March 8, 2007
The women’s struggle returns

by Oscar Allen 08.MAR.07

The Battle Cry of the Caribbean Women’s Rights Movement in 1838 was “All a we ah ladies now.” We can see this faith statement as a collective covenant or agreement among the new black women – their New Testament. These women who had been slaves were saying to one another, “this is who we are – ladies,” and they faced their world with that conviction, that solidarity and that determination. We can imagine some of what they meant by the concept “Ladies.”

Lady referred to both a “class,” and a person who had authority and had space to exercise that authority. “Lady” was a power figure.{{more}}

The fierce chant of our foremothers was therefore very clearly a prohibition and boundary marker for the old slave master and his system. It told him: “Keep Off!” While it invited new nurturing and loving and “nation building” relationships with children, elders and males. Women had their own particular ideology and vision which they cultivated during slavery. And when a black woman in 1838 christened herself “Lady”, she was saying “Move Over” to European women, those who thought that they were the real and only ladies. Black ladyship became a political, psychological and cultural movement especially taken up among sections of our women for more than a hundred years.

Today, we need to revisit that battle cry of 1838, in order to have it interact with the powers and contradictions which surround women at this time.

Today, women are permitted to do “women’s work” important and difficult tasks that are still subject to and under the power of the male – in parliament, Cabinet, on the bench, in the force, the boardroom and the bank. Even where women almost control the profession as in nursing, it happens in a field where good results and outcomes pass unnoticed and are taken for granted.

Today, women are almost blamed for what is called “the poor performance and deviance of boys and men.” Women’s contribution to community building is vandalized.

Today, women subsidize the CSME, the global village, the retail-commercial sector, the services sector, the pornography sector and the religious, spiritual industry among others. For one thing, one hour of a woman’s labour power is more costly to deliver than one hour of male labour power. The woman has more work/tasks and self care to do outside the work place before (or after) she goes to work. The value which the woman’s work receives is the same as or less than the man’s. The market and society live off this stolen labour power of women.

Today, women and their sex items become the billboard on which producers sell from hotel rooms to online education.

Today, a woman will be killed because she says “No” to a man’s penis.

Today, according to an American Psychologists Association report, young girls are being sexualised, their sexual anatomy-to-be becomes their prime property!

Today, “All a we ah Ladies now” is not a sufficient battle cry. Our foremothers would want us to reach for our own new covenant and campaign.

• For International Women’s Day – from the Earlene Horne Foundation.