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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A final word on Danah...

A'ight! Allyuh ketch mih! Yuh happy?

Despite encouragement to write on the topic by several friends and readers, I had resisted doing an article on Danah Alleyne and her performance on the Zen stage. I've been drawn out though by the award for "being a source of inspiration and motivation to the nation" from Choc'late Allen's "100% Crime Free T&T Committee" (Link 1, Link 2). I feel like I'm in an episode of Sesame Street with Larry, Mary and Barry Rhymie...

There is much for the public to be unhappy about in this situation, not the least of which is the logical stretch that Danah's lapse in judgment becomes acceptable as long as she says that she is sorry for what she has done.

What troubles me right now is that Trinbagonian public is once again in denial about the reality of our young people's sexual maturity.

Photographic evidence shows that Danah appears to have known exactly what she was doing when she tackled Akon. There is one very clear and telling image where Danah is leaning forward slightly with Akon behind her. She has the front of his belt in white-knuckled grip, pulling him into her.

The look on Akon's face suggested that he was more than a little enthralled by the overt display. He may at that point have been considering offstage interaction with the winner of his wining competition, someone who he would not have known was a child.

The action on Danah's part too shows a practised hand, and leaves a body to wonder about her claims of innocence.

The fact remains that Danah, while by no means an exemplar, is an example of our youth. She presents something quite starkly that we have denied from generation to generation: that from very early, our children can be and indeed are sexual creatures.

It's time now to leave off denigrating Danah and chastising 13-year old Choc'late for what I still think is a misguided effort in presenting Danah with an award. Rather the adults of the society need to take a look at the youths in their charge and make sure that, even as they are growing up quite fast, that they do make responsible choices.

We talk often about the skewed values that the metropole teaches via lowest common denominator TV and other media. But how often do we make sure to help our young people understand the difference between what is on TV and what is their reality, and more importantly that their choices can have grave consequences?

We already know that we need teach our children about fiscal responsibility, about being conscientious on the roads when they drive, and from very early, about playing fairly. It only makes sense then that we also teach our children about the realities of sex and sexuality and making appropriate choices for themselves. That is in response to the fact that with or without your oversight or permission, your children are going to be thinking about and engaging in sexual activity. If they don't learn the right thing from you, then they will take their lessons from anyone who is willing to teach.

Mind you, Danah's is not the first provocative performance that could have led to (further?) sexual assault. Note though that it is possible to very well be inviting further advances when a woman behaves that way, but it is just as likely that she is not. And women, young and old, need to understand that what they are doing and that they should not provoke when it is not the intention to do so.

Boys too, and many men still, need to know that such behaviour on a girl's or woman's part does not automatically equate an invitation to screw.

All in all, both sexes and all genders need to understand the unspoken messages that they send with their bodies. And frankly, it's better that children hear from their parents what that unspoken vocabulary is.

Thus, rather than play the prude and beat up on Danah and Choc'late, and then hope that your own children don't end up on a night club stage somewhere, use the two girls as an object lesson.

Talk on a level with (not "to") the children. Inform them and instruct them. Ensure that when they make the decisions that you're not around to vet that they're more than likely to make the right ones.

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