The Woman Who Fathered Me: A Caribbean Woman's Role in the Family
Female children born into low income families in Jamaica and other islands of the Caribbean are burdened with a stereotype that their male counterparts will never know. When faced with the gender oppression their society has constantly been feeding, and the fact that so many women must act as the single financial heads of their families, many women of the Caribbean must settle for low paying occupations associated with 'female' or domestic labor. For women born into families at the bottom of the economic ladder, there is little hope of social mobility or escape from the fist of poverty. In most cases, the cycle continues to feed itself from mother to daughter. In my paper I will demonstrate this cycÀle by examining the Caribbean women's role in the family as head of the household and the education, employment and survival strategies characteristic to many of these women. I will conclude my paper by discussing some of the new organizations and movements that have surfaced in the Caribbean within the past thirty years that are fighting for women's empowerment.
In his highly acclaimed novel In the Castle of My Skin, which he dedicates to his mother, in chapter three George Lamming eloquently describes what is actually a common scene among islands of the Caribbean: women gathered together in a common yard for the purpose of gossip. While it may seem to be an insignificant event, in a region where the responsibilities involved in raising a family fall mainly on women's shoulders, their bond with each other is essential.
Miss Foster. My mother. Bob's mother. It seemed they were three pieces in a pattern which remained constant. Miss Foster had six children, three by a butcher, two by a baker and one whose father had never been mentioned. Bob's mother had two, and my mother one.
Here where the fences penetrated each other and in silent collaboration produced a corner there were three. The three were shuffling episodes and exchanging confidences which informed their life with meaning. The meaning was not clear to them. It was not their concern, and it never would be. Their consciousness"had never been quickened by the fact of life to which these confidences would have been a sure testimony. The sun let it's light flow down on them as life let itself flow through them.
I begin my paper with this excerpt because it says a great deal about life for women, and especially mothers, in the Caribbean. I recently took a travel study course through the English department to study Caribbean literature in Barbados and we were asked to read Lamming's book before we left. Reading it I had assumed that the lifestyle and events he was describing had to be somewhat dated, but after two weeks on the island I realized that things are just now beginning to change as far as women's identity and role in the family. It has only been with in the past thirty years that women in the Caribbean...