I am no longer a fan of Carnival. I had never really been one, actually – just used to "spectate". Nonetheless, I am disturbed by the high level of vulgar and promiscuous behaviour engaged in by many women around this time. Why do some women have to conduct themselves like "jaggabats" or "jammettes" at Carnival time? Behaviour like this causes me to stop and wonder, what, really, is the nature of Carnival? What is it about? Is it a "sex-fest" or a display of creativity? The sole idea of Carnival is that it is a time for costume designers to highlight their creativity, for the best of Trinidad and Tobago to be seen, where masqueraders display their costumes to the best of their ability in order to win the Band of the Year. Alright, fine! Go ahead and display your costume, dance, sway, so that the judges can get a really nice view of your costume. But why behave like a stripper and in some cases, hooker? I think we need to stop and consider the ramifications of this type of reckless behaviour to the larger society and Trinidad and Tobago's international image.
I recall, in 2011, just after Carnival when I was a teacher at Bishop's Centenary College, seeing pictures of female (and male) masqueraders in lewd and sexually provocative positions as they "wined" on one another (someone had brought a copy of one of the local newspapers to school). All the staff members were perturbed by the high level of indecency portrayed by these individuals. It made for a very lengthy discussion in the staff room that day. It was as if these women were having sex right there on the streets; were they in some type of competition to see who could "wine" the "stinkest"? I reiterate, Carnival ought to be about displaying one's costume – no one is saying do not have a good time – but within limits.
I think the Catholic band, The Word and Associates, offers a good example of how people should behave around this time of year. I glimpsed them briefly on television in 2011 as they displayed their costumes in their band Genesis 1 – The Creation. Their graceful movements then, the gentle sways to and fro, and in pursuant years should be mimicked by other bands. The focus of the masqueraders appeared to be on showing off their costumes and unless I had missed something, there was no vulgar dancing.
Sigh! How this country must look abroad as images of masqueraders gyrating in the streets and on the stage are transmitted across foreign television screens! We must really look bad you know. As if we are not considered backward and third-world enough by advanced and developed western countries! Some might say that I am over-thinking things and making a big hoopla about nothing, but it matters how we are seen as a people.
And then there is the promiscuous behaviour of many women around this time. I was walking into town one day, around November or December, – this was either last year or the year before – and I noticed that there were what seemed like a plethora of pregnant women and if the women were not pregnant, they held what were evidently brand new babies, so itty bitty were these babies (I should add, that when I saw these women, I found myself looking at their hands to see if they were married but many were unwed). So, I had to ask myself, "but a-a, wey all dese pregnant women and brand new babies come out from?!" At this point, it dawned on me that this may have something to do with the fact that about nine months ago, Carnival had just taken place. So I settled down to counting the number of months from February up until November/December on my fingers in my mind as I continued trudging along Charlotte Street; I discovered that "oh my gosh! I think I'm on to something!"
Go ahead! Let me have it! I know that the last paragraph would have won me some heat; but that's okay. I can stand my heat. The fact is that many women, around Carnival time, behave promiscuously and their actions result in unplanned and in some cases, unwanted pregnancies. And then what? What is to become of these unplanned and unwanted babies? Ask yourself this question again, is this a sex-fest or a display of this country's creativity? And doesn't Trinidad and Tobago have enough social problems without these new and potentially dysfunctional children because of the immoral conduct of their mothers at Carnival time?
Moreover, "Carnival is also a high-risk period for transmission of sexually transmitted diseases…" as Trinidad Express reporter Kimberly Castillo writes in Carnival HIV Warning. "Sixteen-year-old Tia could tell you about the reality of this combination of Carnival and unprotected sex. 'You know some fellas does say if they use that they won't feel the sweetness and sometimes I does just get caught up in the moment and don't bother to get a condom.' Tia…already has a history of genital infections," as stated in a 2011 Trinidad Express article, Carnival – breeding ground for pregnancies and STDs. Tia also has what she and others refer to as a "Carnival baby" (I should add here, that unprotected sex is not necessary for the transmission of STDs as "'just dancing'" with someone, "'skimpily attired can be dangerous'" as noted by Dr Sherene Kalloo in Carnival – breeding ground for pregnancies and STDs).
Is this what we want? Is this what we are about as a people? Is this what Carnival is? Having a good time does not have to entail vulgar and loose behavior.
Author's note: I think it is important to mention that the lyrical content of some calypsoes may also fuel the lewd and licentious behaviour displayed by many women around this time. I remember, for instance, a line in the song "Obsessive Winers", sung a few years ago by Denise Belfon, Destra Garcia and Alison Hinds saying that "…when we 'wine' we gettin' on stink, boy, ah tellin' yuh…" The chorus to that song goes, "we is obsessive 'winers', we doh deal with 'outta-timers' (that would be someone like myself), just get yourself some blinders if yuh doh want see we waist ." The problem with that is it is hard to look the other way when such behaviour affects the country of which I am a native and makes for a very difficult society for me and others to live in. And this is not the only song. We need to re-evaluate a lot of things as it pertains to Carnival.
Author's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org