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Jimmy B is Truly Us - Salone Men

By Abdul Suhood Komeh,
London, UK.

Society produces the man, and the woman too. Even though still just allegations, and regardless of the number of women sharing gruesome encounters, Jimmy B is not a caricature. He is one of us, he is who some of us are - and yes, a product of Sierra Leone.
People should not be too shocked at his outing (allegedly) as a serial rapist and sex-pest who preyed on vulnerable, star-strucked young women.

Ours is a society where from a very young age, boys are programmed with the belief that sex, a most fundamental urge of life, is not something women enjoy or feel for. Instead, sex is punishment, meted on women by men. ‘Borbor, wae are kaytch da gyal dae, e haller’, is a common boast amongst some, if not most men. That is after exerting every breath and muscle, sometimes aided by artificial boosters like ‘Kushu Stick’, and in recent times, Viagra, to pleasure and impress a woman.

Once such toxic, hyper-masculinity is ingrained, it becomes difficult to let go of, engendering in some men a foul entitlement to women’s bodies.

This point has been made elsewhere but still worthy of repeating for emphasis. If all Sierra Leonean men in power or within proximity of influence are given the exact same treatment Jimmy B is facing, few will be left standing, if any at all.

While mindful not to make excuses for Jimmy B, it would be crassly negligent of us if we fail to make the connection between patriarchy, which is tied to failed leadership, and high levels of rape. Poverty, poor education, weak or lack of social institutions and, grotesque gender inequalities, are all causes of rape, entrenched in our society for as long as most of us have existed.

As the Jimmy B scandal swirls on every platform, one of the entirely-male candidates for president at the last election is in jail, awaiting trial on allegations of rape/ paedophillia. That is snap evidence that the rape crisis does not begin or end with Jimmy B, and requires a whole lot more than sporadic shock and rage.

Few places are as unequal, gender-wise, as Sierra Leone.

Amongst others, two of the United Nations’ key indicators for gender inequality are maternal mortality rate, and the percentage of women’s and men’s representation in parliament. On maternity deaths, (unverified) it was revealed recently that about ten women a week, die at Freetown’s Cottage hospital. Often for things as basic as electricity outages. Imagine the many who die and are unaccounted for in towns and villages with no hospitals or lack of equipment.

In politics, according to government figures, women make up 52 percent of the population. Yet out of about 146 members of parliament, only seventeen (17) are women. That didn’t happen by accident. But by design of patriarchy, denying women the right to craft laws and direct resources to issues that are relevant to them.

Too often, if women are in positions of authority at all, it is to fulfil a requirement by international donor and credit agencies. Rather than a serious effort at bridging gender imbalances.

The current Bio administration are masters at playing performative governance to impress the world. Upon taking the reins, they made international headlines by declaring rape a national emergency. And typically Sierra Leonean, not because they actually cared about rape or addressing women’s endemic powerlessness. But to project seriousness. After nearly three years in power, examine the constitution of their government and its 1920’s stuff. Out of 30 cabinet positions, there are only four or five women. Yet we wonder why rape is so prevalent?

If you belong to a society but have no serious presence where it mattered, in the institutions that make laws, your interests are unlikely to be fully catered for. This impresses on unscrupulous elements that abuse is inconsequential and removes any chance of respectability. Where women are not valued, Jimmy B and other silent predators are licensed to prowl.

Substantial credit is due the singer, Morris Wonder Boy for breaking with male complicity to make public the allegations. However, the most impressive aspect of this saga is the courage of the women who came forward to make public their stories. They could have kept quiet and saved themselves having to go over what are traumatic experiences. Even more profound is the maturity of showing solidarity with a fellow victim (allegedly) - genuine sacrifice and profile in social responsibility.

Useful idiots. There are those who would fudge scepticism in what appears credible accusations that revealed a pattern: Jimmy B’s promising of flattering movie roles, and boxer’s shorts in wait for his prey, etc. That group would include some women. Fronting a pitiful push back on Jimmy B’s behalf.

Pseudonymous writings and shady accounts will be created to malign, smear, and undermine the women’s credibility. Those people should be roundly ignored. They are not interested in informative work but peddling raw propaganda. The Egyptian feminist writer, Mona Eltahawy has a name for women, engaged is such spiteful work: Gatekeepers for Patriarchy. Their hustle is to safeguard pitiful privilege or promise of a place at the periphery of patriarchy. They are traitors of women’s causes.

In reality, Jimmy B’s power, fame and celebrity are no solid basis to dismiss claims against him as vendetta to bring down a ‘successful man’. That without addressing the allegations, he’s hidden himself with a pathetic hope in ‘God doing a job for him’ is most telling; embarrassing for a media impresario. In every case or scene, rape involves the abuse of some form of power - political, financial, physical, etc. Even more so in societies where opportunities are scarce.

There is no denying. Rape has gone from being a historically unpunished crime, to occupying a cultural normalisation for one reason only. Not because women are morally or cognitively weak, but because Sierra Leone, like most societies, is male-centric in design; for the perpetuity of male-supremacy.
Right at the dawn of 2021, if one thing should come out of this Jimmy B issue, it is for all of us, men and women, to steadfastly argue for meaningful change.

The phrase ‘empowering women’, must be made useless. It supposes women are a latter introduction, when not only have they always been there, but form half the population. ‘Empowering Women’ is boring nonsense because the only impediment to women’s presence at the very top of society, to reflect their abilities and numbers, is men’s refusal to relinquish their privilege.

Toni Morrison: ’I don't think a female running a house is a problem, a broken family. It's perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man’. Unless we want to forever strap ourselves to uncivilised misconceptions, women are just as brilliant and talented leaders - see the consistently impressive Lara Taylor-Pearce, Sierra Leone’s Auditor General.

It is time we begin fostering a society of equals, where men can enter negotiations with women, based on talent and ideas. Without tricking them into trading-off sex, or forced to succumb to the indignity of rape, just for the right of participation and social mobility.

Every top male appointment that skips a qualified woman perpetuates inequity and unfair distribution of wealth and opportunity - effectively subordinating women and undermining efforts against rape. That a special court for rape was instituted in 2020 should not be seen as a source of pride, but shame. The special court represents the clearest proof that women have always been an underclass in Sierra Leone. The judicial arrangements of the last 60 years failed to criminalise or prosecute sexual violence against them. And that is on all of us.
A happy new year from the Rasta!!!