The Prime Minister’s recent “grooming” statement did not surprise me. Indeed it was at least the 3rd occasion in which his reference to women has been unfortunate. What has left me stunned is the image of 2 female Members of Parliament sitting behind him who obviously enjoyed the insult and verbal abuse. Even the Minister of National Security exhibited his total enjoyment of this unfortunate statement. How can I feel safe when the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Security, the Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and the Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, holding the portfolios of Gender and Child Affairs, Ecclesiastical Affairs and Central Administration Services, Tobago all publicly demonstrate their support for this unfortunate characterization?
When the women’s movement fought for women’s representation in government, we did not expect that female MPs would participate in such negative portrayals of women. We expected you to be shocked, or at the very least you would remain expressionless in the face of such abuse but instead you enjoyed the boy’s room expression and by your behaviour, gave it your unspoken approval. We did not expect you to publicly support such anti-woman banter. Did you even recognise it as anti-woman?
I wonder how you explained to your daughters what the Prime Minister meant by “grooming” or by “it turns into pasture”. I wonder how you explained the delight on your face and the face of your leader to your mother or sister or elder in church. Are you and your female colleagues on the government bench still rolling over with laughter? I am reminded of a statement by Albert Einstein: … the world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.”
The women of this country expect you and every woman in Parliament to clearly and firmly object to negative characterizations of women every time that it occurs, because words are powerful and what is said reveals inner thoughts and views about the subject. Words like these also send powerful cues to other men about the lack of esteem that women are given so each woman in Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that our male MPs honour women through their expressions.
The women of this country expect you to uphold the dignity of all women, because our country will only thrive when we dignify each other, and the leadership has a huge role to play in demonstrating that capacity to lead with dignity.
The women of this country also expect you to call out our leaders when they fall below expectations because that is how we will collectively improve. If this was the first unfortunate statement, it might be forgivable, but there is a consistent denigration of women by our Prime Minister. If you called him out in private, then please receive my private commendation, but publicly, my expectation is for us to speak well, do well and treat each other with kindness.
We owe it to ourselves and the children of our future.