Peter Espeut’s opinions on Gender and Feminism which were published in the Gleaner of Friday March 17, 2017 is typical of privileged men’s response to women’s attempts at responding to the inequities of a system which treats men, such as himself, as privileged citizens. Male privilege has traditionally existed in opposition to women’s attempts to address the unfairness of patriarchy. His article therefore, does not deviate from the patriarchal, male privileged norm.
Espeut notes “No longer is the liberation of women viewed as tied to the liberation of men from their patriarchy such that both genders can together enjoy their new freedom.” Men have traditionally been uncomfortable with women’s fight for liberation because they are unable to own their role as the main perpetrators of violence against women and for the perpetuation of women’s subjugation. Their response is to locate themselves as victims of patriarchy as well, without the requisite examination of themselves as perpetrators of injustice against women or as complicit benefactors of male privilege. In fact the narrative, which Jamaican men are now seeking to promulgate is one which states that they are in fact victims of women’s liberation or women’s fight for equality and justice. Espeut would have us believe that as women over time have asked for equal representation, equal treatment and respect they have somehow marginalized men. His narrative would suggest that by asking for a ‘seat at the table’ by their struggle for liberation they have devalued men. Unfortunately, his fears and the perpetuation of ideas such as this are spouted every day by privileged men, who obviously feel that their position as ‘first citizen’ is a right that must go unchallenged. I would suggest that a question men like Espeut need to ask themselves and seek answers to is ‘who is standing in the way of the progress of Jamaican men?’ to answer the question I would point him to Mark Figueroa’s work on the under performance of Jamaican boys. Figueroa in that work had suggested that:
“Some people have concluded that this is a case of male marginalization that requires affirmative
action. Such a position is not defensible in this context, where historic male privilege remains strong and there are too many cases where men retain leadership and generally earn more than women who are better qualified.”
Espeut contends that “sometime in the 1980s Women’s Studies morphed into Gender Studies” I would not use the word morph, in fact my understanding of the switch from Women of Feminist Studies to Gender Studies is guided by the realization that men in power, including the leadership of universities, found the rising prominence and relevance and growing popularity of the discipline problematic and did all they could to neutralise it. Gender Studies, Mr. Espeut, was never an advance for the realities of women in academia nor did it bolster women’s voices as advocates and activists, it was and still remains patriarchy’s most successful attempt at neutralising and silencing women’s voices.
Men like Peter Espeut ought to learn the dangers of speaking for an oppressed group. He also needs to own and acknowledge his privilege and the several ways he has come by it and as a man of ‘sound reason’ (all men tend to be, I have heard) he needs to learn to speak on the issues with which he is familiar. Feminists do not need to hijack Gender Studies, we know that women’s political and social value have been severely undermined by the attempts of men like him to ‘add men and stir’under the guise of Gender Studies. Their public narrative is that if we say man 50% of the time and woman the other 50% miraculously gender equality will appear and we will live happily ever after and the white prince will turn up on a white horse or some such crap. You are not believable Peter, I have seen you do better, try again.