Let’s be clear about one thing: pink is not the new black. It’s not even the old, new black. Pink is plain frivolity and fluffy bedroom slippers. But pink is having a radical moment and it makes perfect sense. In a world where the news keeps reminding us that our houses are worthless and our pensions safely stored with collapsing institutions, we need a little pink (even if it is merely the colour of the gin) to lighten our burdens. So on Valentine’s Day I wore a cheerful pink tee and thought of Marx whose economic and philosophical manuscript on the meaning of money contains the beautiful possibility that one day if
we assume man to be man,
and his relation to the world to be a human one,
then love can be exchanged only for love,
trust for trust, and so on…
But I digress. Now I have no pink passion but the pink top I greeted Bridgetown with on Saturday morning was also strategic. In India several women were recently attacked for sitting in a pub enjoying alcoholic beverages. I joined the Facebook solidarity group that advocated a peaceful protest of wearing pink and, for those in India on Valentine’s Day, sending pink chaddis to the militant, right wing group responsible for the attack.
I hung a pink chaddi (Marks and Spencer’s per una range), and some text about the attacks, from a tree next to the Frank Collymore Hall where the conference was being held. At every break I discreetly spied on the chaddi. True to their conservatism the good people of Bim resolutely ignored the smalls – despite its prominence. I did not see anyone read the text and no one tried to knick the knickers. As the sun went down I dejectedly retrieved the apparatus of protest and began walking towards the car park. One of the nice ladies who had helped at the conference stopped me.
“I saw dat ting in de tree and I said to myself dat have to be Miss Ingrid. No body else so crazy.”
We laughed. It really is a super small rock when your smalls hanging from a branch can identify you.
“But” I whined, “no one read the text. It was a blooming waste of effort.”
“Doh say so man. De ladies dem passed it straight. But de men dem had a good read when dey thought no body was looking. Is true dat. Doh fret yuhself girlfriend.”
So maybe this small gesture of solidarity was not a total failure. The majority may not think it relevant that a few women were kicked and beaten because they dared enter a pub. That incident belonged to an unfamiliar town a lifetime away. Our island women can freely enter a rum shop to enjoy an orange juice on the rocks or a flask of extra old rum, ice and chaser. Women can relax with their beverage of choice, order the same again, and, much later, stagger home - their only anxiety a suspicion that stopping for Cheffette fried chicken was a step too far. Or can they?
Can a woman, perhaps on her own, turn up to her local rum shop and enjoy a quiet drink undisturbed in the same way a man might? While she may not be attacked by fundamentalists who want her barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, there are unspoken limits on her ability to frequent a rum shop. Calculating those limits is a fine balance of the woman’s class, age, race, nationality and marital status in relation to the pub in question. Freedom and equality are only fully understood in their absence.
As an average, middle class, Trini-Indian I don’t feel able to enter a rum shop in a village in say, St. Lucy, just because I find myself there at 6pm on a Tuesday and fancy a Banks beer or even a Coke Zero. It is not the fear of physical danger but the invisible curtain that shuts me firmly outside this space. That thirst must be quenched elsewhere at a bar where foreign women are tolerated in a tourist zone like St. Lawrence Gap.
And speaking of absences, mea culpa. This past fortnight E. and I were putting the last frantic touches to work that is now on show in the Grand Salle. As a peace offering I am posting a video we have projected onto the side of our white cube. It is just a small part of a rich installation, The Search For Starman, full of photos, drawings and sculpture. It was quite a journey for both of us – one that took in many sites including a military base, sluice gates and a statute of Nelson. But without a doubt the best part of the experience for me was the privilege of getting to know E. better and finding that below all that cool is a gentle, generous man.
Hope you enjoy the video. And listen with the volume turned up high. The soundtrack is like so totally awesome man.
Click here to view video For Starman