Tie the heifer, loose the bull: learning gender and family in Trinidad


I don’t know that the above quote is my favorite new saying, but it definitely stuck out to me and encompassed much of what the class and professor discussed in our short session on gender and family in the Caribbean. As in many other cultures, there’s danger in women’s sexuality, but permissiveness in that of males. Here are some other things I found interesting:

The societal pressure to have children is enormous–so much so that its as though doctors are in on a conspiracy to push women into motherhood. Our lecturer was 35, and she said her doctor reminds her, “You don’t want to wait too long, ya know.” Women in Trinidad don’t have access to the morning after pill. It is available, but they have to ask around to find a doctor who will prescribe it, and then pay the doctor under the table. And even then, doctors are known to encourage women who have been raped to keep their babies and give them up for adoption, rather than stop a possible pregnancy. Abortion is illegal here, but birth control is free.

There’s a lot of pressure on men to have children, too. Men in Trinidad (and perhaps the Caribbean in general; I can’t remember the exact distinctions from all of my notes) are challenged by other men to have children to prove their manhood. I kept thinking, “The slave culture practice of proving a black man’s (buck’s) worth by his virility persists.”

There’s no welfare for women whose “baby’s daddy” is alive. That might be a better system than what we do in the U.S., but I also think our lecturer oversimplified the situation a lot of single mothers in the U.S. are dealing with. She said something like, “Trinidadians think, ‘You make the baby, you take care of it, not the state.'” I don’t think most U.S. women or teens have babies to get welfare. I think stuff just happens, and if the father is living with institutional racism that makes it hard to get a job or stay out of jail, then he can’t pay for child support. 


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