By Dr Ian Bethell-Bennett
Dean of the Faculty of Liberal and Fine Arts at the College of Bahamas
“RIDE the jet ski”, “Jet ski rides”, a young, rough and loud man shouts to the woman as she walks onto the beach. Hair uncombed, one section with plaits sticking out, cussing up a storm and he does not take no for an answer. He circles and lands again. No, is still the answer. No, to him, however, means try again and the answer will miraculously change to a yes.
His language raw and harsh, the tourist lady asks him to leave her alone. He understands, “Tell me I’m pretty”, and so it goes from bad to awful.
He, the man, refuses to take no from a mere woman.
Though as the Shadow song goes, “You working? No. You joking? No. You stealing? No. You dealing? No! You looking for horn. Somebody will horn you. I hope you could take it partner”.
In local lingo the term “roach” is probably better. The young man can’t take it. And when the woman insists that he leave her alone he cusses her because he is a man and she should simply acquiesce to his demands for her to ride his jet ski.
Eventually, given the insistence on Bahamian bravado in masculinity, the tourist leaves the beach, vowing not to return. Where is the Prime Minister when all of this is happening?
He is probably too busy forgiving people’s bad debts so that they can become immune from prosecution through diplomacy, yet saying he will examine the case, but simultaneously confirming that this is his choice. The irony of doublespeak and lack of clarity, yet sad bull-headed determination of a nation towards gender inequality and structural inequalities where the poor pay for the rich, is alarming.
Not only is his robust tourist industry suffering because of a brand of gender identity and behaviour, but the level of violence that issues from the young man to the tourist woman because she refuses his attentions is frightening; it shows a certain amount of entitlement without worth.
Where is the country going when women insist that men can and should boss them around and throw a few blows should they wish, yet tourists who are confronted with the same attitudes are not enjoying them?
Where does a country find its bottom line when its primary product is tourism which is service based, but service to us means insult women because they refuse to ride your jet ski and then because no means yes to you, force them into a bush and push yourself into them. Your boys celebrate this kind of endeavour and so does the culture at large. But where does that leave the country, really?
The IDB is telling us that they are about to come in and our economy is in jeopardy, yet domestic violence and sexual assault are all that youth think about because no woman is allowed to say no to a man, even though he be a scrub.
It has become a crisis situation where young males on their jet skis see themselves as God’s gift to women, encouraged in this by many women; they feel they are entitled to dominate through force and through sex and they can insult and cause injury because a woman does not want what they have to offer. Tourism does not thrive in these environments.
However, we have chosen to close our eyes to this reality, as if by so doing the reality is not real.
Women do not take well to being called loose or ugly, especially when it only has to do with your jet ski. We may choose to speak like this in our neighbourhoods, but are we unable to control our male bravado to the extent that we can treat people with respect in public. The new generation of shoreline executives is unaware of the use and importance of language.
He only cares that he can offer a woman a ride, and should she wish not to, he can then make her life miserable.
Is this really what makes it better in the Bahamas? Where is the Ministry of Tourism in dealing with these shoreline executives, who deserve to work, but need to learn how to be human and respectful, no matter what their boys tell them.
At the end of the day what we see is a brand of masculinity that says I expect women to be loyal to me, be subservient to me and I can do as I please. As Shadow sings, “You looking for horn boy”. The horn they will get is not just from ‘their women’ cheating on them, but a general backlash.
Most women, it would seem, want respect, not insults and injuries.
More tragically, the way these males behave could jeopardise every local having access to the beach and being able to put bread in their mouths.
They use jet skis as weapons, extensions of what they see as their manhood. They regularly run people out of the water and even off the beach. Can we not see how retrograde our gender relations are? What can we do about the way we produce young men?