How does Wuk fuh Wuk work? It is cunning but so obvious it is unexpected. It preys on young naivety and ambitiousness and promises great things while at the same time threatening to block all paths to progress for young women and their entire family.
Wuk fuh Wuk is pervasive and while it might be in theory condemned by a mass of the Caribbean people it is also seen as “just the way things is”. We are almost resigned to Wuk fuh Wuk and those not resigned to it find that they are stymied in their efforts to bring awareness and to speak out, labeled as trouble makers, and some frustrated just give up and other leave.
I am aware that I might in this introduction be guilty of generalizing but I can tell you many Wuk fuh Wuk stories, the stories of my friends, family, colleagues and strangers. I can tell you my own…
My first encounter with wuk fuh wuk I was 22 training to become a member of one of the oldest and most patriarchal professions. I had completed already four years of training and with the horizon looming larger I had only a few more months and requirements to complete.
From day one I was warned about the “professional climate” maybe looking back it was code for “this is a man’s domain”, but it was during my required internship that I really fully understood the extent of the climate. My first encounter with wuk fuh wuk happened that summer. It was generally in the form of “you put out for me and I will take care of you” but everything came to a head when my immediate supervisor, a prominent political figure, chief cook and bottle washer called me into his office one early afternoon.
As I walked in he gestured for me to sit across from his desk, picked up a book from a stack behind his desk and started to read some poetry. My naïve 22 year old self paid the most rapt attention to the recitation and even commented with what might have been (I cannot recall exactly, but I know I would have wanted to seem intelligent and to impress with my comments) a brief analysis of the poetry.
As I was commenting I remember this man walking around his desk and taking a seat in the chair next to me and from what I could observe listening intently to my words. Then suddenly pulled me in tight to his person and stuck his tongue in my mouth. I have played this moment over and over in my mind over the years since then to try to understand why I never saw it coming and each time I can still feel his tongue wriggling around in my mouth and the absolute shock and horror I felt back them comes over me like it was just yesterday.
I remember hurriedly jumping up and backing away to the door and of him coming after me and again drawing me toward him, pulling me so tight and asking whether I could feel his erection hard through his pants. I could and it was such a shock to me my body and my mind completely froze.
I cannot remember how I escaped his unwanted grip, or how I got out of his office, whether I ran or walked, I believed I must have ran but then I am not sure because I know there were staff members outside his door and I must not have wanted to raise alarm, but I cannot think if I had the presence of mind to have contemplated that. Was the expression on my face one of shock and horror or of complete steel, or was I tearing up? I cannot remember those few minutes as much as I try.
All I can recall is saying in my complete realization of what was happening but non-comprehension of why, is “but you are the (office the individual held)”. I look back at might 22 year old self thinking there was so much more profound things I could have said then but also knowing in reality that the pure innocence of that statement was an indication that I had as a young woman expected, wanted, believed, hoped, for better in our Caribbean leaders. “But you are the …” today I know meant “I expected better from someone like you.”