hell can live with their conscience after gunning down an innocent child? And who de hell would think about tourism before this child is buried?

Mind you I am saying this approach is restricted to any one Caribbean nationality. A dead body will be warm and Caribbean people will be shivering over the effect of that murder on tourism. I am not denying the importance of the industry to our economies nor that having a safe country where visitors know they can roam freely and safely isn’t excellent for marketing our countries, but it smacks of insensitivity when money comes before man.

Today, a young chef was gunned down outside an upscale restaurant in Barbados’ main tourism belt and check out Facebook chatters: “Not good for tourism. Tourists will go home and talk; tourists will read it one the internet.”

Let’s stop thinking about tourists, for a minute and think about ourselves. Let’s talk about making our country secure for ourselves. In our region, we have a high level of domestic violence, is it important because the crime statistics has an effect on tourism? Shouldn’t be!

Brothers, uncles, fathers, friends and strangers raped children, boys and girls; they become mothers at an early age; contract sexually transmitted diseases; are psychologically scarred for life and some transformed into anti-social human beings. We speak little of this; we don’t call emergency meetings and bombard the relevant government minister with questions about what he or he is doing. Nah, it isn’t about tourism.
It seems only the statistics matter. We get riled up about the total figure not the growing column under the domestic violence or sexual abuse columns. Why? Maybe because tourist importing countries are likely to use the aggregate as reason to issue travel advisories against us.
Get real people; we need not only to talk about sexual abuse and domestic violence, every community need to be engaged in a project that will affect change. Making our communities better for us will make us better citizens and better hosts.
We need to start talking about improving the quality of crime prevention and detective work, through the region. Let’s use Trinidad and Tobago, where the detection rate for murder has doubled to reach 12 per cent. This seems praiseworthy by the triniad Express newspaper says: “… this still means that only about one in nine murderers is ever arrested, with fewer than that being convicted. Nor can the police even claim that this improvement is due to better detective work, since it may well be that the “detection” is explained solely by an increase in domestic murders, which had gone up during the three months of the 2011 State of Emergency.”

We also need to start talking about gun use. The United States has been forced into serious action about access to guns after another mass murder. Most Caribbean countries have strict gun control laws that stipulates that licences are required by the public to buy weapons so our problem relates to illegal guns on the street. Therefore let’s talk about how guns are getting into the hands of every “Tom, Dick and Martha’ and why they are so attractive to people.

We like mimicking the United States. Choose a worthwhile mimic this time, for example, President Obama’s approach to research on gun violence. Note the following:

Obama hopes to be able to gather more information on gun violence and misuse of firearms, and use that data to inform the work of law enforcement. He also wants to restart research, which has been long blocked by the National Rifle Association, on how video games, the media, and violence affect violent gun crimes.

And may I add for us in the region, how these things affect sexual abuse and domestic violence. The Caribbean Community countries cooperate among themselves of crime prevention efforts. Let join each other in carrying out meaningful research projects and ensuring effective and prompt implementation of recommendations at the community level.
I want to cheer with Jamaicans, Antiguans, Trinidadians, Barbadians and all Caribbean Community nationals in applauding ourselves for making our countries better for us. Tourists are welcomed to enjoy it afterwards. Let’s put ourselves first.

Related Articles

Let Me Play

Criminals Getting Away with Murder (Trinidad Express)

Pose women pose?

So what are the feminists saying now? Will Red Code for Justice ‘unpick’ its teeth (Bajan for open its mouth)?

Only last week, Red Code for Justice spoke out against a Bank Breweries advertisement, carried in the Daily Nation newspaper, which featured a young woman in shorts and top saying ‘Brown never look so tasty’ and ‘My brown ting, my Banks’.  Now, international entertainer, the official face of Barbados, Rihanna is posing in a very suggestive way on the cover of the recent edition of Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ) magazine.

Only a few people, albeit in Red Code’ backyard, will see the Banks advertisement but millions are likely to see Rihanna on GQ’s cover which ‘starlights’ its drawing card item as “Men of the Year and one hot woman”. Rihanna appears partially naked holding her hands erotically between her legs, pointing out what makes her woman; this image will help make the GQ edition a grabber.  Men of the year with one hot woman! Real suggestive, GQ, lots of mental images, there!

So I am listening for the feminists’ response as well as that of the other side for I am still working out some unanswered questions related to a person’s rights and responsibilities.  My alter ego, Avram, cautioned me against waiting for a reaction.

You think it is the militant burn-your-bra days, when placard women would have marched on companies, she said, that wasn’t Caribbean people. Today, Caribbean feminists give ‘polite lady-like’ responses. In fact, she said the feminist movement here is for the most part safely fastened in intellectual halls overseen by women in air-conditioned rooms who deliberated and theorised while avoiding the trenches that are necessary to generate the fruits of true advocacy.

She recalled that we didn’t see a word in our local newspapers or on local radio from feminists about the Bank advertisement. Apparently, the company didn’t hear a word either. If something was said the volume was too low to be heard and it certainly did not dissuade Banks from placing a new and more suggestive advertisement in the newspaper a few days later.

In any case, how cares about what the feminists say, Avram added.  She doesn’t think that what the Banks model or Rihanna’s does has another to do with feminists. The feminists’ view about adverts is an old fashion construct, today’s women are in control of their destiny and intelligent women are choosing their lot; isn’t that what the feminists were agitating for, she asked. In fact, she was able to find a quote from Rihanna  her (Avram’s point).


rihanna (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Sometimes a person looks at me and sees dollars.They see numbers and they see a product. I look at me and I see art. If I didn’t like what I was doing then I would say I am committing slavery.” (Rihanna)

In any case, while people are arguing about the ‘taste’ of the Rihanna cover, Barbados’ Minister of Tourism was in glee over the exposure that Rihanna is giving the country’s tourism product. The star has a three-year contract with Barbados Tourist Authority (BTA) and its chairman, Adrian Elcock says the organisation “is expecting the marketing power of Rihanna to drive Barbados’ finances as a tourist destination like never before …”

So who is noticing Red Code or the feminists? Avram asked.

(N.B. I wrote this about a week ago.)

Advertisement: sexist or harmless sales pitch

Every day, I pass several posters advertising dances a.k.a. fetes plastered on walls in public places throughout Barbados and I restrain myself from starting a monologue beginning with “years ago …”  It is not the bright colours or the bold writing that draw persons to examine these posters rather it is the ‘half naked’ women, some bent in the 6:30 position (as in the clock hands) demonstrating the popular dance featured at many fetes.

I recall silently the period when the women’s movement in Barbados agitated for an end to this type of advertisement terming it an exploitation of women. That was before digital technology made production of these advertisements easy as well as accessible to almost everyone. Since then, there has also been a new boldness among people and it seems a quiet women’s movement.

Not much is therefore said about these posters that stand on the brink of the pornography line requiring only a feather touch to push them into the restricted area. In fact, I thought the feminists in this country were ignoring them.  But today I’ve noticed a Facebook entry from Red Code for justice regarding a Bank Breweries Barbados advertisement, which showed a young woman in a suggestive position with a beer in her hand.

Red Code captioned it:

Sexist Caribbean ads: Barbados’ Banks beer rolls out ‘My Brown Ting, My Banks’ ad. Email us at redforgender@gmail.com with any other sexist or racist Caribbean ads you come across. Help us educate Caribbean companies that women aren’t things!

What about the women, don’t they need education as well? Are they devoid of responsibility?? What about the dance ads, I ask myself. Do they differ enough from those of companiesto merit a dissimilar approach? Why campaign against one and not the other? Is it fair to do so?

I was told – not by Red Code – that the issue relates to the term “my brown Ting” rather than dress or pose, since the model is properly clad and the pose is merely artistic and tasteful. Therefore, my friend said, the ads are dissimilar and my questions are based on a false premise. But I still ask, isn’t it the same thought process that fuels the decision to pose in both these scenarios?

Red Code promised “to collect some images from all across the region, write an article and post it on the social media networks.” I look forward to this as it should educate many people as well as help answer some of my questions and give clarity to the central reason for flagging the ad.

I believe many women share Ashantia Howard’s view who in a Facebook comment gave me impression that the Banks ad is insignificant compared with other issues facing women and should be left alone. She suggested that instead of bothering about a beer commercial, Red Code should campaign for real issues affecting women, such as the right to choose and abortion rights. It will be worthy while to see how the promised article will influence opinions such as Howard’s.

Clearly, the female models are not forced into these ads (such as the Bank’s one) and may not get Red Code’s point. I have noticed that while women are photographed wearing the shortest, tightest, most revealing outfits they can squeeze their bodies into, the male models have more of their bodies under cover. So choice plays a big part.

Is the message which gender groups are advocating catching on? Or are they preaching to an inner circle? What do you think? Is it a woman’s choice to pose or not to pose? Why bother a company that like a fete holder/sponsor is trying to sell his product using the best tools available? Tell me!

Related articles:


This one from Brazil.


Tracking in the wrong direction

As usual I check my Facebook daily, most of my links to news are there; my friends are there too. My early morning stop at Facebook therefore means ‘get up’ greetings; reminders to send warm thoughts to a friend or relative celebrating an anniversary. It also means catching up with the wider world by way of news clips liked and shared by friends plus offerings from news sources to which I subscribe.

Today, a piece of news chilled rather than warmed my heart as it should have given my history. The Mail Online article headlined “The shoe with-inbuilt GPS that tracks Alzheimer’s patients – and gives their relatives peace of mind,” brought me fear, not joy.

I read and digested what Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services in Washington said. I agreed with him that the shoes could save lives and avoid embarrassing and costly incidents with the elderly.

My grandmother who raised me was a sufferer. She lived with us in her matrimonial home until she died. Her children and grandchildren were her only care givers. We took shifts; watching her in the back yard or the front yard, on alert even while she slept. So I have countless tales of our experiences filled with worry and pain but fortunately for us these events always ended in joyful relief.

Our best endeavours were often thwarted when she wanted to escape us, whom she probably thought was her captors. She would set off to visit her mother whom she thought was calling her to do chores; or she wanted to get to the plantation so that overseer wouldn’t dock her pay making it difficult to feed her 13 small children. So I know.

But this statement from Professor Carle truly pained me:

The primary reason is that paranoia is a  manifestation of the disease.

If you put something on someone with  Alzheimer’s that they don’t recognize, they remove it. If it’s a wristwatch and  it’s not their wristwatch, they will take it off. So you have to hide it.’

The device is hidden! That hurts because I live in the Caribbean.

My Caribbean has a persistent problem with domestic violence and that came to mind as I read this Alzheimer’s-related article. It brought back memories of credible horror stories from acquaintances about the lengths which boyfriends, husbands and ex-partners have taken to track down ‘their women and girls’. The phone calls to friends and relatives re-checking stories; the inspection of mobile telephone and the associated interrogation about calls; the misuse of GPS mobile phones trackers … I have heard a lot and these women have endured much more. So I said, “Here comes another tracker … another tool which could be misused and could lead to violence.”

Perhaps my mind was stirred because a few moments earlier I had read a Facebook poster from Red Code for Gender Justice which proclaimed, “In many Caribbean countries such as Barbados and the Bahamas, domestic violence murders make up nearly or just above HALF of all murders …”

I have heard and read about the verbal abuse; the slaps and kicks and sometimes tragically, the stabbing, shooting and choking which often results when the accused partner does not, in the opinion, of the other partner pass the interrogation. What is seldom recorded is the anguish, the economic deprivation and more importantly the permanent psychological scars which this domestic violence inflicts on children.

As usual when such matters enter my head, I research the topic. I did so. Alas another area known but not focal in my thoughts emerged. Human trafficking!

The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012 – which I have attached – described this as a “growing concern … (which) creates insecurity among Caribbean women and men, though it does not exclusively affect those groups.”

“Criminal networks in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Jamaica are increasingly becoming involved in human trafficking. For example, investigative work in Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados recently discovered that the majority of prostitutes in the country were immigrant women forced into the sex trade.

The investigation uncovered at least 80 women who were told they would be earning decent salaries as bartenders, masseuses, hotel workers, or dancers. Instead, the women, who were mainly from Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Lucia, were forced to serve as sex workers in nightclubs. The investigation determined that organized crime groups obtained the cooperation of immigration officers and senior officials, who were frequently bribed to allow the women into the country.”

You may now ask why I’ve linked this to a chip in a shoe. Recently a newspaper reported how these ‘modern day slaves’ are forced to walk in twos when going out and are kept under surveillance by their ‘slave masters’. I therefore see this device as another tool, another aid for those with ill intentions.

At the price of about £250 or $750 in my Barbados currency, the tracking sneakers may be regarded as too expensive especially for a jealous partner to buy; but who knows what someone will spend to satisfy his desires?

Friends will say that as usual, I am over analysing, over thinking. If you agree with them but your awareness of domestic violence and human trafficking has heightened, well take that as the true purpose of this post. But I can only be honest to myself and the Alzheimer’s article reminded me that a product made to serve a positive purpose, is too often used for ill will.

My history helps me to share the joy of caregivers, relatives and friends of Alzheimer’s sufferers and to applaud the development of the shoe tracking device but I am also a Caribbean person, a woman and a mother and it has brought up some pain.