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‘Jump around if yuh man can wuk!’: Celebrating Sex, Female Power and Dancehall’s Re-imaginings of Grassroots, Jamaican Feminist Knowledge

Agostinho M. N. Pinnock


Attitudes to power and what it means to be a woman in contemporary Jamaica are often subtly encoded in the raunchy displays of female sexuality in dancehall culture. How women sing about themselves and each other, especially as it relates to sex, embodies a considered “folk†knowledge (Cooper, 1993), which, when deconstructed, disrupts conventional notions of “femaleness†(Cooper, 1993). They contest the ubiquitous ideologies of gender promoted as culture in “official†society. As such, the lines from iconic, male dancehall artiste Shabba Ranks’ Can Wuk, quoted below, offer unique perspectives into how male conceptions of women sometimes radically converge with a traditional grassroots, feminist agenda. These reflect “female politics†as it is articulated across various generations and which aim to overthrow oppressive regimes of gendered controls both within the dancehall as well as the wider society. Using a combination of song texts, primarily, those performed by female artistes like Tanya Stephens, Lady Saw and others, this article argues that dancehall culture is much more than just sex. On the contrary, it is a compendium of folk wisdom, transported across time and space and fetishized as sexual pleasure. These often belie much more important messages about female subversiveness in society.


sex; pleasure; femaleness; power; dancehall culture; folk knowledge; subversiveness; masculinity

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ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics and Consciousness. ISSN: 1543-0855 (online).
Editor: Dr. Darlene V. Russell.

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