Trinidad and Tobago Feminist Carnival Bikini And Feathers
Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is as bizarre as it is amazing. It last held in 2017. Carnival Bikini is not a mere imitation of similar celebrations in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. This Caribbean island of 1.4million people, primarily descended form enslaved Africans or Indian indentured laborers. Combines African traditions with European preLent festivities and Indian music rhythms.
This syncretism is perhaps not surprising given that Carnival has been an annual. Manifestation of women’s political resistance over the last 200 years.
Beads, Glitter, And Bikini Mas
The bikini-mas is the most prominent manifestation of Caribbean women’s dominance over Carnival. Every year, thousands of women take part in Carnival mas querade. Playing the mas in sequined bikinis and feathered headpieces in Rio-style.
Some fear that Trinidad and Tobago’s historical tradition may be losing its way. Because bikini mas have replaced traditional costumes depicting other periods, cultures and places as well some imagined characters. Traditional mas makers say that new, imported masquerade designs do not make political statements nor showcase local talent.
Bikini mas is complex. Its popularity is directly related to women’s growing earnings and economic independence. The demand for these costume is support by disposable income and the desire to have fun. It also reflects the desire of black women to acknowledged as beautiful. And sexy and not just as serious and successful students or workers.
Dr Sue Ann Barratt, A Feminist Bikini Scholar And Mas-Player
For some women, it is important to show that they are working out and be beautiful. This affirm their status as women and send the message that you able to be watch but not touched. Bikini mas, in short, allows women to resist the strict moral restrictions that society and religion place on them while allowing men more freedom of sexual expression.
Consider these lyrics, taken from Destra Garcia’s 2016 hit Lucy by Soca music star. I grew-up as ah real great girl, always home. Don’t go anywhere. They say that I lose as soon as I brought to Carnival. Orlando Octave, a singer, observed that despite having a lot of girls, they are still acting and winning like singles. This paradox, which Trinidadian women experience every day, has led to bikini mas becoming a cultural expression for a whole generation of young women.
Anti-slut Shaming Was The Original
These revellers continue the long-standing tradition in the nation of female self-affirmation and resistance to subordination. They also renegotiate the rules that govern public space. The Caribbean women have been at the forefront in rebellions from the 1500s when they rose up against slavery to the 1903 riots about water access.
Trinidadian women involved in Carnival bands long before slavery abolished. They would sometimes cover themselves with mud to express a sexuality that then considered indecent. They were accompanied by women who participated in stick fights, a traditional masculine activity. These women known as Jamettes in the 1800s. This a French term for those who are considered below the line of respectability.
These working-class, African-descended women carried on the Jamette tradition after the abolition. They cooked, washed clothes, and socialized in shared urban backyards. Jamette politics, with its unapologetic and fearless combination of reproductive, sexual and economic issues and insistence on justice equality and violence, has had a profound influence on Trinidad and Tobago’s modern Carnival and Caribbean feminism.
Bikini mas predates by decades the slut walks of Canada and America. It has helped to cultivate women’s resistance to rape culture, Trinidad and Tobago where male dominance and sexual harassment are seen as normal and natural. The Caribbean region has high rates of sexual violence.
Asami Nagakiya (a Japanese steelpan player) was killed during Carnival in Port of Spain last year. Feminist groups demanded the resignation of the mayor after he suggested that women’s attire and behavior at the annual carnival invited abuse. Young women protested the victim-blaming by wearing bikini mas costumes.
The #NotAskingForIt campaign featuring female workers and students as well as family members, was widely shared on social media throughout the Caribbean.
Are You Classist, Sexist, Or Empowering?
There are many contradictions in bikini mas. Participation in a band of mas costume players can cost up to US$1,000 per participant. Although all classes of women can afford an outfit, economics restricts female freedom.
In the way that bikini mas band members are held in check by security personnel and ropes, classism is also evident. This is a reproduction of the historical ways in which white upper class people used to segregate themselves from other people while they took over the streets.
However, such cordoning signals a harsh modern reality: these ropes are intended to protect women from all classes and races against sexual harassment. This policing and monitoring of women’s bodies hinders the radical potential for bikini mas.
Young feminists are looking for ways to link Trinidad’s centuries-old Carnival with a new generation in political resistance. The Leave Me Alone, Leave She Alone campaign, which is well-known for encouraging women to resist sexual violence, teamed up this year with Calypso Rose, to encourage men to create a Carnival, and society, where women feel safe and free.
Carnival is a place where thousands of Trinidad and Tobago women can express their desire for equality and freedom. You’ll find these feminist ideals hidden beneath the glittery and colorful stock photos.