Over her dead body: Nationalist rhetoric as (erasure of) violence against women
Natoya Ewers, a Jamaican woman, was hacked to death by her intimate partner, leaving behind three children. I came across this Jamaican facebook page where the occasion of this woman’s death was used to denounce the fact that Bajans did not like Jamaicans. Many users asserted that the woman should not have left Jamaica to travel to that third world full-stop of an island Barbados. Absolutely no mention of violence against women. No mention of the Jamaican women who lost their lives at home in Jamaica at the hands of intimate partners during that same week. No mention of how increasingly violent Caribbean societies had become. I told myself it’s just one facebook page. Surely that is not most people’s reaction. Then I saw the Jamaica Observer cartoon above and it confirmed my initial fears.
Caribbean feminist scholar, Alissa Trotz, has outlined how “women’s bodies [become] the site on which group loyalties are enacted.” Not to be outdone, on the Nation News (Barbados) facebook page comments were also nationalistic as readers alleged that the man who committed the murder and subsequently killed himself was Vincentian. They quickly moved from the nationalistic to the sexist:
But lets face the truth. Bajan women take and take and take and just take too much from men. Its not like the men can afford to give so much. Men feel compelled to give because its the only way they can keep these selfish bajan women. Bajan women have become a society of beggers.
Just say ” hello” to a bajan women and she wants a top up.
Of course, the other facebook users moved to correct the commenter quoted above, not to chide him for his sexism but to remark that the woman in question was not Bajan but Jamaica. The stereotype of Caribbean women as mercenary, materialistic and financially dependent on men and these “facts” in and of themselves being presented as a justification of murder went unchallenged.
While the recent tensions surrounding the treatment of Jamaican nationals at the Barbados airport and the rape of a Jamaican woman in police custody explains in part this recourse to an unthinking nationalism, it does not explain why all the “talk” following this woman’s brutal death made absolutely no mention of the similarity with so many other murders of Caribbean women and displayed very little feeling for the woman herself. Reports are that she had confronted her partner about sexually abusing her daughter. On local television one of her neighbours reported watching the woman’s murder from the safety of his bedroom window.
Women’s bodies are used as boundary-markers in what has become an asinine Barbados versus Jamaica beef played out at the highest and lowest levels. Wasted time, talk and energy that could be put towards fighting against what is really at issue here: men’s violence against women, society’s sanctioning of it, incest and child sexual abuse.
image source: Jamaica Observer
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