An Open Letter to Caribbean Men, From Caribbean Women

This piece is cross-posted from the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region.

Dear Caribbean men,

We do not have to smile for you. Our smiles are our own. Our lips are our own, and our smiles are a celebration of our happiness. We do not have to smile on command. We are not pretty, little, Black dolls whose smiles were painted on with red paint and a plastic brush. Sometimes, we’re busy. We’re busy thinking about geo-political trends, the next 10-mile run, or the latest cricket match. We’re too busy to be the smiling decoration that we, as women, are expected to be. Our faces can be thoughtful, angry, sad, peaceful, meditative, or bored. So stop, Caribbean men. Stop walking up to us, harassing us, and demanding that we smile. We do not have to smile for you. Our smiles are our own.

We do not have to answer you. Our names are our own. We were not christened, “Eh! Baby!” We do not have to turn around and pretend that we enjoy being summoned like pets. We are not charmed when you follow us and invade our space. We do not have to make conversation with you as you block our paths. We do not feel flattered when you stand in a group and leer at our figures, competing to see who can make the vilest remark. We do not take it as a compliment when you comment on our bodies and tell us what you intend to do with them. So stop, Caribbean men. Stop making us feel uncomfortable, afraid to walk the streets of our homelands alone. We do not have to answer to you. Our names are our own.

We do not have to dance with you. Our hips are our own. Your admission to the fete did not include an all-access pass to our waists, breasts, behinds. When we walked through the gates, we did not sign permission slips. You don’t get to be angry because we don’t want you as a permanent appendage. You don’t get to grab us, restrain us, and force your bodies against ours. Our role at the fete is not to amuse, entertain, or provide you with a grinding post. Dare to imagine that we enjoy dancing alone. Dare to imagine that we enjoy dancing with our friends. Just because we dance with other guys doesn’t mean we now owe you. So stop, Caribbean men. Stop degrading us and insisting we accept your advances. We do not have to dance with you. Our hips are our own.

We do not dress for you. Our bodies are our own. The length of a skirt is not a personal message to you. Cleavage is not an invitation. Like most shoes, ours can’t speak. So our heels don’t say, “Do me.” Our legs are not dinner bells, loudly chiming, “Come and get it!” You don’t get to say our bare skin provoked you. You don’t get to say you lost control. Take responsibility for your behavior, just as we take responsibility for ours. And stop, Caribbean men. Stop using our clothes as an excuse when you rape or violate us. We do not dress for you. Our bodies are our own.

Caribbean women

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  • Guest

    Very beautif

  • Samantha Vimes

    I second this, from women everywhere to men everywhere.

  • Pingback: An Open Letter to Caribbean Men, From Caribbean Women | RH Reality Check | Habari Gani, America!()

  • TriniFroid

    So this article is directed to ALL Caribbean men from ALL Caribbean women, because from the use of language that is a fair assumption. Poor men they are most painted as the protagonist. These articles are so numerous and the use of language is important. I myself are not one of these men and I showed this to some of my friends who don’t practice any of these action in the article and we all felt the same way… attacked. You may say “if it doesn’t apply to me, why bother?” I know numerous men that try to maintain a certain standard but constantly have to face the lagging tongue of disgruntled women who lump all men in the same category. If I were to say, “All women who show there figure when they dress want attention.” Women who don’t will probably be bothered by it and if they hear it enough times they will be angry. So please when trying to address an issue, if you choose, please be mindful of your language as I hope your purpose was to empower and rectify a situation not attack and degrade.

    • Empress Natty

      Why would you feel attacked instead of thinking that hmmm, maybe I am not guilty of these transgressions against Caribbean Women but I know a couple of men who are? Or hmm, when I go to town I see this happening, why don’t I say something? Because I know you see it happening and I’m pretty sure you don’t say anything. How about you challenge the men who you see acting like animals to do better?

      Fact that it has to be explained to you at this point in your mental development that she does not mean each and every single man in the Caribbean but rather to the persons she was addressing is disappointing. This is just a different way of saying “To whom it may concern”. But I’m sure you knew that right? Please be mindful of your ignorance. It’s showing.

      • TriniFroid

        There you go trying to break me down instead of empowering, just typical, that part of the reason there is always a power struggle between the sexes. You are trying to invalidate my comment and opinion which is shared by many I have spoken to. I was trying to suggest to the author to find words to empower rather than break down and criticise…

        • Empress Natty

          Your comment WAS invalid. You were missing the entire point of the article and I don’t care about how you feel about me invalidating your comment. You strike me as one of the types of people that would rather say “Well I don’t do that” and not say something to people who do. The author is meant to break down and criticize the men who engage in that kind of behaviour because guess what? That’s how we women feel after we leave town, after we’ve been broken down to our base elements of ass tits and pussy.

          The author does not have any obligation to molly coddle those who trespass on our sense of self worth. She has no obligation to be an apologist for their behaviour acting like if they can’t help it. And the quicker you and people who think like you get that out of your head the quicker we can progress. It’s gone beyond the point of being a teaching moment. These kind of people NEED to feel bad about what they do and how they affect us. So let me reiterate, I don’t care about your hurt feelings, I don’t care if you feel attacked because the focus of the article flew right over your head. It is not about you. At all. It’s about those men who have no problem seeing women as strictly sexual objects and play things and toys. If YOU don’t think like this, why are you taking offense? Why do you feel personally attacked? The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.

  • Ashleigh Hennessy

    Sounds like this letter is from all women, to all men.

  • Neil LifeChanger McPhoy

    Wonderfully put! As a Caribbean man, I hear you. I respect you and I pledge to do my part in bringing my brothers, friends, nephews and sons to this consciousness. Please accept one Caribbean man’s apology on behalf of all the others who are yet in the dark. Myself and others are out there sharing words of light and life to other men. Keep sharing and speaking out. However, don’t ever give up on us. Pray for us and believe in the best of us.

  • Julie Gonzales

    To the gentleman that was disgruntled as much as I understand that you may feel attacked by this essay.I wish that ALL men including Caribbean men would stop looking at the tree and focus on the forest.This article is not about you it is about the harassment and violence meted out to Caribbean women and the high tolerance level that many women have had to develop to cope in this society and the fact that some women just want to be respected period.Again I would encourage men to stop looking at this message as a personal attack but as a message to take to your brothers (not as victims of discrimination) but as defenders of your sister, daughters and mothers.We are all a part of each other and when one part hurts the whole society hurts.

    • TriniFroid

      Thank you Julie but maybe the author needed to add this message to her article.

  • Daggor

    So, what they’re saying is the Caribbean is a horrible place to live, and America should keep all Caribbean men away form our borders at all costs.

    • Megaloo O’Horran

      Daggor didin’t get it. He turned the widespread sexist practises of men everywhere into a racial issue. Racism and sexism are two prongs of the same fork Daggor! If you are this racist, you just might be a little sexist too.

      • TriniFroid

        How did he turn it into “racism?”

  • Deon Andria Hardy

    Wrote a Poem about something similar. It is true men think everything is done for them.

  • Ayisha Needanewtat John


  • John Caribbean

    You need to get a life and stop worry about caribbean men. We aint worried about u.

  • Emefa Apatu

    To all my Caribbean sisters who have suffered degradation at the hands of men who feel that it is their right to regard you as their sexual property, you are not alone. Thank you so much for this post. The kind of nonsense I hear in this country (RSA)…

  • Rome

    Dear Caribbean women…get over yourselves.