Praising or dissing the vagina!

December 09, 2015
File Shabba Ranks

A vagina is a curious thing, eh? Yeah, man! It is simultaneously the target of obsessive interest and vehement vitriol. As one female comedian once said, some men perpetually want to access one and other men secretly want to be one. Which one are you? Both?

Poor vagina! It is the entity that probably has the most aliases, nom-de-plumes and nicknames. In fact, based on the number of different names she's called, it is a good thing vagina can't talk or hear because she would have a hard time deciding what name to answer to. This is particularly so in Jamaica where she's also the body part that gets the most mention in dancehall song lyrics.

And it's not a new phenomenon. I can think of several dancehall tunes from as far back as in the '70s and '80s that speak passionately and graphically about the V. When we listen to some of the lyrics though, it is sometimes difficult to determine if the vagina is being praised or dissed.


infectious song


Just two weeks ago I was having a Facebook conversation with my feminist cousin about Shabba Ranks' 1990 song Caan Done [on the punany rhythm]. We both agree that the song is wickedly infectious [not just because of the name of the rhythm]. And Shabba Ranks rides it excellently as he chants passionately about the durability, accessibility and longevity of the great V. But is it a song of big up or is it a song of beat down?

With lines like "who say dat woman can done? Tell dem say di woman don't come fi done..." it actually starts out sounding like a song glorifying the strength and tenacity of women. But when we get to the lyrics which say "one jook one wash, and then you tun it dung, open yu foot a next man welcome", we have to pause and ponder. One point made in the conversation was that those lines can be interpreted as positive since they celebrate female sexual liberation. A counter position was put forward, however, that said the lyrics are really just rejoicing about men's free access to easy vagina. What you think?

Then, there's that line that I find really problematic, that says "it mek outa foot-botton material and it cyaan run dung, it cyan done, it cyan done!" That line bothers me. OK, I know that I don't personally own a vagina, but I take serious exception to something that I'm so fond of being compared to 'foot bottom'. I think of Oku and Muta and other wearers of barefoot and I say a big dis dat!

Foot bottom usually dutty. Nuh true? It is the toughest and lowest part of the body and is often likely to be one of the least cared for part. And if we operate under the idea that the V is made from foot bottom material, we may be less inclined to treat it with the respect or tender affection that I think it truly deserves, nuh true? And nuff man outa road seem to operate with the mindset that the V is something to be violently attacked and brutally beaten. And some women appear to agree; like the woman I read about in yesterday's STAR who was videotaped beating her V with a building block in a dance.

According to the story, the block reportedly broke in the process, and the writer alluded to a concern by the Bureau of Standards about the quality of blocks being manufactured. Yeah, makes sense to wonder which part dem block deh come from. But yu know wha me deh yah a wonder? Which part dem woman deh come from?

Other Commentary Stories