A video depicting a mother's idea of ‘discipline’ is spreading like wildfire in Trinidad and Tobago, prompting strong reaction from the blogosphere.
An unidentified mother and her twelve year-old daughter are the subject of the video, which has been posted and reposted on Facebook and other social networking sites. The video shows the mother hitting the child several times with a belt, after the child was alleged to have posted suggestive photographs of herself online. Note: Global Voices has neither linked to nor embedded the original video out of respect for the rights of the child and the laws relating to abuse and domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago.
In a blog post on the issue, Code Red For Gender Justice discussed the concept of old-fashioned West Indian discipline:
I watched my grandmother punch my cousin in the face for breaking eggs on her way back from the shop. My father once ripped a shirt off my teenaged sister. I will not even write what I have seen and heard my neighbour do to his son.
Remembering those occasions in which I experienced or was forced to bear witness to physical and emotional violence is traumatic. Sometimes the very ways in which Caribbean parents seek to demonstrate love, care and guidance are the very ways that will destroy you.
The author continued:
We have to know better so we can do better. We have to unlearn.
But we can’t begin that process of unlearning and re-learning if we are going to get all righteous and pretend like violence is not an everyday, normalised part of life. The mother who made the video and posted it online knew that her Caribbean viewers would recognise ‘good West Indian discipline’ when they saw it. She made that video for us, to let us know she is a good mother, a tough mother. She knows that after what her daughter posted online people would be asking questions about what [kind of mother] raises the…force-ripe 12-year-old that would post risque photos online.
Reaction to the video has ranged from praise for the mother's actions to horror and condemnation:
You feel if the child was behaving the mother would've resorted to such actions? Jusso a mother would beat her child like that?
— Quacey ملك الذات (@QuaceyL3) April 22, 2014
I don't think that licks is the answer but lawd that child test that mother to her last
— kai a. barratt (@cutedougla17) April 22, 2014
(“Licks” is a common West Indian term for corporal punishment.)
Other Twitter users were not amused:
Now looked at the post with the girl getting licks, that type of abuse is shameful & anyone endorsing that is equally loathsome
in what way is sharing that child beating video online not akin to distributing child pornography? #trinidad
— Wesley Gibbings (@wgibbings) April 23, 2014
— Anonymous (@indiesoultt) April 21, 2014
@PimpetteLala I could not disagree more eh. To descend to that level of licks is the culmination of failed parenting
— Kevin Ram (@kramtt) April 22, 2014
@tv6tnt I reported this video to YouTube and its no longer available. TV6 please delete this video and let's not be part of the abuse.
— clc (@clc315) April 23, 2014
My View, a blog by Phillip Alexander, suggested that the end justifies the means, but many Twitter users challenged this kind of thinking:
@tv6tnt "Licks" is the source of our violent society. Generations grow up knowing to inflict pain on people if they do something wrong.
— LifesupportCaribbean (@LifeSupportTT) April 23, 2014
Many took to Facebook to debate the issue. In the discussion group True Trini Discussing Real Issues, the comments were varied. Vishnu Ramoutar commented:
Painful for the child both physically and mentally. This can affect her for a very long time. Her mother is disgusting. No shame or care for her daughter. Not in public. No way. Zero tolerance for her.
Tara S. Ramlochan had a different view:
Spare the rod and spoil de Chile…suppose she didn't do that and the girl come home wit big belly…fuss ting allyuh go say is upbringing and statutory rape…
In contrast, Code Red highlighted the comment of one mother:
growing up in a caribbean household…i know that the traditional mindset is that this is no big ting. as a mother who has struggled to find alternative ways to discipline and teach my boys other than the belt, i understand the moms (sic) frustration…but the truth is that this is wrong. its (sic) abusive, humiliating and does more harm than good in the long run. the problem is how to change this mindset that is so ingrained in caribbean culture?
The post also examined how discipline has traditionally been addressed in regional societies:
We have experienced violence and are living with that trauma. We have used violence. We have failed to consider other alternatives. We have justified our use of violence. Violence has become a normal and natural response.
In a follow-up entry, the blogger was honest about the feedback she received on her initial post:
One of the key pieces of feedback I received was that I was complicit in the public shaming and violence against the pre-teen girl by sharing the video…and linking to it on the blog. If we wanted to talk about child abuse surely we could do that without exploiting a 12-year-old girl. I agree.
It took me sometime to come to that agreement though. I have witnessed children being beaten daily in school settings. I understood that it was abuse but part of the way that it was normalised in my mind meant that in some ways I had also minimised it. I was wrong.
Another criticism was about shaming readers who expressed disgust at the video:
Someone suggested that by engaging in such shaming I was complicit in normalising violence against children. That I found it difficult to believe that the video literally made some people sick to their stomachs says…that I have experienced violence against children to be a very common feature of everyday life in the Caribbean [and] completely failed to consider that people may witness violence everyday and find it reprehensible, traumatic and stomach-churning.
In another post, Code Red examined the role of new media in the whole equation:
Changes in technology aside, social media usage has come to mean that you are modern and that you are participating in global culture. Teens don’t want to be left out. Children without regular access to internet or facebook accounts experienced these privations to be a source of embarrassment just as other markers of poverty are. When the kids leave facebook it will be for the next hottest thing, not because parents have managed to push them offline.
We could all do with some media literacy…being a lot more critical about how we engage social media and thinking critically about what it has come to represent.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons to come out of Code Red's online discussion was this realisation:
Sharing the video was a bad judgement call. The video (and articles) reaching so many…was a result of readers liking, commenting, reading and re-sharing. Its popularity was co-constructed. We need to co-construct a media literacy for our times.
The 12-year-old's older sister has since posted a video defending her mother's actions, calling the beating “a last resort” and saying that her motivation was “love”.
At the end of the day she would grow out of that cutlass , but she will remember it for a long time to come, , we all could be sympathetic with both parent and child, so instead of kamla getting on television and voicing her opinion , why done she offer some professional help for both mother and daughter, it is not easy being a single mother in society today, so all who want to judge the mother, take a walk in her shoes.
someone cannot discuss our practices without being one of us…. this post is a waste of internet space
Then never again discuss critically the affairs of the United States or any other country for that matter since you are not one of them. Become a myopic fool.
only a fool can consider another being a fool
One entity cannot judge the moral or social standards of any country, society, religion or party without first engaging in their ways to understand. Instead of reverting to a primitive human and calling people fools when hiding behind a computer screen, try to understand that we are a people with different beliefs- only changed by outside influence and due to this influence we are falling behind rather and escalating in a positive route.
So, a young girl in Trinidad and Tobago posts a partially nude “selfie” on Facebook; she is beaten by her mother, who has the violence recorded and posted on Facebook to cement the shaming. When we debate the beating, we miss the point. We should be talking about this over-sexualized, “Trini” New World order, where a young girl cannot escape the insidious montage created by a segment of women, who parade the streets quite nude, some dry humping-wet-humping with women, men, poles, walls, or whatever moving or immobile objects are in their paths. These specialist women save the most creative simulations of sex: those inspired contortions where “you could get charge for wining like that” for when cameras are rolling; spewing this cultural bacchanal of fleshy tissue into the homes of impressionable young girls, who just may have the privilege of witnessing in person. Rather than being beaten, and then publicly vilified this girl should be celebrated for graduating early into this notion of womanhood. Why punish ambition? Oh, and as far as that beating goes, as a “cut-arse” survivor myself, I refuse to support this sadistic violence that was inflicted on our race during enslavement. Bless.
U need to get your own cutarse
I did get cut-arse religiously every day. I was abused by my aunt who was an alcoholic. So I stand on good authority when I speak.One may even say that I am an expert on this thing Trinis, like you, refer to fondly as cut-arse. Since the brunt of my comments were not about cut-arse, i guess you take great offense to my reference to the behavior of a certain segment of women and the poisonous example they are setting for the nation’s daughters. I guess any behavior goes in your household… and then what? You share cut-arse? Silly, little man.
Children need parents guidance when dey exercise poor judgment. A good cutarse is good guidance many times. Dat is y I say thank God for those I received when I exercised poor judgment.
I agree with on that
there is a lot of dbl standards being represented here…both were wrong in their actions, however, the mother cant sit back and allow her 12 year old daughter post derogatory pics of herself online and expect to get away with it. first thing you will say is how the mother allow this to happen. Then when the child is targeted for rape now by sum big old man it ends up being on the mothers hands again. Lets face it, we have all gotten a “licken” at some point in our childhood and have learned from it. some of us got it a lot sometimes just because we were the eldest and should know better. so what will u have done if u were the mother in all ur fury? send her to her room? take away her phone? ban her from the internet for a few months? then what? she goes by a friend and does something worse….its better to be scarred by the licks as a reminder of what she did wrong and live long than to be spared and not kno what she did was utterly distasteful for a 12 year old and end up being pregnant too young or worse raped and scorned. just my 2 cents.
Well I could talk I’m a Trinidadan that been living in the states for 20 yrs and I believe in a good old fashioned spanking but as a last resort. The government as taken over to much of people lives, and since we are not allowed to rise other children in the old way, there’s more crime, kids having sex at a earlier age, unwanted and needed, pregnancies, and uneducated adults. Yes there’s a line that can turn into abuse but not if I’ve tried everything else first and as a last resort I give you a good olé cut ass.
If she’s a mother who just like to hit her child for everything then it’s abuse but if she’s been talking and even tried professional help like she said she did, that beating was not abuse and really a last resort.
Just in case it may seem from the comments so far that most people in Trinidad and Tobago support physical violence against others – including children – I would like to add that there are hundreds if not thousands of us who before this video and after this video are working constantly to support loving parenting, a safe and expansive childhood experience, and a change in the norms that have governed childhood and parenting since the introduction of colonization, slavery and indentureship.
Many of us teach classes to parents and give them support so that no one has to end up in the position in which the mother, the beaten daughter and the older sister have now found themselves. Most of the time after a parent has been listened to effectively and has revisited the challenges of their own childhood they choose to parent in a way that is different from what we have described here – with more connection to their child. Many more mature parents also parent their children in this fashion.
Our society can definitely condemn ALL violence against children and simultaneously it needs to set supportive mechanisms in their place. But just as slavery couldn’t be justified just because you are a financially strapped slave owner, or granting the vote to women could not be stopped by saying that it could disrupt their relationship with their husbands, so too should no excuse be acceptable for brutalizing a child. Basic rights belong to all, there is no mitigating circumstance.
Sadly, we have internalised the violence that was so commonplace during periods of slavery that seeing a grown woman beat a child is normal. I couldn’t watch the whole thing and it made me upset and sick to my stomach. Most of us cannot equate licks with violence but that’s what it is. If a man is wrong to lash a woman, then how can it be right for an adult to lash a child? Power. If a mother has none outside the home, she WILL ensure that in the home, she wields it liberally. I fear the country is split right down the middle on this issue (for and against licks) and it will not be resolved in this generation nor the next.
The mother had all right to do what she did … the girl had the freedom to do what she did.. there is no way to justify the girl’s action as morally right . the mother’s reaction needs no justification.Don’t be naive and say the mom is wrong a system of rewards and punishment has stood the test of time and is most effective to get desired behaviors and corrections.Don’t be biased banish the defense system because they use this method with the bonus verbal abuse too ohh wait they are trained to kill fellow humans …against their own will and belief…off course at an international level…(professionals take note) don’t spare the rod an spoil the child get them to behave like humans some Trinis are full of shit unfortunately they stink bad enough to pollute the entire country.Moms you are doing a good job your child has internet and a computer so you are indeed a provider and u paid attention this time…Apparently this topic has become a means for so called professionals to measure ego …ppl forget where they come from all you ppl form the 60’s straight to the late 90’s remember that punishment you got made u a better person …
I agree fully with u and all the ppl that want to say diff ask them were they live and also y do they fear they own or other pll children.