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Culture Clash: Lights Out All Around

We know it happens and with greater frequency during the summer months, but we are frustrated by the disruption and inconvenience of electricity outages. No one wants to be left in the dark, least of all to sweat and wonder when we will see the light again. When the electricity unexpectedly went off for hours on Sunday, multiple times in some places, we were not asking for much. We wanted to know what caused the outage, how long it would be and when each area could expect an outage.

It was a simple ask, but seemed to be too much for Bahamas Power and Light to handle. It would not give us a schedule of the electricity outage it was obviously controlling. It used its Facebook page to share the details of what led to the outage and how the issue would eventually be resolved, but it did not answer what many clearly stated was the most important question. We want reliable electricity, but since that does not seem immediately possible, we would like to know when it will be available so we can iron, do laundry, have hot showers and charge our devices.

We are not in control of the electricity provided by BPL. If it would provide a schedule, at least we would be able to plan accordingly. We do not only need electricity for what many consider to be frivolous activities such as watching television and powering other electronic devices. Electricity impacts sanitation, storage of food, entertainment, business operations and medical devices among other functions. In fact, a parent commented on the BPL Facebook page about reliance on electricity to administer medication to a child. This was a reminder of the essential nature of electricity and being able to plan around outages.

There is no discernible reason for the failure of BPL to provide a schedule. We should be able to visit its social media pages and website to see when our areas will be off. We should be able to call and find out – whether through an automated system or agent – what we can expect for the next 24 hours at the very least. We have good reason to complain about the failure of BPL to do its one job and its refusal to properly devise and share a schedule when it fails at that one task.

Some have attempted to shame the people making valid complaints, directing them to buy generators, as though they can be picked up from the side of the road. Generators are expensive, not only to purchase, but to maintain and fuel. The assumption that everyone can afford a generator demonstrates a lack of understanding of issues of class. The suggestion that it is an individual’s or household’s responsibility to provide its own electricity when paying for the provision of service and facing barriers to alternatives reeks of privilege and a lack of understanding of the provision and and maintenance of infrastructure.

For many, purchase of a generator is out of reach. For others, it is an unattractive option because it signals resignation to dealing with a system that does not work and becoming part of the growing number of people who are willing to buy their way out of discomfort while leaving others to suffer and complain on their own. Buying a generator may feel necessary, but it can also be a political decision. Either way, loud generators and burning more fuel is not the answer to the energy crisis we are experiencing in a supposed paradise of sun and sea, both of which are waiting to be part of the solution.

Let’s wake up and teach youngsters about sex – they’re doing it anyway

Deputy Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party Chester Cooper, in an address to the Women’s Branch, spoke of initiatives related to family planning and equality that his party is considering. Among them is an increase in the age of consent from 16 to 18. Similarly, an increase from 18 to 21 was suggested by someone else last week. There are numerous issues with these suggestions and those issues are connected to the intent and the most likely outcome.

An increase in the age of consent is often suggested to deter young people from having sex and to make the age of consent the same as the “age of maturity” at which we can access health care — and, by extension, contraceptives — on our own.

It is an undeniable challenge that young people can legally give consent for sexual activity for two years before they can access sexual and reproductive health care. The answer to this problem is not to increase the age of consent. That will not discourage young people from having sex. They will continue to have the same desires. We desperately need to ensure — through comprehensive sexual education and access to sexual and reproductive health services — that young people are prepared to appropriately respond to those desires. To effectively do this, we have to first recognize that abstinence is not the only way, nor is it realistic for everyone. It is possible to promote abstinence while providing information on the other options.

Comprehensive sexual education is needed in schools and it would be helpful for parents to play a role in providing accurate information, answering questions, quelling anxiety and providing resources for young people in sex-positive ways, whether or not they are sexually active.

Understand there is no harm in providing information. The danger is in lack of information, resources and access to the same. Comprehensive sexual education does not encourage people to have sex, but ensures they are equipped with the information and tools that enable them to make the best possible decisions for themselves and their sexual partner(s).

If the PLP is interested in initiatives that contribute to gender equality and improve family planning, it should engage with organizations working in these areas. Organizations including Equality Bahamas would encourage the party to push for the marital rape bill to see the light of day and work on its positive response (through action) to the recommendations made by the CEDAW Committee on numerous issues including women’s conferral of citizenship, sex-based discrimination, access to abortion, and elimination of discrimination against vulnerable people including migrant women and LGBT+ people. The PLP could pledge to institute a living wage, support domestic workers and create systems that enable women to safely report gender-based violence and easily gain access to the range of services they need.

Raising the age of consent does nothing for women, girls, or family planning. It is not a good idea, will not reduce the number of young people having sex and will not change their sexual practices. We need to change the way we talk about sex and include both consent and pleasure in our conversations. We need to ensure young people are able to access the resources we mention and know how to properly use them.

Have you ever opened a condom with your teeth? Started to put it on the wrong way, then turned it around and used it anyway? Put two on for extra protection? Stored it in your wallet? Have you engaged in sexual activities without protection because you thought they were safe? How old were you when you did those things, and when did you learn you were wrong? People of all ages are making these mistakes every day and this does not have to be the case.

We need to change the way we respond to challenges. No electricity? Get a generator. Young people are having unprotected sex, experiencing teen pregnancy, being preyed upon by older men? Raise the age of consent. If only we were ready to face reality and implement solutions that address the problem. If only.

Published by The Tribune on June 26, 2019.

Video: Women & Sex

The Women & Sex panel — part of Equality Bahamas’ Women’s Wednesdays series — centered women’s health, focusing on care for the body, negotiating use of contraception, the definition and practice of consent, and ways to talk to young people about sex

Panelists:

Glevina McKenzie, Volunteer Sex Ed Instructor

Nurse Tamara Donaldson, HIV/AIDS Center

For more information on the Women’s Wednesdays event series, like Equality Bahamas on Facebook.

You Got It, You Got It Bad

It being misogyny. And/or fatphobia.

 

I’ve been paying attention to the public dialogue about charges brought against Usher for knowingly exposing women to at least one STD — herpes — without disclosing. This is vile, manipulative, and an abuse of power. It’s disappointing to see where people have put their focus. Most comments I’ve seen are either about the stupidity of the women who they presume engaged in unprotected sexual activity with Usher, or the incredulity about Usher engaging in sexual activity with a fat women. Which one pisses me off more? I really don’t know. Overall, I’m outraged by the continued scapegoating of women, even in a situation where a man is clearly at fault.
I’ve commented on a few threads about this story, and decided this morning that I would pull out the key pieces to share here, both because I am tired of talking to people who don’t actually want to listen, learn, or admit to their fuckups, and because it’s important to document these ideas and positions since, unfortunately, the same things come up over and over again. I definitely plan to drop the link to this post in comments all over Facebook and walk away, refusing to do any more free labor.

 

Here are nine points that kept coming up:
  1. Fat women have sex. Maybe someone told you fat women are unattractive, asexual, or undesirable, but you should cut that liar all the way off.
  2.  Casual sex is a thing. It’s fine. Don’t like? Don’t have it.
  3. Exposure to STDs is not limited to penetration.
  4. Comprehensive sexual education has NOT been made available to everyone, and access to health care resources and services is not universal. Judging people with limited or no access is indicative of cognitive dissonance. Or a character flaw.
  5. Shaming and blaming are counterproductive activities if you have the least bit of interest in improving sex ed and/or access to services and resources. It’s really good for feeding your superiority complex and reducing the likelihood of your friends and family members coming to you if they need help though, so there’s that.
  6. We are all suffering the effects of the abstinence-only “education” peddled for decades. Similarly, we continue to suffer the effects of the monogamy-only rhetoric. Learned early enough, these ideas take root, shaping negative narratives around anything different and, if you’re not careful, result in closed-minded judgmental positions you are opposed to shifting, even in the face of new information and/or different contexts. This inflexibility is not a strength.
  7. There’s inequality in access to contraception. Ever seen condoms in a pharmacy, gas station, or grocery store? Ever seen dental dams in any of those places?
  8. The likelihood that you have, whether knowingly or unknowingly, put yourself at risk of contracting STDs is pretty high. Blow job without protection? Yeah, that’s one. Kissing people without seeing results of their sexual health screenings? Another one. (Hello, herpes!)
  9. There is a power dynamic too many people love to ignore. It exists between men and women. Employer and employee. Parent and child. Priest and parishioner. Celebrity and fan. 40-year-old and 20-year-old. That power dynamic affects engagement.
 
We have a long way to go. If you’re not running the marathon with the people doing this work, it’d be nice if you’d at least work a water station. If you’re not going to help at all, it’d be appreciated if you don’t get on the route to elbow or trip those of us pushing to get to next mile marker. Your judgment and lack of information/understanding/global context is not helping anyone get the resources and services they need, and is definitely contributing to the shame that keeps people from actively searching and asking for what they need. Get out of the way.

 

 

Edit to add: I’ve seen reported that Usher does not have herpes and plans to sue for defamation. While that may be the case, all I have said stands as it is a direct response to the commentary around the accusation rather than the accusation itself.

 
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