wayne&wax

linkthink re: hip-hop, reggae, the US, jamaica, and anything else wayne wants to wax on

10.18.2004

how do you take it?


[sic.]

a few posts back i mentioned a blog called killbattyman, which seems to deconstruct its hateful message with its own ridiculousness. the site has called everyone from christopher reeves, to the g-unit rappers (and anyone who wears a tupac t-shirt), to bugs bunny and burger king, a "battyman"--the derogatory term for gays in jamaican vernac. such wild allegations raise suspicions about the intent of the site. is it genuine in its insane rants? or is it meant to parody the anti-gay sentiments espoused by some dancehall artists?

ryan moore, who makes some serious dub music as twilight circus dub sound system, wrote to me and suggested that the site could be a parody, which, judging by its rhetoric, might very well be the work of jamaican provocateur, peter dean rickards. to be honest, though, i've seen things said and endorsed on that site which seem downright anti-gay--and certainly not critical to the point of dovetailing with what might be the parodic intent of killbattyman.

i turned up this conversation at the jamaica star forum, which illustrates the divided opinions of jamaicans around this issue and around such rhetoric as killbattyman promotes. interestingly, one of the participants also raises the question of whether the site is itself a parody "created by a f@g to show how crude and ridiculous our cultural rantings are about the matter sometimes." she goes on to say: "I'm not a supporter, such lifestyles is sickening....and people on the outside looking in fail to realize that it's how the people of our culture knew how to express themselves best about the issue. 'Bun a b@ttyman' doesn't mean that one should go out with a container of gas and a lighter...it's simply a strong expression of how disgusted they are about the whole practice....Duh!!!!"

i appreciate the way she clarifies the distinction between metaphor and actual practice. several friends that i have spoken to in jamaica have expressed essentially the same opinion: that the bark is worse than the bite. according to this theory, many jamaicans, including the dancehall artists who purport to speak for the community, make a lot of public noise about homosexuality, but in their homes and their workplaces they tolerate their gay family members and co-workers. clearly, this is not always the case, as there is plenty of anti-gay violence and intimidation in jamaica. then again, you find this kind of thing everywhere--even in cambridge, massachusetts. (trust me. i went to public school here. i worked as a garbage man in the pahk depahtment. and i've witnessed plenty of homophobia at harvard as well.) at the same time, i've seen the way that jamaica's public discourse affects people's private thoughts, too. i remember having a conversation with a young jamaican man which, probably because we were standing on a balcony, turned to the topic of suicide. what he said to me then struck me as terribly strange and terribly sad. "i would never kill myself," he said, "unless i had sex with a woman and found out it was a man. then i would have no choice."

another friend of mine--a bredren from trinidad who is an ardent lover and great champion of both dancehall and soca--wrote me recently, concerned about the ramifications of the current controversy. he asked: "What do you make of the furor between the gay-rights groups and the dancehall fraternity? Methinks it was inevitable, bound to happen, if you will. It's just frustrating that the political pull of such organizations can threaten the dancehall industry just when it was establishing itself as a viable entity in the urban market. Don't get me wrong, I do not condone voilent lyrics, but the references are used SO often, they do not even register...they're even used in comical contexts in certain songs!"

he continued: "Seems to be a clash of two cultures that simply do not see eye to eye on certain issues. Is there a resolution? I don't know - it's interesting to see the stance of the different artistes (in particular the 'great 8' that have been blacklisted by Outrage!) in terms of who apologizes, who backs down, who doesn't, you know. Beenie was dropped from the MTV VMA's last month...his usual November show at the House of Blues in New Orleans was cancelled weeks ago...Capleton and Cocoa Tea were to perform at the HOB next Monday, and that was cancelled last week...my word, this is a mess. Some are saying it'll 'blow over', but I figure the ramifications are more profound than this..."

i share my friend's concerns about the viability of the burgeoning dancehall scene in the midst of this controversy. but i also think that reggae artists who are courting an international audience will have to consider the tastes of that audience, just as they consider the tastes of their local base. it seems that reggae artists, at least for the last couple of decades, have succeeded overseas precisely because of their stalwart commitment to local concerns. fans in the US, and germany, and italy, and japan, and elsewhere respond to this commitment, which rings with great authenticity. these fans only constitute a subculture, however, and if the "great 8" want to reach more mainstream audiences, they will have to contend with mainstream tastes. of course, judging by the ways kerry and bush are attempting to capitalize on the mainstream's division on this issue, it would seem that dancehall artists simply need to decide whether they want to succeed in red or blue states. a recent column in the gleaner also suggests that some serious calculation is required here.

at any rate, many have made their decision, and have pursued it for some time now. although artists such as sean paul have toned down their anti-battyman stance, others have ratcheted it up. the latest post at killbattyman contains a link to an mp3 in which bounty killer defends the practice of chanting down battybwoys. it's definitely worth a listen. for one, in a time when vybz kartel is apologizing on the bbc (and getting clowned at home for it) and beenie man is retracting apologies issued by his record label, it's significant that a big artist like bounty would come out quite explicitly and say that he will not apologize. his defense is not terribly original. it resonates to some extent with my trinidadian brethren's comment that there is a "clash of two cultures" at play here. bounty killer does refer quite explicitly to his "culture" towards the end of the song. the problem with this defense and this conception of culture--which happens to be the same conception of culture by which the neocons justify invading the middle east--is that it fails to recognize several fundamental points.

first, jamaican culture is by no means homogeneous. the division on message boards discussing this topic illustrates that, as do various conversations i've had with jamaicans about this topic over the years. second, no "culture" in the world today exists as a bounded, stable entity. considering the amount of international socio-cultural integration created and maintained by migration, diasporic networks, global mass media, etc., it is time to recognize that "culture"--it might be more useful at this point to speak of "cultural practices," lest we encourage the bounded stability implied by the term "culture"--is a dynamic, porous, messy, contested, shared thing. jamaican culture has been in constant flux at least since the spanish came and decimated the native population. add to that the coming of the english (who took the island as a consolation prize for cromwell), the importation of thousands of africans (and later, east indians and chinese) for slave- and indentured-labor, the pan-caribbean circulation of people from every island to every other island, the immigration of jews, syrians, irish, scots, germans and other people to jamaica in search of work and freedom from persecution, the tourists, government delegates, and visitors of various stripes from all over the world, the projection and circulation of the world's mass media, among other sources of input and influence, and you've got quite a mess. it's a rich, wonderful mess. and that is one thing that makes reggae music--and other jamaican expressions--so compelling. but it is anything but a single culture.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Wayne
Amatul Here
well well well!
Facinating. (eyebrow raised)

This all reminds me of a couple of years ago when an Jamaican-decended, transgendered (female to male) friend wrote to me and several other local black community activist women.
He was telling us about a New York Drag Queen who was booked to perform at Machine Nightclub. This artist's act apperently was a Blackface act, filled with welfare steriotypes, bad nappy hair wig and black babydoll, fat red lips, face all black paint.
YoMomma jokes in a sassy put on southern accent and all.

Objectivly speaking, This Blackface act seemed like it COULD possibly be funny - or of interest - and local lovers of Drag were eager to see this artist - but the brother in NYC had a warning and some info for us that made it all Not Funny.
When we looked at this artists websites, we found biglipped nigger jokes and drawings photoshopped up. Blackface toilet humor and yes, even lynching images and rape and other graphically sickening references. The Union Jack was flying all over, amd much rhetoric about Blacks being lazy and like Monkeys.
WHOA. ACTION TIME.

We spread the email throughout Black Boston, with links to the websites (the artist had two websites, one that was easier to find and more "respectable", one filled with hatespeech and the worst of the images)

We went to the nightclub amd spoke with the black employees (who had no idea that this artist was booked to perform there, some were not amused) Then we spoke with the club manager and expressed concern for safety and peace outside and within his nightclub if this performer came to Boston (where we surely do not need further racism ridicule or oppression, especially not from white gay men in blackface. Surely, GAY MEN should know better, we felt as queer and straight women of color standing in unity. Especially after what happened to Matthew Shepard! A Lynching basically (he was the youth tied to the fence in Montana and killed by exposure and beating - history for anyone who dont know: http://matthewsplace.com/mattslife.htm)

So, The gay nightclub manager told us not to worry - that this artist had already been canceled! See, a (Black) employee of the Office of the Mayor of Boston had called that morning, warning them that hate speech would not be tolerated in the City of Boston in a city licenced establishment, and that they would not guarantee police safty for the club's patrons or staff.

The local gay press wrote about this incident (shutting the performer out of the club) as an act of Censorship, and one prominant paper published letters from a local Drag performer stating that _the community of color was oppressive and restricting the creativity of drag and free speech_ that is all American, bla bla bla.

etc etc etc.
sigh.
You cant win with some things - sure, the drag ladies and the boys want to have their fun, but how do they feel when someone dances and laugths to a tale of them being set on fire, or shot with a gun?

White privledge, Racism, Sexism, Straight Male privledge..
I think this oppression passes out of asses and shits on all the world.

As oppressed as our Jamaican Bro is by 5-0 and by England, AmeriKKKa etc, then he passes this rape of his manhood on to the B@ttybwoy gay... and the women and children around him can suffer as well.. this is a cultural violation of human rights being passed on and passed off as "just acceptable homophobia".

ITS COMPLEX SHIT, YO.

It's the centuries of raped manhood and exploitation of our Black and Islander culture, thats the REAL issue, and finding a GOAT to laugh at, or a weaker being to threaten, thats taking the easy way out. _Thats_ Fag, Yo

Its a damn shame,
and it needs to stop
one foul act at a time.

PEACE and I thank you for your brilliant and very fun recording "SoGay"... Wayne & Wax, You are a good brother and a truely funky homo sapiens!

10:46 AM  
Blogger bullyringo said...

As long as there is OUTRAGE we will keep the fire burning on a chichi

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Fire burn9ng IN a Chi Chi will burn the hate out of you, you closeted sad limp dick anonymouse mother phucker. sheesh....

8:11 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

interesting to see a "conversation" develop on this post from a ways back.

i like the appropriation of "fire burning IN a Chi Chi." you go bwoy.

actually, if you do a little googling, bullyringo is not so anonymous. his email is bullyinc@aol.com, and he digs colin channer novels and--get this--john updike's "boldness with sexuality." (see here: http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/0449911632/028-7429895-2371704) who knew?

of course, this sidesteps the fact that bullyringo claims that bunning out battymen is in _response_ to OUTRAGE. c'mon, now. it goes back further than some british gay rights org. plus, i don't think bounty, et al., would consider themselves so reactionary a bunch.

meantime, killybattyman seems to have fallen off. and just when i was beginning to eagerly anticipate the next "outed" cartoon character.

8:25 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

i've noticed that someone found this post recently by googling, interestingly, the following: "killbattyman rickards" - which turns up two things, this post, and a reference on uk.gay.com which identifies the site directly with rickards.
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLG,GGLG:2005-47,GGLG:en&q=killbattyman+rickards

it's funny. the longer i've had to reflect on all of this, the more i suspect that moore was right all along. tellingly, killbattyman even features some of rickards' telltale, idiosyncratic spellings, such as the "faget" in the pic above.

it's double funny, actually. i removed most references to rickards in this blog after being harassed quite nastily by PDR, but i left this one up since it neither glorifies nor indemnifies his work but considers it as part of this ongoing conversation around jamaica's "cultural values."

i'm sure it's a matter of time before i get another lovely cease&desist from that afflicted chap. at least he 'owns' his pathologies.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What all the philosohical meanderings fail to reveal is that gays in Jamaica (and numerous other places) are not meant to be part of any conversation or discussion. They are,at best, supposed to hang their heads in shame and keep quiet or risk verbal or physical abuse from the "moral" majority. This is not a case in which two groups with differing viewpoints are able place their opinions in the public domain and have those views responded to in a rational manner. Those who talk about outsiders "not understanding" Jamaican culture are demagogues and hypocrites because they well know that their objective is not to reach any kind of understanding but to suppress the thoughts and expressions of those they choose to hate. It is therefore inevitable that the pressure for change must come from outside since those inside have no voice and only live in fear. To those who will conveniently raise issues of nationalism, race, colonialism, poverty and any number of excuses and rationales for the present sorry situation in Jamaica, I say SHAME, SHAME SHAME on you.

2:59 AM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

Agreed. What is perhaps promising, though, is that as Jamaica's digital public grows, so do the perspectives expressed from the "inside." I found the following link to provide a strong local perspective on all of this --
http://butseeyah.blogspot.com/2007/02/gay-bashing-rampage-in-half-way-tree-in.html

11:29 AM  

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