Op-Ed

Violence and tourist zone masculinities

Tourist zone behavior

First snapshot: An older gentleman gingerly drives his SD car along East Bay Street in front of Harbour Bay shopping center.

A helmet-less youth in a vest, speeding on a scooter, skirts around and dodges through traffic, and pulls aggressively in front of the man in the SD car, almost hitting him.

Scooter boy sticks his arm and finger into the man’s line of sight and cusses at him. His behavior is not “violence”.

Second snapshot: The man who idles his car and blows his horn at the person stopped under the red light is not “violent” or threatening.

When he pulls out from behind the line of traffic and draws up parallel to the person at the light, and threatens that person, this is not violence.

Violence for many Bahamians is limited to a physical attack. The behavior of scooter boy has become normalized in the Bahamian ecology.

Similarly, the smiling, local example of masculinity meeting tourists at the gate to Cabbage Beach has also been normalized.

His harsh, tough and caustic demeanor for his boys, and anyone who looks at him sideways, is “hidden” from tourist view for two minutes of the initial encounter and then he is cussing the “mf” standing next to him and threatening to beat the lights out of him or her.

The language and behavior are a study in culture. Their bodies and their performance are studies in theater. However, all of these are violence and produce undesired responses.

Violence is not always criminal, though it can reproduce itself as such.

However, the violence of the above encounters, as real as it is, and usually as unperceived as it remains, is dangerously pervasive and usually has criminal results.

Scooter boy could have easily caused an accident, had SD car driver not been sufficiently calm to avoid what was almost intended, though not perhaps consciously planned, by the boy’s actions.

At local beaches, many actions of shoreline executives often morph into violent criminal outbursts in tourist zones; it may simply not be captured or policed.

But the encouraged national performance of woman-berating and belittling masculinity is encouraged, and when a tourist is assaulted by a beach body, the police descend speedily.

To explain further, sex between shoreline executives and tourists is not uncommon, yet often causes international consternation.

A recent event at a local resort is one example of this. Society encourages particular kinds of male performance, then, when those behaviors are suddenly deemed wrong, the men are shocked.

In The Bahamas, social structures and norms encourage interpersonal violence. Violent masculinity is normalized.

Violence against women and children, sexual and otherwise, has become a cultural norm.

Somehow, society allows older men to have sex with underage girls and does not expect them to do this in “tourist zones”.

If society expects toxic masculinity in the local zone, it shall produce the same in the tourist zone.

Why does the law create artificial limits around social spaces? Are the people who work as shoreline executives not the same people who live in the local zone?

Does society teach people to behave differently in different contexts? How can it only be Bahamian girls who are fast and at fault when they are molested and assaulted, but not tourists?

Do cultural norms understand spatial borders? The same behavior accepted and condoned in the “Bahamian zone” is performed in tourist zones. These are the same men performing the same culturally accepted, destructive masculinity.


Applying research to local structural and cultural violence

In research on tourism’s impact on local cultures and violence, we see that violence is increasing in tourist zones.

Meanwhile, tourist zones are “protected” safe spaces where local masculinity must know how to behave.

Men shall not fight and carry on badly. Men are expected to leave their bad behavior at home. Yet, we see violence and crime growing everywhere.

How men are encouraged to perform their masculinity within Bahamian cultural norms promotes violence and condones violence, even when it becomes criminal and transitions into the tourist zone.

Johan Galtung, who started the discussion around structural violence in 1969, notes that structural violence, or indirect violence, is enacted over subject peoples, it produces direct violence, (inter)personal violence, and it becomes normalized as people continue to respond to those violent structures through cultural violence.

Violence becomes normalized.

This seems to have occurred in many Bahamian contexts. It is especially true of sexual violence and sexual exploitation; these have become pervasive forms of deep violence though often not seen as violence. Society blames the victim and claims that the victim was fast.

Ultimately, the threat of violence is as damaging as a violent act.

Notwithstanding research findings, Bahamians argue that threats of violence and the performance of violent masculinity condoned in the local zone is not violence.

Meanwhile, this structural and cultural violence of rape and toxic masculinity threatens to destroy national economic health and social structures.

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