OF "CHI-CHI" MEN THE THREAT OF MALE HOMOSEXUALITY TO AFRO-JAMAICAN MASCULINE IDENTITY
PAPER PRESENTED AT THE 26th ANNUAL CARIBBEAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
MAHO BAY, ST. MAARTEN
MAY 27 TO JUNE 2,2001
DONNA P. HOPE
Department of Government
Donna P. Hope
OF "CHI-CHI" MEN THE THREAT OF MALE HOMOSEXUALITY TO AFRO-JAMAICAN
I. From dem a 'par inna Chi-chi man cyar
Wave di fiya mek wi bun dem
From dem ah drink inna Chi-chi man bar
Wave difiya mek wi bun dem
2. Chi-chi manfi get sladi
Di whole a dem afi go tell di whole world ha-bye
Mi nuh wann nih chi-chi frien man so nuhfrien I
Run pass Olive an gawn wine pon Popeye
Elephant Man & Ward 21, (2000)
3. From dem a par inna chi-man crew
Dem a Chi-chi man too (hi-chi man too
From a gyal a par inna (hi-chi gyal crew
Dem a Chi-chi gyal too Chi-chi gyal too
In the Jamaican socio-political framework, gendered notions of sexuality, in a neo-liberal
environment, affect the masculine identities of men. A real man is one who can act as traditional
hunter and provider and is able to access the symbols of masculinity i e wealth and power (for
e.g. money, brand-name clothing, flashy cars, beautiful women). For the man who cannot access
these symbols, issues of sex and sexuality attain primacy in laying the foundation for definitions of
his identity. It may be argued that this phenomenon is a throwback from the freelance stud of the
colonial era. My research in the dancehall shows that the concept of a "wukka man" [worker
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man]' with "nuffgyal inna bungle" [many girls in a bundle]2 is one that is actively subscribed to
by men and women who find themselves precariously placed on the edge of the race/class/gender
nexus. As the socio-economic tensions deepen, these groupings find themselves with increasingly
diminished access to the traditional and emerging symbols of social mobility and power in
Jamaica, including socio-economic background, education, white-collar career among others. For
the women, meaningful monogamous relationships are traded for polygamous liaisons with
"powerful" men. Power here is sited, for example, in the man's perceived social status in his
community. The resident "Don" or "Area Leader" or "druggist"' or "deejay", are examples of
such men. This power is not always only economic but may also extend to the legitimacy,
respect, authority and/or fear which this man generates, enjoys or invokes in his community or the
wider Jamaican society.
COURTING/CONQUERING THE PUNAANY
For many grassroots, black men positioned in the most constrained socio-economic space,
more and more emphasis is placed on rooting their masculine identities through the conquering
and dominance of the female. In the male-dominated dancehall dis/place, this is translated into the
courting, conquering and/or dominance of female sexuality, femininity and/or women. Arguably,
A "wukka mar" or worker man refers to a man who displays skill and prowess in his sexual dealings with his
women. These men are perceived as ideal sexual partners and many openly flaunt several romantic/sexual
"Nuff gal inna bungle" [many girls/women in a bundle] describes the multiple sexual/romantic relationships or
liaisons of a traditional "wukka man". "Don" or other male who is perceived as attractive by women based on his
sexual prowess or access to resources.
3 A "druggist" engages in the importation/exportation and/or dissemination of illegal drugs such as marijuana and
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this discourse is an instance of patriarchy's operation at its elemental, basest and most sexual level,
oftentimes labeled misogyny, which seeks to uplift man at the expense of woman.
"BOOM BYE BYE" NEGATING THE MALE HOMOSEXUAL IDENTITY
"Boom Bye Bye inna Batty Bwoy Head"
[Boom, Bye Bye (gunshots) in a battyman's4
(male homosexual's) head]
"Rude Bwoy nah promote noh naasi man dem haffi dead"
[Rude boys will not promote (condone) any nasty men, they
have to die]
"Two man a hug up an a kiss up an a lay dung ina bed"
[Two men are hugging (up) and kissing (up) and lying
down in bed]
"Hug up an a kiss up an a feel up leg"
[Hugging (up) and kissing (up) and stroking feelingg up)
4 Batty man is the Jamaican creole for homosexual. The word "batty" being used to refer to one's "bottom" or
posterior is then compounded with "man" to create "battvman".
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"Senfi di matic an di Uzi instead"
[Send for the automatic (gun) and the Uzi (gun) instead]
"Shoot dem dung wi a go shat dem pow "
/Shoot them down, we are going to shoot them pow /........
(Buju Banton 1992)
A large percentage of black men at the lower and working class levels of Jamaican society
are denied any real access to resources as they struggle to operate in a tense socio-economic and
political framework. This lack of access to resources around which they can legitimately site their
masculine identities has forced these men to use their sexuality and ability to sexually conquer and
dominate women to symbolize and access their entire cache of masculinity and manhood. It is
arguable that this sexual identification of masculinity is also reflected in an overt paranoia of male
homosexuality and all it symbolizes in Jamaica. This is essentially a male-male discourse as
female-female homosexuality is viewed as non-threatening. A controversial dancehall song like
Buju Banton's "Boom Bye Bye which emanated from the dancehall displace in the early 1990s
reaffirmed this notion that many Jamaican men qualify their manhood through their sexuality, and
their seeming dominance of and power over that "other", the woman. However, this song's point
of departure is an ideological underpinning that moves away from legitimizing male-female
discourses to negating male-male ones. In this discourse, to be female or feminine is to be
dominated and powerless, therefore, for a man to be with a man is to be penetrated and become
feminized, thereby losing dominance and power. By extension, to condone male homosexuality is
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to reveal an ideological overview that legitimizes and supports the feminizing and subsequent loss
of power of men.
On the other hand, to publicly take a violent, anti-homosexual stance is to stand up for
masculinity, male sexuality and male dominance. One could ask, "How many dancehall songs do
you hear in violent denunciation of lesbianism? The argument here is that female homosexuality
cannot undermine the traditional tenets of Jamaican patriarchy because, based on their lack of a
real penis a significant biological definer of masculinity, none of these actors can be socially
elevated to true masculine status by the wider society. Therefore, notions of masculinity are
neither tampered with nor redefined in female homosexuality. Lesbianism is a female-female
discourse that cannot affect the male-female discourse that bestows masculine identity on the
man. Therefore, the perception is that lesbianism remains a corruption of femininity
between/among females in a very feminine context and female homosexuality is, therefore,
perceived as essentially powerless and, therefore, non-threatening to masculine identity.
In its patriarchal context, the dancehall male views lesbianism in a rather paternalistic and
manner as noted by one male interviewee:-
"Lesbian? Demus a play round p rou pl oun'. Is just because dem neva get a
real man yet. A/l dem want is a good fuck. "
[Lesbians? They are just playing around. It's only because they
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have never had (sex with) a real man. All they need is a good
On the other hand the statement -
"All battymanfi dead! [All male homosexuals must die!]
signifies a violent renunciation of male homosexuality and any attempt at feminizing men. Most
male interviewees viewed the suggestion of male homosexuality with extreme repulsion and
"We nuh like gay, we nuh like gay
[We do not like gays (male homosexuals), we do not like gays
Well ahjust soh Jamaican stay
[Well, that is just how Jamaicans are]
From yuh nuh like battyman well mi waan fi see yuh gun right naay
[Once you do not like male homosexuals, well I want to see your gun right away
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(aw wi bun dem and wi run dem badman an battyman cyaan befriend
[Because we burn them and we chas e them away; Badmen and male
homosexuals cannot be friends]
From yuh nuh like bartyman well mi waan fi see yuh wave yuh Mach Ten,
[Once you do not like male homosexuals, well I want to see you wave your Mach
Wave yuh guuuun, wave yuh guuuun...
[Wave your gun, wave your gun...]"
(Scare Dem Crew, 1999)
It was noteworthy that all the dancehall consumers and creators interviewed during my
research expressed an anti-homosexual stance. Those with a stated or perceived background or
current socio-economic status that was lower-class or working-class, expressed this stance in an
aggressive, oftentimes violent outburst but were unable to clearly articulate why they took this
defensive and aggressive stance.
OF "CHI CHI" MEN
The contemporary debate around the chi-chi man phenomenon in the dancehall is analysed
in thiF framework.
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Chi-chi is a colloquial Jamaican term for termites, i.e. animals who eat wood; wood-borers that
create a corruption. A Chi-chi man (as separate from a Chi-chi woman) is a male homosexual, a
man who is sexually involved with other men, in same sex relationships. The Chi-chi man,
therefore, represents a corrupted form of masculinity. The flexibility of the dancehall slang
throws up further derivatives of this Chi-chi man, so we have 'di Chi-chi ooman' or 'Chi-chi gyal
dem', i.e. the lesbians. With the highly sexualized and patriarchal discourse that comes out of the
dancehall, the original term, Chi-chi that is focused around masculine icons, can be feminized if
necessary by adding the requisite defining nouns. This is similar to the term batty-gyal or batty-
ooman (lesbian), which is the feminine of the deviant battyman.
While other artistes in the Jamaican dancehall had been disseminating Chi-chi man lyrics
for several months as a part of the ongoing dancehall discussion, the popular dancehall group
T.O.K. received immense and controversial publicity for their Chi-chi man song for two main
reasons. Firstly, the group's production and dissemination of a music video containing images
that were construed as violent and evil. For many Jamaican social and political commentators, the
sight of zombie-like figures clad in long, black robes with horror-mask faces, pursing the evil Chi-
chi man with one intent, final elimination and coupled with fiery exhortations against 'di Chi-chi
man dem', resulted in an overtly threatening work.
Secondly, this song's linkage with the formal political arena, when the opposition Jamaica
Labour Party used it in its successful campaign in the North East St. Ann by-elections held March
8, 2001. The implied labeling of members of the ruling People's National Party as corrupt
politicians and homosexuals, and the pointed homosexual discourse imputed against the
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unmarried Prime Minister Patterson resulted in heightened controversy at all levels of the state.
The response of individuals on different sides of the political fence to this song raised the public's
I argue that the stridency of the Chi-chi man discussion in the dancehall culture speaks not
only to political corruption or the promotion of violence against homosexual men but to a more
complex process of identity negotiation and maintenance for one group of Afro-Jamaican men.
My analysis of the Chi-Chi man discourse reveals its direct linkages on a continuum of
masculinity beginning with a corrupted, extreme, He-Man form of masculine identity at one end to
headlines like "Braeton Bloodbath" (Jamaica Observer, March 15, 2001) and "Police Kill Seven"
(The Daily Gleaner, March 15, 2001) at a mid-point. At the most obvious and publicized end is
the Chi-Chi man discourse, an effluent from the realms of popular culture. Dancehall discourses
about the Chi-chi man speak to deep sociological and political negotiations and norms of
masculine identities that corrupt the process of identity negotiation and formation of young men
and inevitably impact negatively on the maintenance of a fair, just and democratic society.
In a society riddled by rampant indiscipline at all levels and in all sectors, young men are
bombarded by multiple images of masculinity and are left to choose their own role models. The
more positive images are on the one hand, either unattainable or extremely difficult to achieve for
poor black men with limited access to real resources. On the other hand, the more attainable and
easily achievable images of masculinity are those that uplift negative images. In a system where
the dollar is king, the successful criminal, white-collar, blue-collar or black-collar is uplifted and
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revered by a society that still panders to Anancyism. Further, the symbols that speak to full
masculinity have become so corrupted, that a growing cadre of young Jamaican men now equate
manliness with the dollar value of their clothes, shoes and jewellery. When these are coupled with
a growing harem of babymothers, girlfriends, "ooman pon di side", 'matey' and so on, then one
becomes a MAN. The handling or usage of a gun simply adds more respect and/or reverence to
this fully masculine identity and status.
Enter the Chi-chi man whose role is this mire is simply to act as one signifier, real or
symbolic, against which men can mirror their masculinity in a very real way. A real man has
power over women. With limited access to money and increasing independence of women, this
sex in this power relationship becomes more important. Therefore, the Chi-chi man upsets this
dolly house or apple cart. If men become Chi-chi men how do other men remain powerful,
REAL MEN? One male interviewee from the urban inner city explained that right now the Chi-
chi man "dem getting very prevalent, everywhere you find dem, even in the ghetto. Dat cyan
work so we haffi get rid ah dem".
Arguably, the dancehall group, TOK's dismissive explanation that their song developed
out of certain 'vibes', no harm intended to specific individuals, holds very little water. They
know, that in the rigidly gendered and socially tense Jamaican framework, the 'Chi-chi man dem'
are oftentimes identifiable, and identified, at risk of real personal harm.
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In concluding, I argue that sexual potency/power of Jamaican men, becomes more
important and valuable as a source of personal power and self-definition when they are
denied/unable to access real symbols of power. For many black, grassroots Jamaican male at the
lower levels of the social strata, his role as the sexual "Don" assumes primacy and signifies
empowerment since he has very little real, personal or material power at his disposal. It is his last
bastion of legitimate masculine identity in his space of powerlessness. To have this masculine
identity threatened by attempts at his feminization, real or perceived, is to threaten one key source
of attainable power and to push him into an even more constrained social space. Buju Banton 's
1992 release of "Boom Bye Bye" could be used as one example of the lyrical epiphenomena of
this fear of feminization, emanating from the dancehall dis/place Male homosexuality in this
context is viewed as threatening as it tampers with the definitions of masculine identity through
sex, i.e. conquering of the female other the vagina.
As opportunities increase for educational advancement, more women are availing
themselves of post-secondary, professional and tertiary education. The resultant over-supply of
highly educated women in Jamaica has become a cause for concern as to the future effects on the
status and identity of men. For example, statistics from the University of the West Indies over the
last few years, consistently reveal over 70% of women graduates as against a declining percentage
for men. As the fall-out in the Jamaican society increases, the groupings of beggars and hustlers
at stop-lights, parking lots, shopping malls and street corners in Kingston and St. Andrew are
increasingly male. Clashes with the police inevitably have male fatalities and the prisons are full of
men. It is arguable that Jamaican men have been socialized into a patently patriarchal framework
that claims homogenous treatment of what is a heterogenous group of competing masculinities.
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This patriarchal framework does not reward all masculinities equally simply because they are men
but rather, resources are allocated to competing heterogenous masculinities based on one's
identity that is negotiated around the rigid race/class/colour social hierarchy. Further, this
negotiation also has to contend with global factors and the impact of free-market capitalism. In
this free-market capitalist framework, the eternal dollar is king and the labour force is asexual.
With the ideological vagaries of race/class/gender operating in a context of free-market
capitalism, it is arguable that the perceived "marginalization" of one group of Afro-Jamaican men,
has resulted in and will continue to display increases in domestic violence against women. The
real and perceived psychological barriers which exist for many men based on the economic
constraints and the corruption of historically dated gender identities, results in more women
succeeding in improving their lives by utilizing their increased access to resources at all levels. On
the other hand, these constrained definitions of masculinity result in the perception that the black,
working class man has less choices because many escape routes are invalidated or de-legitimized
by his definitions of masculinity. Dancehall culture, as a site for the creation, promotion and
dissemination of symbols that represent key underpinnings of the lives of its prominent actors and
consumers provides manifestations of and sites of contestation around these tensions.
Within the dancehall dis/place, these manifestations and sites of contestation are invariably
focused around the feminine. For example, these tensions are encoded in the
conquering/courtship of the feared "punaany" and the pitting of Wife against Matie to the
elevating of Woman/Wife over Skettel. They are also manifested and contested in the consistent
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battle against male homosexuality the violent denunciation of the male homosexual labeled
"battvman" and the contemporary "Chi-Chi man"
The key role of sex and sexuality in underpinning masculine identities at different levels in
Jamaican society is still primary and becomes more so in a context where material resources are
increasingly denied or inaccessible to particular groups of men. In this framework, the operation
of traditional hierarchies of race/class/colour further impacts on the creation and re-presentation
of masculinities and the extremes of anti-male homosexual discourses that emanate from the
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