By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 13, 2014
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, 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 Trinidad 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).
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. But what message did this convey? “Soft Man” is a clever calypso filled with double entendres set to an infectious beat. It celebrates patriarchy at its worse and enthrones sentiments that our nation can do without particularly 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 that “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.
I am not saying that in my mother’s and father’s world, 60 years ago, women did not have their spheres of power wherein they demonstrated their leadership abilities. I am only arguing that such structures always presumed male leadership and power and, in many cases, did everything to let women know their place. My suspicion is that Hindu households, given the precepts of the religion, entrenched male power even more deeply.
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 (she may call it picong) are excusable in a political context. However, when one sees how some of our ministers treat their constituents (observe the endorsement of such behaviour by an organisation 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.
The newspaper article suggests there was audience participation in Ms Robinson-Regis’s misogynistic posturing. The Trinidad Express reports that 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”.
Language matters. 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.
It may be the political season but we all need to be extremely careful about the language we use and how we go about assassinating the character of our foes and friends alike. 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.
Even as I reiterate my support for Dr Rowley and his team, I remind my party that the struggle for women’s dignity and equality must remain central to our party’s ideology. They are the values our women’s group should promote.
2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Soft Man”
Ahh, and what great stuff, Dr Cudjoe. I love it, so let the debate begin.
With one flick of the wrist, you have skillfully converted a cheeky single -in Larry Gomes fashion-through fine leg, or is it gully, to six runs, and brought up yet another century, as the fielders overthrew the ball to the keeper.
This song , led by million of Robinson-Regis type females ,just won a Road March, and that’s the reality Doc.The artist would say, don’t blame me , when I am just a messenger.
Kind of remind me of a catchy ditty , by de Birdie back in the day, whose chorus went like this :-“Every now and then cuff them down
They love you long and they love you strong
Black up the eye and bruise up the knee
And they love you eternally…”
Now to his credit , Uncle Slinger did add, in the end, the line-“Then they leave you eternally, “but by then Dr Cudjoe, we aren’t sure, if anyone, such as ‘Tomcat PP politician / Pundit Shama,’ was really listening. Hopefully, his ambitious , social jet setting victim, in new aged Businesswoman Shasha Singh, as well as female Acting Commissioner of Police, and her investigation team,or that fiercely independent DPP, our selectively outraged ,PP AG, Rammy, has tried to fire ,since taking office, with little success, thankfully.
There are those who would say Dr Cudjoe, what are you getting worked up about? That song could be great for the clubs , of T&T, but never Road March. We instead , led my Marchel Montano, will treat Dupatee little , Indian sister with respect. We love fat chicks like Etel, and her Grenadian like , rotund, Rolly polly , Trini gals.
They’ll likewise remind you Doc , that this ain’t India , where they condone bride burning, or public rapes of even , elite University students, with no justice for victims despite, resultant outrages, by the disgusted masses.
They’ll remind you that unlike T&T ,Pakistan, and Somalian women , are stoned, if a male, non relative , just look at them sexually, much less rape them.
It ain’t Kenya, where genital mutilation is the norm , or in the case of American supported Egypt,women /Arab Spring ,political protesters ,stripped searched, and medically examined, to see if they are still virgins , before charges are laid.
To bolster their argument they’ll remind you Doc , that Women can drive with reckless abandon here in T&T ,or better yet , become Prime Ministers,Business CEOs, where as, in Saudi Arabia, they still cannot vote.
To his credit, the late Penguin, did also say in song -‘we living in jail.’
Now that is something we can all agree on Doc, for with all the fancy talk , by the loquacious, Tin pan soldier, turn National Security Head honcho,the crime situation ,remains , equally, or more precarious, as when that deivisive Bengal Tiger Basdeo Panday , Commander Joe Theodore, Howard Chin Lee, Martin Joseph,Brig Sandy, or one time UNC party,political Queen maker,Jack Warner ,held the portfolio.
In the words of FBI informer , ummm Afro American activist,Al Sharpton – “no justice , no peace!”
I’ll add,..’No security , no peace ,or development, T&T!’
Great piece Doc.
“When a drink me rum, ah go stay single till ahh dead!” Love me some KI ,that appealing /uplifting Chutney Soca, artform.
Ooops,..noted UWI Prof Emeritus ,Dr Selwyn Ryan , warned us about that Chutney , pro alcohol, anti female penchant , by their popular artists too – in addition to decadent Hip Hop, Dance Hall and Soca,si?
Where is my Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky, our peaceful , more civilize Euro brothers, and sisters, did not have this great dilemma-or did they?
Time to push back against elitism Doc, for that is the common enemy, of us all, especially the desperate poor.
If anyone can lead that charge is you Doc, as you are never fearful to examine the ugly, cultural underbelly if this here T&T, where Afro slave , ‘Great grand Pickenees,’and their ultra competitive ,Brown ,neo triumphalist Indo counterparts ,struggle for supremacy, hmm?
I luv dis land, Y tu, folks?
If one critically analysed this article it would fair to say that Dr.Cudjoe is very correct.We as a society must take responsibility for our every words,thoughts and deeds!Silly season is soon approaching but we must be cognizant of the fact that the younger generations eyes and ears are always wide open;ready willing and able to model our behaviour consciously and unconsciously.
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