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July 19, 2009 3:43 PM   Subscribe

"Being gay in Jamaica, it's like, don't tell anybody. Just keep it to yourself..." homophobia in jamaica and the culture it's creating.
posted by artof.mulata (57 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
See also: Johann Hari on murder music in Jamaica.
posted by aws17576 at 3:52 PM on July 19, 2009


aws17576, i just read that article and found this, "Tobacco giant RJ Reynolds has cancelled 14 concerts under gay pressure... The management of record label The Electric Factory has forced Beenie Man to drop two antigay songs from his set. And sportswear manufacturer Puma... have declared that they will no longer sponsor concerts featuring Buju Banton unless he pledges in writing to not incite hatred of gay people."

now that's the face of corporate action i don't mind seeing one bit.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:19 PM on July 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


"For dem a par inna chi chi man car, blaze de fire make we burn dem (burn dem!)
For dem a drink inna chi chi man bar, blaze de fire make we burn dem (burn dem!)"


or

"Boom bye bye inna batty bwoy head, rude boy no promote no nasty man, dem a fi dead"

Yeah, you can get an idea of how bad the homophobia is in Jamaica just from listening to dancehall. The above are pretty egregious examples, but there's all kinds of derogatory references to "chi chi man" or "batty bwoy". If you think American hip hop culture is hypermasculine and homophobic, you ain't seen nothin' yet. At least hip hop doesn't actually promote killing gays.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:20 PM on July 19, 2009


As with many similar issues, the contradictions get more intense the closer you look. For example, the former prime minister PJ Patterson was widely rumored to be gay himself. Either because or in spite of this, his administration was particularly harsh on gay issues.
posted by Forktine at 4:23 PM on July 19, 2009


For a bit of contrast, here's The Twin featuring Avenue D, singing "Fire, Desire"

"Fire, Desire, let me tell you every man is a liar"

"Chi chi or not, I think he forgot, him cocky get hard so him say why not?"

Lyrics here.
posted by LMGM at 4:27 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and p.s., video is mildly NSFW (momentary flash of boy butt).
posted by LMGM at 4:29 PM on July 19, 2009


At least hip hop doesn't actually promote killing gays.

No, it doesn't necessarily promote killing gays (although I have heard hip-hop songs that do just that, so thinking that "it's just dancehall that does that" is a mistake). But certain hip-hop artists (I'm not saying all, or even most) do very actively promote hostility toward and violence against gays in their lyrics, and they have no qualms about it, either. Anyone who thinks it doesn't has listened closely enough.
posted by blucevalo at 4:32 PM on July 19, 2009


blucevalo: I would say that gay-bashing is not nearly as endemic to American hip hop, by orders of magnitude. There's no close listening required to see it in dancehall lyrics. aws17576's link has plenty of examples.
posted by danb at 4:41 PM on July 19, 2009


Oh god, yes. I work at a company that is predominantly made up of people from Jamaica, and I've never seen such sneering overt hatred and homophobia. They recently fired a guy who'd been there for years- I couldn't figure out why, because he was by far the most talented and hardest working person in that department. So I went to this woman who'd been his friend at the company for like ten years and asked her if she knew the real story. And she gets up and closes her office door and turns around and, in tones of absolute disgust, says "brother was on the down-low. We just found out." And I'm gaping at her and I think she honestly expected me to take this as a perfectly acceptable explanation, so when she sees the look on my face and says, "there is no. place. for him. here."
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 4:47 PM on July 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


and she
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 4:48 PM on July 19, 2009


The article aws17576 linked to suggests that gay-bashing is a major animating concern of dancehall, and I wouldn't say that of American hip-hop. I wasn't sure how accurate that impression was, though, or whether it was just because the article was focusing on one small, hideously repellent facet of dancehall.

I was also wondering whether the pressure by corporate sponsors and record labels has done anything to force the dancehall artists to drop the incitements to murder, if they're interested in global stardom. The article that mentioned these pressures was more than 5 years old.
posted by palliser at 4:52 PM on July 19, 2009


Over the past eight months, I have spent five weeks working within a community to bring computers to students of a lovely Jamaican community. It has been one of the highlight experiences of my life. The one black spot on this otherwise life-fulfilling experience?

It was what people call homophobia.

At one of the best and most amazing churches I have ever been to in my life, filled with spirit song and celebration, I listened as children were told—in not so many words and in no uncertain terms—that homosexuals burn in hell for all eternity, and that if they themselves were homosexuals or practiced homosexuality they would in turn burn in hell for all eternity.

There were no ifs and or buts. Homosexuality was against God's word. It was against the Holy Bible.

For me personally, I couldn't care less what one adult says to another. An adult can generally ignore ignorance, walk away, or protect theirself.

But as I watch children exposed to this wicked bigotry and the process of enculturating of hate taking place, I was disgusted to the point of being disheartened. I have cried more than once remembering this moment. It was as if thinking I had discovered a paradise I learned that it was except for the fact that children were routinely tortured: Other than that it was great!

My calling them on it cast doubt on me! What was I, a homosexual?! It was like high school all over again. Initially, this cooled my jets considerably for the amount of time effort and energy I had committed to this project of bringing unused and discarded computer workstations to those who had none, as well as bringing high-speed internet, until upon deeper consideration I realized that what I am delivering is a lifeline.

Remembering the torture I went through as a boy, just because people thought I was gay...because I was sensitive and thoughtful and kind and studious (as well as the torture of others around me who actually were or might have been also), I am so happy to be a pussycat who is 6'5", confident and a career martial arts practitioner. Every kid I stand up for—before a bully or gang or adult or congregation, I swear it is like I am being there for myself all those years ago. And somewhere inside of me, a small person with a big heart swells with pride.

I have nothing against bigots or people who choose ignorance over compassion. It's just that I have nothing for them, either.
posted by humannaire at 5:12 PM on July 19, 2009 [26 favorites]


I have nothing against bigots or people who choose ignorance over compassion. It's just that I have nothing for them, either.

Correction: Except tears.
posted by humannaire at 5:16 PM on July 19, 2009


> And I'm gaping at her and I think she honestly expected me to take this as a perfectly acceptable explanation, so when she sees the look on my face and says, "there is no. place. for him. here."
Out of curiosity, is that going to end as badly in the States as it would in Canada? Because that's not even a "You'd better lawyer up", that's a "You'd better apologize, on both knees, then kiss your ass(es) goodbye".
posted by Decimask at 5:22 PM on July 19, 2009


Out of curiosity, is that going to end as badly in the States as it would in Canada?

It varies state-to-state. Sexual orientation is not a "protected class" for the purpose of federal anti-discrimination law, but some states protect sexual orientation in their own anti-discrimination laws.
posted by palliser at 5:24 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Out of curiosity, is that going to end as badly in the States as it would in Canada? Because that's not even a "You'd better lawyer up", that's a "You'd better apologize, on both knees, then kiss your ass(es) goodbye".

Depends on the state. The pattern of states that do and do not treat orientation as a protected class for employment discrimination is pretty much what you'd expect. Some cities have anti-discrimination laws as well.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:27 PM on July 19, 2009


A lot of good posts on the subject at Joe.My.God's blog.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:34 PM on July 19, 2009


Probably the only place in the world where you'll find strident homophobes decked out in flourescent-colored mesh and pastels.

BTW, this isn't one of those "fix-it-with-education" things.
These dudes are simply cunts and should simply be ostracized until they behave, and if they cant, then fuck em. I'm fairly sure that a full and enriching life can be lived without all these dudes and the monotonous single song they all insist on playing over and over and over with different words.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:50 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


joe.my.god's blog has a lot on the stonewall community's boycott on jamaican goods...

not sure how i feel about boycotts sometimes. is it really going to hit where it hurts the most? or does it just take what few advantages the boycotted have and make their lives that much harder?

i'm totally down for striking directly at governments and companies through economic actions, but this sounds more like tackling the entire nation. that's a pretty weird powertrip.
posted by artof.mulata at 5:52 PM on July 19, 2009


Oh fuck me.

Red Stripe?

I LOVE Red Stripe.

Gaaahhhhhhhghhhh.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:56 PM on July 19, 2009


The dread of homosexuality is so all-encompassing that many Jamaican men refuse to get digital rectal examinations for prostate cancer, even those whose disease is advanced, said Dr. Trevor Tulloch of St. Andrews Hospital.

"Because it is a homophobic society, there's such a fear of the sexual implications of having the exam that men won't seek out help," said Tulloch, adding Jamaica has a soaring rate of prostate cancer because men won't be screened.


Wow.
posted by Avenger at 5:57 PM on July 19, 2009


Eh, some people still think Jamaica's alright.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 6:22 PM on July 19, 2009


I don't care, I still like Beenie Man. He still rhymes better than anyone else.
posted by mike3k at 6:29 PM on July 19, 2009


The main article makes it sound like the homophobia may have intensified in the past ten years or so. Are there any credible theories on what's driving that?
posted by dilettante at 6:49 PM on July 19, 2009


It was a sad day for me when I realized Chi Chi Man was about burning gay dudes. It's hard to enjoy the song now.

Anyway, this video of Cutty Ranks from 1986 is one of the best things on the Internet.
posted by chunking express at 7:15 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whoa that electronic hook in the Cutty Ranks video is amazing, I know I've heard elsewhere. Who uses that?
posted by geoff. at 7:25 PM on July 19, 2009



Oh fuck me.

Red Stripe?

I LOVE Red Stripe.

Gaaahhhhhhhghhhh.


What? Other than being on an island of homophobes, have they done something specific against gays?
posted by Netzapper at 7:47 PM on July 19, 2009


It was a sad day for me when I realized Chi Chi Man was about burning gay dudes. It's hard to enjoy the song now.

I am hoping you misspelled "impossible" here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:20 PM on July 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dancehall, I served with reggae. I knew reggae. Reggae was a friend of mine. Dancehall, you're no reggae.

Seriously, dancehall *sucks*. All of the homophobic bullshit is just the cluster of peanuts and corn on top of the shit sundae.
posted by you just lost the game at 8:42 PM on July 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Other than being on an island of homophobes.

Latin America, in general, seems to have some pretty fucking serious hangups around homosexuality. It's taken me by surprise in all sorts of communities that seemed otherwise laid-back and open-minded in Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominica.

It's overwhelmingly something that "some men do in private but it is a shameful secret that we never talk about." (Also odd, it never seems to be about women.)

As usual, I blame the heavy hand of Catholicism.
posted by rokusan at 1:17 AM on July 20, 2009


The pattern of states that do and do not treat orientation as a protected class for employment discrimination is pretty much what you'd expect. Some cities have anti-discrimination laws as well.

"The rest of the world don't mean jack shit, you in [insert state here] now."
posted by bwg at 1:32 AM on July 20, 2009


Regarding the "homophobia in dancehall vs hip-hop" conversation, Rhymefest released a mixtape called The Manual which is incredibly homophobic:

The AV Club's post about the album

Shame. Blue Collar had some great moments.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 1:51 AM on July 20, 2009


Even up here in Maine I've run into fucking American hippies talking shit about batty boys- that's how far-reaching it is.
Hippies aren't always nice.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:15 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The answer is simple: Take a few deep breaths, and give up on humanity. There now, can't you just feel the weight lift from your shoulders?
posted by belvidere at 4:37 AM on July 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


The corollary in hip-hop would have to be the annoying but pointedly less dangerous "no homo." The profound difference between the culture of dancehall and the culture of hip-hop is that people in the hip-hop community aren't afraid to speak out against it, as rife as it may be.
posted by orville sash at 5:31 AM on July 20, 2009


I know it's a serious problem. But a small part of me laughs when I hear the whole batty boy genre of music because every time the thought that "lady doth protest too much, methinks" pops into my head.

Solution: publicise loudly and clearly that the loudest homophobes are most likely to be in the closet. Teh gay ain't contagious unless you're, you know, of that persuasion. You're singing about batty boys? You sound worried to me about what might happen if you let your guard down.

All that posturing, the phallocentric obsession with big guns. Dude: you sure you don't have a little doubt in there?
posted by MuffinMan at 5:48 AM on July 20, 2009


One needs to be careful when heaping scorn and boycotting dancehall artists who express homophobic opinions! When Shabba Ranks, who was about to break into the mainstream, made the mistake of making some homophobic comments during an interview on US TV it ended his aspirations of global stardom. Someone much safer was selected by the music business to fill the vacuum created and cash in on the growing interest in dancehall, and that person was Shaggy. SHAGGY. That's what you get!

/facetious

In the early nineties we used to joke that the openly gay dancehall artist (who's name I forget) must operate from Antarctica due to the pervading homophobia in dancehall.

There does seem to be some relationship between education, poverty and acceptance of homosexuality. I am sure that religion plays some part in this as well. Egotistical respect based hierarchy requires strict stratification of behaviour in order to function. Homosexuals can be perceived as unsettling in their subversion of sexual 'norms' and are also a small enough percentage of the population that scapegoating them will be popular.
posted by asok at 5:52 AM on July 20, 2009


Jamaica is not a nice place and Rasta is just another fucked up religion.
posted by pracowity at 5:57 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Latin America, in general, seems to have some pretty fucking serious hangups around homosexuality. ... As usual, I blame the heavy hand of Catholicism.

While perhaps true, this has little to do with Jamaica, which isn't dominated by Catholicism, isn't Spanish or Portuguese speaking, and culturally isn't really part of Latin America.

Seriously, dancehall *sucks*. All of the homophobic bullshit is just the cluster of peanuts and corn on top of the shit sundae.

One of my favorite things about dancehall is how uncompromising it is. Bob Marley (and to a lesser extent, Peter Tosh and others) established the "how to sell records to white people" approach many decades ago. If that was the goal, all those dancehall artists would slow down things down, soften the politics, and sell more records to hippies. Personally, I'll take dancehall any day of the week, but I like my music edgy and angry, and old-style reggae isn't the place for that.

I think that maybe the comparison with hip hop isn't with the "no homo" stuff as much as it's with the incredibly deep and pervasive misogyny that you see in songs by many hip hop artists. It's the ugly side of a wonderful genre of music; whether it's a driver of those attitudes or simply a reflection of broadly-shared cultural attitudes, I don't know. Either way, though, I think it's a mistake to dismiss an entire genre of music -- particularly genres as influential as hip hop or dancehall -- over this, when the actuality is so much more complex.
posted by Forktine at 6:37 AM on July 20, 2009


> One of my favorite things about dancehall is how uncompromising it is.

Well, fair enough, but I don't think you could have accused artists like, say, Culture and The Congos of watering down their approach to sell records to white people. My earlier post was pretty harsh, and to be fair to dancehall I haven't heard enough of it to know much more about it beyond the fact that it's definitely not my thing. I was going to continue on here by saying dancehall all sounds more or less the same to my untrained ears, but then I remembered that I used to get annoyed in university when I'd play roots reggae at parties and people would complain that it all sounded the same...
posted by you just lost the game at 7:25 AM on July 20, 2009


Solution: publicise loudly and clearly that the loudest homophobes are most likely to be in the closet. Teh gay ain't contagious unless you're, you know, of that persuasion. You're singing about batty boys? You sound worried to me about what might happen if you let your guard down.

All that posturing, the phallocentric obsession with big guns. Dude: you sure you don't have a little doubt in there?


You know, I love this solution because it seems as though it is turning the homophobe's guns back on them. "Oh yeah, you hate teh gayz? Seems like you spend a lot of time telling others you hate them. Maybe you're trying to hide that you are one of them?"

Or, at least, I USED to love this idea. Until I sat and thought about it for a while. And realized that what I was doing, by playing the gay card back against the homophobes, was actually using words and accusations of being gay as a weapon against others.

Once I realized that, I started to question whether this is a valid tactic or not. Sure, it's fun to point at the people wearing all the funny clown makeup and suggest that maybe they are more related to Tammy Fae than Bozo. But when I bristle at hearing one teenager say to another that they think that the inconvenient stop sign at the end of the block "is gay" as a way of expressing that distaste, then I have to question my own words when I use "closet case" as a descriptor for those saying things I dislike.

I don't know the best way to address those who are creating this anti-gay music, but in my heart, I feel that attempting to get their attention by calling them homosexual is, in many ways, buying into the same kind of speech which I loathsome in others.
posted by hippybear at 8:52 AM on July 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Some friends of mine like Dancehall, and I had on my list to check it out. My list has just shortened.

I like to travel, I won't be going to Jamaica until I read an article saying this has all been fixed. I don't suspect that will be in my lifetime.

I am a straight professional man, I have developed these views not out of fear, but out of disgust.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 11:58 AM on July 20, 2009


You're going to run out of places to travel if you ignore every country in the world where homophobia is still a problem.

And dancehall is awesome, despite the fact some singers sing about killing gay dudes. I'm pretty sure you can find offensive music from any genre you feel like looking. I don't think homophobia defines dancehall. It's a style of reggae music.
posted by chunking express at 12:05 PM on July 20, 2009


Jamaica is a bit messed up when it comes to sex in general. There's an epidemic of guys ending up in the hospital with broken penises due to daggerin' (google for it). And I'm tired of all the excuses about hierarchy and poverty and status. They're assholes (the homophobes) - fuck 'em, daggerin' style.
posted by VikingSword at 12:14 PM on July 20, 2009


Decimask it also depends on the size of the employer.

In Texas, at least, no anti-discrimination laws apply to small business. Meaning that, in an official small business, the boss can perfectly legally fire you for being black, or atheist, or gay, or a woman, or any other thing they feel like.

It may not be good from a PR standpoint, but they could take out a full page ad in the newspaper bragging that they'd fired someone for no reason but that they were gay, and absolutely no legal trouble would befall them.

If your business gets big enough that its no longer a "small business" that no longer applies.
posted by sotonohito at 12:51 PM on July 20, 2009


Chunking Express: homophobia is one thing, seek out and murder another. Perhaps I misread the article, but that seems to be the issue in Jamaica. I have been to plenty of countries that are homophobic etc. but avoid the ones that murder people for no good reason. I'll probably end up skipping a lot of the middle east as well.

As far as Dancehall goes, friends have told me to listen to Buju Banton first. So, I can't follow my friend's advice any more, oh well.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 1:09 PM on July 20, 2009


Yeah, singers singing about "killing gay dudes," what an inconvenient yet completely insignificant detail. It sucks for those "gay dudes," but that's life.
posted by blucevalo at 1:47 PM on July 20, 2009


Ice Cube didn't kill any cops.
posted by chunking express at 1:58 PM on July 20, 2009


Good point. But then again, Jamaican cops who come out fear for their lives:

"The double standard on the island is reflected in the anti-gay lyrics of Jamaican dance hall music, the headlines of some hyperventilating tabloids -- 'homo' is the term most often used -- and the fact that homosexuality remains illegal here, with the specific crime called 'buggery.'

"No place has shown that hostility recently more than Mandeville, a prosperous and quiet town in Jamaica's South Coast area. A couple of weeks back, a local tabloid, The Jamaica Star, printed a screaming headline when a local policeman, disturbed by the attack on the dinner party guests [in a private home], decided to disclose his sexual orientation to the paper. He said that he had been harassed regularly by his colleagues because he is gay and that the police did not take violence against gays seriously.

"'Jamaica's motto is "Out of Many, One People," and I say, "What about us?" ' said the policeman, Michael Hayden. Hayden, who has since taken leave from the force, is now in hiding out of fear that his colleagues might kill him." [New York Times, February 24, 2008]
posted by blucevalo at 2:17 PM on July 20, 2009


Ice Cube didn't kill any cops.

This is true.

Without necessarily defending the statement of Mr. Cube's song "Cop Killer", I would say that there might be a world of difference in singing about the oppressive forces which have kept you and all those with the same skin as you in a state of fear because of their inability to treat you as equal... and singing about going out and setting fire to a gay man because you don't like the fact of his existence.

Or maybe there is a history of oppression of straight Jamaicans by the gays?
posted by hippybear at 2:20 PM on July 20, 2009


Living in fear is no way to live.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:43 PM on July 20, 2009


You're going to run out of places to travel if you ignore every country in the world where homophobia is still a problem.

You may be missing a really important reason not to go to these places. These destinations are not getting tourism dollars from people who refuse to go there. Of course, it's also important to tell a tourism board or chamber of commerce why you're not going to visit their home.
posted by crataegus at 8:30 PM on July 20, 2009


Without necessarily defending the statement of Mr. Cube's song "Cop Killer"

Wasn't Cop Killer by Ice-T's metal band Body Count?
posted by acb at 3:56 AM on July 21, 2009


Yep it's by Ice-T. Cube was in NWA. Both dudes sang about killing cops. And other people I suppose.
posted by chunking express at 4:37 AM on July 21, 2009


Ah, my bad. I'm not overly familiar with the genre, did a search for "Ice Cube Cop Killer" on Google, which returned me a lyric sheet which spoke about going out and killing cops because they have been oppressive to the blacks in America and the song-writer couldn't take any more oppression. I likely should not have responded until I had complete information.

I would welcome a lyric link to some of Ice Cube's anti-police statements for comparison?
posted by hippybear at 6:59 AM on July 21, 2009


Are you for real? Anyway, I think Tipper Gore or Dan Quale probably have more information to help you out.

Out of curiosity, how many people condemning all dancehall have ever actually listened to it? There is all sorts of dancehall. It's not all about killing gay dudes. I'm pretty sure Beenie Man actually stopped with all the gay bashing because of the protests about his music. The rampant homophobia in Jamaica is scary. Dancehall? Not so much. Regae music isn't going to kill anybody. (That was my point bringing up Ice Cube.) Anyway, people should keep falling overthemselves to see who can be outraged more by Dancehall.

Also, for those who say Hip Hop doesn't promote killing gays, off the top of my head here is a Notorious B.I.G. lyric.
Slit the wrist of little sis
After she sucked the dick, i stabbed her brother with the icepick
Because he wanted me to fuck him from the back
But smalls don't get down like that
No doubt you can find more stuff out there. Music can be offensive. And it can be over the top.
posted by chunking express at 8:00 AM on July 21, 2009


Why on earth are you referring me to Tipper or Dan in the midst of this discussion?

I don't think that anyone is saying that reggae music is going to cause the direct death of anyone. But there is a very odd self-feeding cycle which takes place, wherein the lyrics of music reflect a culture, and then are fed back into that culture to help inspire it. Homophobic or misogynist lyrics enforce within listeners that these attitudes are appropriate. It's distasteful when Eminem does it, too.
posted by hippybear at 9:30 AM on July 21, 2009


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