Denigrating Women Again

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 23, 2017

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeLast week my friend Prime Minister Keith Rowley was at it again, demeaning women without having a clue about what he is doing to their mental health, their self-esteem and lowering their respect in the eyes of the nation. No one in the party seems to have the courage to tell the PM that his views on women are antiquated. What struck me most about Camille Robinson-Regis’s defense of the PM’s analogy of the grooming of women to the grooming of a golf course was her unconscious ability to participate in demeaning herself as a woman and a mother when she suggested there are more important things the nation should focus upon.

Today I reproduce parts of my article “Confessions of a Soft Man” (Express, April 12, 2014). It is not meant to critique a woman when a man is the major offender nor does it wish to jump on any bandwagon criticizing the prime minister. Rather, it reflects my long-standing concerns about maintaining the dignity of women:

“Let me confess to my eternal shame that I am a soft man. After my prostatectomy (an operation for prostate cancer) about six years ago [in 2008], I am sure that I can never win any titles for possessing the hardest hard which some of our calypsonians, promoters of this kind of wisdom, proclaim is the true sign of a real man.

“Let us then congratulate Keith Rowley, a man of steel, whose steel-like prowess, as Camille Robinson-Regis, a deputy leader of the PNM, assures us will allow him to lead the nation aright. According to the Express, Ms. Robinson-Regis assured the nation, at a meeting of the PNM Women’s League, that although Anil Roberts likes to shout, at heart he is really “an empty vessel and ‘a soft man'” (April 4, 2014).

“Given Ms. Robinson-Regis’s desire to promote the virtues of hardness and men of steel, the use of Penguin’s ‘Soft Man’ seemed appropriate for the occasion…. It celebrates patriarchy at its worst and enthrones sentiments that our nation can do without at this stage of our development.

“In ‘Soft Man’ Penguin tells us that a woman likes a man ‘who lays down his turf, a man who can stand up straight.’ He says further ‘a man is supposed to lead/ supply his woman’s needs/Never make the yard get weeds/Dig the soil and plant the seeds.’

“Just in case a woman ever forgets her place in this hierarchy of power, Penguin reminds her that man lays down the law. He says: ‘A man should be like a tower/Protect his household at any cost/He got to show strength and power/ and show that he is the boss.’

“These sentiments embody a message that might have been the prevailing wisdom 30 years ago. They have no place in our society today. When that calypso was written, most of us accepted a society in which men were perceived as primary authority figures in the household, in the political arena, and God’s appointed rulers in the vineyard. Such a world privileged male power, which, by definition, relegated women to a subservient role in the society….

“How relevant are such attitudes in 2014 where women are trailblazers in so many areas and there is so much violence in our society-in our schools, homes, and communities, with much of the violence directed against our women. Can it not be argued that the values inherent in ‘Soft Man’ promote a misogyny that is unhealthy for our society?

“I know that Ms. Robinson-Regis would say that she did not intend to denigrate women and perhaps such excesses are excusable in a political context. However, when one sees how some of our ministers treat their constituents (observe the endorsement of such behavior by an organization that is supposed to be working to uplift women), one can safely say that we are dealing with a structural problem that transcends party lines.
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“The newspaper article suggests there was audience participation in Ms. Robinson-Regis’s misogynistic posturing…. After Ms. Robinson-Regis declared Dr. Rowley a man of steel, ‘Soft Man’ was played; the audience sang aloud with it, and then shouted the names ‘Faris and Hinds.’ Ms. Robinson-Regis informed them that as far as she knew, they, too, were men of steel. As Penguin asserted, and presumably Ms. Robinson-Regis concurs, a soft man ‘could never get women’s respect/Everybody does call him stupidy….’

“The messages that we send to our youths can be very powerful especially when they are enmeshed in popular culture. The struggle for women’s dignity and equality should remain paramount in our party and our society. Something has to be terribly wrong when after 30 years we are still sanctifying sentiments that we thought we had long ago abandoned….

“We all need to be extremely careful about the language we use…. As we watch the brutalisation of our society, the best measure of a man cannot be reduced to how hard or soft he is. A man’s hardness endures for a while. His character and respect for women should last a lifetime.”

It’s 2017, Keith Rowley is our PM but the denigration of women continues. We must be more conscious of how we speak characterize our women.

Next week I will examine the PM’s comment.

Professor Cudjoe’s email is scudjoe@wellesley.edu. He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

11 Responses to “Denigrating Women Again”


  • Dr Cujoe, your column seems to be on political correctness, and your views accorded in many different ways. We as a people have lost a great part of our original culture, some of us are in the process of reclaiming what matriarch meant to us in a different epoch, the present day black women evolving from slavery, continues to self disrespect. You have to remember Dr Cujoe, that the woman was made to hate her self through being defiled in the last 500yrs, her man was, and is to this day reduced to nothingness, we see the wages every day, where ever the African is domicile. The carnival season is fast approaching, have you ever taken a secluded position and watch at the mayhem that entails? you cannot be carnal today, and expect to be given the desired courtesy later.Trinidad’ history and that of the caribbean, is still nestled in slavery and indentureship.When we look at the way Indian mothers and sisters are treated by the male gender, there isn’ much difference, while in the African sector, if the male head of the house is transitioned the first son don’t run things, it is quite grossed on the Indian side, in most cases, the first son being brutal to his mother. Don’t forget Dr Cujoe, that patriarch, not withstanding what is said, still run things, the women follow, in other words, go along to get along. Irregardless of the woman’ achievements, and a lot have been accomplished over the last 50yrs, she is still outside looking into the man’ world of corruption, war and deceit, when ever the door is cracked letting her in, she follows the same pathway laid out by the man. I personally did not like penguins’ calypso of “soft man” because man in his limited comprehension, don’t stay hard for too long unless he baths in health and spirituality. The woman born, breast fed and then marry that man, she gave birth to, only to be abused in all form and fashion by the fruit of her womb. These are some of the ideals given to us by Europe, the greatest of all, hating ourselves and most importantly our WOMAN.

  • “What struck me most about Camille Robinson-Regis’s defense of the PM’s analogy of the grooming of women to the grooming of a golf course was her unconscious ability to participate in demeaning herself as a woman and a mother when she suggested there are more important things the nation should focus upon.”
    …..Dr Cudjoe

    Dr. Cudjoe, I join Cooper in associating your statement and assessment on the Prime Minister’s statement as “political correctness”. We (plural), are still emerging from a culture
    where the role of women are still being defined. One of our (men) contention is that women are our soul mates, like it or hate it. IN language, art and culture women remain the one object that we (men) depend on to to complete our formulations. So, why should it be sexist that Dr. Rowley’s statement on “grooming” a gulf course be construed as “denigrating”?

    Women in all walks of life are trying to re-define their roles in society but one thing that they are not (and should not change) is their role as soul mate to their men. If we are to view Dr. Rowley’s statement from this point of view, I doubt that it should be challenged as being wrong. It is very common in the English language to use a single word that connotes a different meaning, depending on the context in which it is used. Thus ‘grooming’ in Dr. Rowley’s statement means “to prepare or train (someone) for a particular purpose”. This generation of men, “twentieth century men” were trained to view women as mates that we have to “train” to match our soulful expectations.

    I know the politics of that expectation can be contentious but our roles as males and females are stilling defined by society.
    If we are to gauge this statement politically, we will find that there is no consistency in how it should be interpreted. Take for example Kamla Persad Bissessar’s criticism of it, one might find it consistent from a feminist point of view. But when one consider that she herself, while serving under the leadership of Based Panday, was content as being termed as the “abused housewife” in the UNC. Better yet, on one hand, she demeans the treatment of “underage girls” to be used “doulahins” for older men. But when the time came to vote in Parliament to put it into law, she abstained by not showing up to vote. The absence was conspicuous, because it is understood that her guru, Sat Maharaj would have been upset if she did.

    This is a case of people “wanting their cake and eating it at the same time”. In my generation men revered women. As young men, it was pastime to look, comment, review, admire and praise a fine looking women. Dr. Rowley, belonging to this generation, I’m sure used his statement to reflect this admiration for a fine looking woman and from my point of view this is how he meant it.

  • The use of political deflection to rationalize Rowley’s inexcusable comments is absurd. This has nothing to do with political correctness. To draw the former PM into this debate with the use of weak parallels is another diversionary tactic being used to give the PM a pass. The sexist, misogynistic comments of the PM are being supported and excused by two dinosauric commentators on this site, shameful!
    This PM repeatedly demonstrates by his actions and rhetoric that his deficient upbringing, and moral bankruptcy disqualify him from being a prime minister of anything.

    • Rumpelstiltskin…or Bill O’Riley ???????…….Oh Spin Boy. As always,ah brewing in de Vernacular,wid ah dash ah Scarstic Satire…….TMan,dis piper better than Sunil, he spinning in de opposite direction, ah wonder wha the piper ha in da pipe…lol….Is really ah pity dat one so learned,an he equally knowledgeable followers pushing dah Head.Tangents in all directions….Reminds meh ah dem “shocking” spin twins in O’Town, Mr V @ the “greenman”….lol.Dis’ Racial politricks thing” go kill somebody oui…..For all those who really concerned wid de politricks,they shud pay closer attention to wah de “1%” currently saying…..Remember Mr Manning an de famous meeting ???? Looks like de “floods” wud not abate anytime in de forseeable future….Ah taut dat Mr “Prasad” an Ms “kurma” was bad, buh “Erasmuses” an dem tek de cake,running away!!!!Like LaLonde…..lol..lol……….an another ting,wah clan started de Boston Carnival again.?????Really????…Fuh true???? I searched high and low an can’t geh ah lil hint even, an dey sat da is Trump who ha Narcissistic personality disorder…Nah he by heself nah…..wah did Teacher Percy say again????………………an Dah is Dah,or as Gump would say “DA is all ah ha to say bout Dat”…..Ah wasting good good Oxygen here.

  • So I would love to hear the defence for the PM when before the elections he said, “If your wife say she love you she hornig you”.

  • The new Rowley doctrine is mired in the talk of jammetry,soft man and grandstanding,Governance takes a back seat to cheap theatrics

    Welcome to the “Keith Rowley Show”…top of the bill.

  • As Trinidadians, we use words in a strange way.
    I don’t believe that Keith Rowley intended to disrespect women. Rowley is the father of two daughters, and he lives in a household with three females. He is outnumbered.
    Keith Rowley is bald headed, like myself, and does not need make-up, so he does not need much grooming when going out with his family of ladies.
    Ladies on the other hand have to do the hair, nails face make-up, including the special eye works, toes, etc. This is a big business. Most men, I am sure, including Rowley, have to wait for the completion of this event and have had some light-hearted objection to this “grooming.”
    The women will tell you that they are not like you (men), they have “groom-up” among other things. Been there, heard that. So stop jumbieing the man on this one.
    How many of us have heard males saying to one another. “How yuh grooming up so, like yuh is ah woman or wot? Stop the hypocrisy.

  • I wasn’t going to comment on this article because it was written in a way that dealt with the subject matter with the righteous indignation it deserves. To that I say A+.

  • It is folly to accuse the Prime Minister of being insensitive to women. While I agree that his statement is liable to interpretation, it is also harmless in grammar and intent.
    As I explained in an earlier blog, so much of how we speak has to do with culture and lifestyle, that we too are just as perplexed about women’s liberation.

    Those who criticize on the basis of defending womanhood or sensitivity towards the treatment of women, should be careful on what grounds they make their points, because women’s sensitivity differ on subject matters. This is why I thought the author’s claim of insensitivity by using the word “grooming” was taking it too far. That leaves me to ask, what is our sense of equilibrium in understanding the treatment of women? The former prime minister, a woman, used the resources of State and parliamentary decorum to castigate and belittle the former Opposition Leader, Dr. Rowley by essentially calling him a rapist; his father a rapist; both Dr. Rowley and his father for being sexually aggressive towards women. She courted the assistance of one of her female ministers to support these claims without one shred of legal evidence to support the uncivil behavior. That was sanctioned by our parliamentary system of government with agreement by some of them who now claim him to be insensitive.

    Wehere do we draw our sense of equilibrial justice, when on one hand we lament his use of words as insensitive and on the other allowing women to use our most formal forum for discussing the state’s business to insult him in the worst possible way with legal grounds for their claims?. In this case, the actors who criticize his use of the word “grooming” were the most vociferous, yet they now want to claim the moral high ground. This, to me is hypocrisy in its most ardent form.

    The white women of the United States are most aggressive in calling out men who they believe is less than respectful and rude to women. Yet, in the last general elections they voted overwhelmingly against a white woman and cast the majority of their votes to a man who is on record in thought, word and deed as being rude, disrespectful, aggressive and unkind to these same women. Their action certainly did not represent convictions in this case. So, I ask the question again, what is wrong with the use of the word “grooming”?. Women “groom” themselves for many activities and occasions. So, why is it a negative when a man (a black man) like Dr. Rowley use it? I think that it is a fallacy to subscribe to the view that Dr. Rowley was being insensitive when he used the analogy to describe the “grooming” of a golf course and the “grooming” of a woman, to be degrading.

  • It is a FACT that the PM is a statutory rapist. This cannot be denied. He defiled his position as a teacher in the community to exploit and groom an under-aged student in the community to have sex.Is there another explanation?

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