Fri | Apr 26, 2019

Carolyn Cooper | Male lawyer explodes over hot female photos

Published:Sunday | March 3, 2019 | 12:23 AM

In a burst of self-righteous indignation, attorney Peter Champagnie withdrew from an expo hosted last week by the Law Society at the University of the West Indies, Mona. He came down very hard on the young women whose photos were posted on the Law Society’s Instagram page. Shocking out in costumes associated with both dancehall culture and carnival, the law students provoked Mr Champagnie to wrath.

According to a report published in The Gleaner on February 23, the upstanding attorney wrote a letter to the Law Society, which he copied to other invited speakers, presumably to influence them to follow his godly example.

He described the photos as “vulgar, disgraceful, and reprehensible”. This was no ordinary misdemeanour. It was a triple play, requiring three adjectives to describe it fully. No self-respecting lawyer will use one word when three would do so much better. The longer the brief, the bigger the client’s bill!

All of those words supposedly make a lawyer sound so much in command of the Queen’s English.

Incidentally, the three words used by Champagnie to condemn the photos are all of Latin origin. The Queen’s English doesn’t actually belong to her. So many words in English are borrowed/stolen from other languages. English is one big patois, so to speak. And, for me, that’s a huge part of its appeal.

So much has been said and written about this petty case, I decided, at first, to stay out of it. I felt it was a waste of energy to give any more attention to self-important Peter Champagnie and his over-the-top reaction to young women celebrating their culture and simply enjoying themselves.

After all, this was a dancehall clash. Not a court appearance! And the contestants were soliciting only attention, not sex. As solicitors in training, they certainly know the letter of the law. And the limits of soliciting!

WHAT IS SLACKNESS

There are so many far more urgent matters that need to be addressed in Jamaica today. As the fomer Lady Saw, now born-again Marion Hall, puts it so combatively in W hat Is Slackness:

“Want to know what slackness is?

I’ll be the witness to that

“Oonoo come offa mi back!

A whole heap a tings out deh waan deal wid

An oonoo nah see dat.”

For example, the slackness at Petrojam! I see that, like me, Rev Devon Dick is calling for a commission of enquiry into the affairs of the state agency. Many concerned citizens don’t want the issue to just fade away, as usually happens in these cases. There’s always a lot of talk in the media and then the news stories stop and that’s the end of that. Until the next scandal and the cycle repeats itself.

The only way we are going to get rid of corruption in this country is if we demand accountability at every level in all public institutions.

Now! Not next time!

The prime minister, the leader of the opposition, every member of parliament and every employee in all government agencies must be held accountable for his or her actions. We have to stop giving certain people a bligh. As in, if you are one of the high-ups, rules and regulations do not apply to you!

POLICING WOMEN’S BODIES

I now concede that Peter Champagnie’s condemnation of the young women’s photos does have ramifications that extend far beyond this seemingly petty case. The larger issue is the instinctive way in which men arrogantly assume the right to police women’s bodies. It, apparently, did not occur to Champagnie that women have a right to freedom of expression. And that includes their body language.

It seems as if decent young women, especially those in training for the noble legal profession, are not supposed to spread their legs in public. They shouldn’t role play in sexy dancehall dress. The burden to protect men from transgression must be placed on women whose modesty is supposed to prevent any sinful thought of penetration. The indoctrination starts quite early.

Even innocent little girls are pressured to keep their legs closed.

By contrast, boys and men are completely free to let it all hang out. I suppose the weight of their private parts makes it difficult for them to do otherwise.

This constant regimentation of women’s bodies is most perniciously manifested in the Jamaican legislature’s refusal to repeal outdated laws that criminalise abortion. Fundamentalist Christians, both male and female, stubbornly insist that a foetus is a human being, in exactly the same way that an egg is a chicken, I suppose.

This Friday is International Women’s Day. The theme is 'Better the balance, better the world'. Di world no level. Men do not suffer the consequences of unwanted pregnancy the way women do. They can hit and run. But anatomy should not determine destiny. Women must be entitled to exercise our right to choose between having an abortion or a child.

The choice is stark. But that’s reality.

Inhumane laws that force women to risk our lives to get an abortion are vulgar, disgraceful and reprehensible. That’s the truth, plain and simple.

Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a specialist on culture and development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com