Don’t Tell Me How to Deal with My Harassment, Especially If You’re Only Here to Judge

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Photo by Olesya Grichina on Unsplash

Yesterday I was reprimanded for confronting a man who sexually harassed me.

You read that right. During the reprimand I was thoughtful, and listened. I knew that the person – my friend’s husband – was speaking from a sincere place. Furthermore, I was too shocked to firmly agree or disagree with what he was saying. When I got home and thought more about it though, I felt like he was completely wrong.

Here’s a summary of what happened: My friend, her husband and I were volunteering at a children’s Christmas party. Before the organisers decided what they needed us to do, we were standing outside, waiting. A man was sitting on a bench underneath a tree next to where we were standing, staring at me. His gaze was relentless.

I turned my body away. I walked a few steps closer to my friend’s husband, so he could partially shield me. I sat on the opposite side of the tree, behind the man’s back. Always, his eyes followed me. He shifted his whole body to turn and look at me. It was disgusting. Even in this short retelling I feel disgusted.

Finally, I walked over to him. I asked him why he was looking at me and told him he was making me uncomfortable. He mumbled some nonsense about me looking nice and him wanting to tell me – telepathically?? – and I asked him to stop. Then I moved away and again tried to stand in a place where he couldn’t see me.

A few seconds later my friend and I had to cross the lawn in front of the man to get to the room where we would be working. I didn’t want to move. Though it had only been a few minutes, I was psychologically affected by his gaze. I felt exposed, and violated.

Later, inside the room while we were working, my friend’s husband told me that I shouldn’t have confronted the man. He said I didn’t know how the man might have reacted, that things could have gone poorly. I was surprised, since although he was standing near me I didn’t know he saw what had happened. In any event, I told him that he was right, but since we were in a public space I didn’t think the risk was that high. Then he went on to tell me that I could have used that moment for evangelism. I could have chosen different words in order to ask the man if he knew about Jesus, or invite him to church with me.

Are you kidding me?

I was floored. This man saw me literally hiding from the harasser, and said I should be asking the harasser to spend more time with me? Our conversation continued with some back and forth. My friend’s husband compared my situation to a time when he was catcalled by a woman, and he did what he suggested to me – invited her to church. He also compared my response to a time about an hour earlier, when we were driving to the party site. He was aggravated with the slow driver in front of him, but in our conversation acknowledged that he didn’t need to respond as aggressively as he did.

These examples only showed me that he had no real understanding for what I felt under the tree. I tried to explain the powerlessness, the fact that I was on the defensive, that I felt alone, but the disconnect remained. He acknowledged that I was in a difficult position, but said although it wouldn’t be easy, evangelising in these moments was still something I should be aiming for.

I don’t remember how the conversation ended, but it did, and only left me feeling more upset. In fact, I probably would have forgotten about the creep under the tree if I hadn’t had this discussion afterward. Unfortunately, it would just be added to the pile of similar incidents.

I believe my friend’s husband said what he did out of concern for me and zeal for our faith, but all it did was rub salt in my wound. It was not his place to criticise my actions; all that did was make me wonder why he didn’t come to my defence on his own, or say something to the creep after I did. Moreover, I didn’t do anything wrong in choosing to stand up for myself. In a situation where no one else was going to do it for me, I took control of things in a way that made me feel less helpless. The contradictory statements – not to confront a harasser, to evangelise in confrontation – both encourage harmful behaviour that minimize the action of the harasser.

We are in a time now when many women are stepping forward and speaking about their experiences of abuse, assault and harassment at the hands of powerful male public figures. We are applauding their bravery and doing our best to honour their courage; we want to bring their perpetrators to justice. In telling me to be quiet, my friend’s husband only contributes to the culture that allows sexual misconduct to continue. Telling me to evangelise – to stay in harms way – contributes to people thinking of Christianity, and Christian men, as backward and oppressive.

I share this story to reject both those things. I share this story so that you, especially if you’re a man, will reconsider any situation where you think you ought to correct a woman for choosing to speak up. I share this story to call for more empathy from men, for the awful experience of any kind of sexual harassment or assault. We have a long way to go before we have totally shifted our attitudes and strategies dealing with sexual misconduct, and the vulnerable populations cannot be fighting on our own.

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The King is Coming

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Photo by Artem Pochepetsky on Unsplash

Jamaica is a beautiful country. I’m in love with its hills and gullies, its lush landscape and jawdropping mountain views. As much as I rep The Bahamas, I’m proud of the Jamaican in me as well, and I’m always excited to come and visit.

I’m here now for a few weeks and it’s been great so far; the right mix of low key and stimulating. I’ve driven around Kingston, gone out to dinner and to church, and stayed home catching up on reading. My conversations have been about their national ID card controversy, the instability of the Jamaican dollar, the popularity of Juici versus Tastee patties and Jamaican versus Bahamian ways of speaking. Already I’ve eaten saltfish, curry and Devon House rum raisin ice cream. If you ever come to visit, go to Devon House. Or somewhere that serves their ice cream. It’s uhmazing, and they give you plenty plenty so depending on how you’re feeling you might want to share a single scoop.

While I’m here I plan to do this-year-assessing, next-year-planning work, to cook and write down family recipes, and to read read read. Also, um, it’s December! Which means Christmas is coming and I’m super excited. I’m following this advent devotional from Desiring God, and bustin’ out all the music. Last year I listened to Christy Nockel’s Thrill of Hope album on repeat, and the prelude has been playing more frequently in my head recently:

The whole album is lovely and heart-swelling, on the mellow side of Christmas tunes.

In addition to the devotional from Desiring God, I found a scripture writing plan for the names of God that I’m using in my quiet times. I’ve never done a writing plan like this before, but I’m so thankful that I’ve found it because it couldn’t be more appropriate for advent.

What do you have planned to finish out the year? I’d love to hear about your favourite Christmas  music!

 

UB Lessons: Taking Hard Things a Day at a Time

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Happy Sunday! And to all my American readers, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As close as we are to the US, Bahamians are well acquainted with your grateful feast. Many restaurants and families organise Thanksgiving meals, but it’s by no means the big deal that it is for you, and definitely not a holiday. For plenty of people the day passes like any other, as it did for me this year. The date barely registered for me, and if it weren’t for instagram I probably would’ve had no idea. I’ve eaten no turkey or mashed potatoes, no pie or green beans – it was just a Thursday in my world.

Well, not any Thursday – the last one of my semester! I have final papers to mark now, but the teaching part of this term is o.v.e.r. I am so happy, as well as proud and thankful. I won’t say that the time flew by, because I felt every day of the last 14 weeks, but I do look back in satisfaction at how far I’ve come.

In the beginning, the close of the semester seemed like a horizon stretched out in front of me – far away at the end of my vision, out of reach. Learning how to manage each classroom, brainstorming activities to keep my students engaged and interacting with one another, planning how to actually deliver the material, and marking, I was swamped. On top of figuring out how to teach, there were many admin and/or tech related issues to resolve; as soon as I settled one another took its place. Focusing on the end of the semester didn’t give me any relief, it just made me feel tired. I wondered how I was going to make it to the finish line, and what state I’d be in when I got there.

Instead, it was more productive for me to consider my work in small chunks, taking the semester one class at a time. I celebrated at the end of every week and as time went on I became more comfortable at the front of the classroom. Many of the side issues went away, and for the ones that didn’t I found workarounds. Now here I am, having taught a semester of college! I handed out surveys in my final classes and the students all reported greater confidence since they’ve learned things, so that’s marvelous haha.

I’m sharing my accomplishment to encourage you in whatever hard season you might find yourself: this too shall pass! Maybe thinking about the end isn’t helpful because there’s so much to do between now and then; taking things a day at a time might be a better strategy. Then one day you’ll look up and realise – hey! I’m doin this thing! – and a few days after that you’ll look up and say – hey! I’ve done this thing!

I’d feel silly sometimes about being frustrated and upset, knowing that 14 weeks isn’t long, and there were surely people with much bigger problems in much longer seasons of difficulty. But it was still my season, new and hard to me, and I still had to work my way through it. It’s important to keep our problems in perspective, to recognise our privileges and luxuries, but not as a way to dismiss how we’re doing. And in whatever difficulty we’re having, breaking things down into smaller pieces, moving through with a view to steady improvement and skill development, our mountains can become molehills. Or maybe not, but we’ll certainly climb them. 😉

Forgive me for that corny analogy. I’ve gotta go mark now.

Freestylin On My Birthday!

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Photo by Lucy Heath on Unsplash

It was my birthday last week! I had an amazingly joyful day, spending time with friends and family, baking and keeping myself amped up with cheers and freestyle raps. Yes, you read right! Driving to my dad’s house for dinner after work, and then at my dad’s house getting ready for dinner, I was coming up with rhymes about it being my birthday. That was pretty much as deep as they got haha. Here’s one that stuck with me:

Bakin’ chocolate cookies
Eatin’ chocolate cake
And she celebratin’
Because she’s 28!!
28 yup! 28 yup!!

Now imagine appropriate arm movements and head gestures, plus some jumping around, and you’ve got a better idea of how said rap was performed. I had so much fun. I was loud. I felt free. I just let everything else go and focused on the fact that I was alive and had a whole day to celebrate.

The day started off just fine, more on the low-key side. Then somewhere around mid-afternoon it was like a switch went off in my head. I don’t remember there being much of a coherent thought process, but I felt an urgency to be enthusiastic, and grateful, and to create more excitement for myself. It was my birthday! Who better to feel it than me?? So I started, and once I got going there was no dampening the turn up.

It’s been a few years since I was that amped about my birthday, but I plan to continue this trend in the future. Aside from making my day even more enjoyable, it was a chance to just be and tap into the spontaneous, exuberant side of myself. Days like my birthday remind me that even being fluid and carefree can involve conscious decisions.

Anyway, I know you can’t hear my actual birthday rap performance, but I can leave you with one of my favourite songs of late. I love to dance to this one, and often dream of learning the choreography. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and have a great week!

Blessed Assurance, Because He Ascended

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I’m at the end of my day and am just setting aside a moment to blog. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to write about so I thought I’d take a look at the daily prompt and respond quickly to whatever it is. The word for today is ascend.

The first thing – or person – that comes to mind after reading that word is Jesus, who ascended into heaven (and is seated at the right hand of the Father… the rest of the Nicene creed has now jumped into my mind too). I am so thankful for my Saviour and king, who is the reason I live and move and have my being. Without him I would have nothing, and because I have him I lack nothing; in fact, I have every good thing.

I memorised Psalm 16 earlier this year because it’s become one of my favourites. The second verse says: ‘I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”‘ I am so often tempted to think that once better things come to me in the future my life will also become better; I am tempted to feel that I am waiting and working for those good things. Verse two reminds me that I have all the good I could ever need or want because I call Jesus Lord. No earthly wealth or relationships can compare to knowing God and finding my joy in him. As much as I might find happiness with my family and friends, and from the comfort that money can buy, as much as they might make me feel secure, they really just point to the ultimate satisfaction and security I have in God.

That is really an incredible concept, and one – as I said – I am still learning. But I do have so much joy and peace because of God. I see his creativity and brilliance in nature; his love in the countless ways he is gracious to me; his generosity in the humbling, inspiring things about humanity, like art and music; and I am thrilled whenever I learn something new about him and his attributes. He is awesome! A good, good father, and so much more. At the end of the day, I can rest knowing that my value comes from being loved by God. I have no reason to worry, or to fear, or to feel inadequate. I should think less about myself and more about others because my future is secure, and God’s goodness is overflowing in me. I am eternally, immeasurably loved.

A Little Dance Music Before Bed

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Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

The best kind of bedtime is the one I’m able to ease into. I’m not a fan of those frantic days when I work right up until the nth hour, then force myself to stop and get to sleep as quickly as possible. Neither do I like those nights when I get home late and only have time to brush my teeth, wash my feet, face and hands, and schlafen – the way my dad used to instruct me and my siblings when we’d get into similar situations as children. I don’t even really like watching a tv show or movie as the last thing before bed. No, the best bedtimes are the ones where I get an early start: shower, listen to my ‘sleep’ playlist as I put on pj’s, read, and maybe listen to one more song before I really close down.

I developed my sleep playlist in college, when I started having trouble falling asleep and someone suggested to my mum that I create a wind-down routine. The top two songs on there are ‘Solitude’ by Billie Holiday, and Chopin’s Mazurka Op. 17 no. 4. I love them both, but I’d like to wax a little poetic about the perfection that is Chopin’s mazurka.

Mazurkas are Polish dances, though this piece doesn’t exactly conjure visions of people partying in my mind. In fact, I don’t really think of anything while it’s playing; it’s the kind of music that clears my head. I am captivated by its lilting melody, its almost saccharine sweetness. Arthur Rubinstein’s interpretation is perfection: most of the time gentle and light, but with enough vigour and passion to keep the experience interesting. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, and still marvel at the way he makes the piano sing. I grew up playing the instrument, and even at my most coaxing, delicate moments I felt like the sounds I produced were plonking and clumsy.

As Rubinstein performs it, the mazurka is 4.5 minutes long. It starts with a basic, four bar, four note melody, a little melancholy. There’s a brief pause and then we get into the body of the piece, which takes that same melody and uses it as the basis for a number of rhythmic and melodic variations. It lifts and twirls, with trills, grace notes and little runs, always with steady chords underneath the movements, grounding them. There’s a portion kind of like a bridge in the middle that introduces new material, and then we return to the familiar melody and some more variations. The music ends at the beginning, tidily, with the same first four bars, but with so much more emotion; it’s like we’ve become intimate partners because of the way we’ve seen the melody move.

When the mazurka comes to rest, I feel completely at peace. Rarely am I able to play it just once – maybe I never have? And I am always overcome with gratitude for such incredible gifts in this world – composing and performing – and with amazement at the skill of Chopin and  Rubinstein. The mazurka makes bedtime magical, and reminds me too of the awesome God who made it, and all music, possible.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

 

 

 

 

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The Name My Mama Gave Me

linh-pham-221033Photo by Linh Pham on Unsplash

I was getting ready to write about how people love to shorten my name, and how I actually prefer my whole name and don’t like when they do that…. when I realised that I’ve never introduced myself here. So hi! I’m Gabrielle. 🙂

I didn’t like my name when I was a girl, and used to pester my mum about the other names she planned to give me – Stephanie or Joy (Matthew for a boy) – and why she hadn’t used one of those. Apparently when I was born she was supernaturally inspired to name me Gabrielle instead. I thought it would have been great to be a Joy. I still really like that name.

My family and people who have known me longest call me Gabrielle or Gigi (which I love). In kindergarten and primary school everyone called me Gabrielle. For whatever reason that shifted when I got to high school, and people started calling me Gabby. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this timeline – some of my oldest, dearest friends call me Gabby – but for the most part that was a name that became more common in high school.

Even then, most of my primary school classmates – my school was k-12 – moved on with me, influencing new students to call me by my full name as they did. ‘Gabrielle’ was still in the majority. That changed when I went to college.

Though I always introduced myself using my full name, everyone called me Gabby. I didn’t mind, until my senior year, when I realised that most of the people I interacted with called me Gabby, and now Gabrielle was in the minority. What if for the rest of my life most people called me Gabby? And I died and that’s what everyone but family and old friends knew me as? By then I loved my name and wanted everyone to use it, but people were calling me Gabby left right and centre! I remember one moment in particular when someone told me they didn’t realise my full name wasn’t Gabby, which no doubt affected my name-for-life crisis.

Now I’m asserting myself as Gabrielle. Gone are the days when I didn’t have a name preference. When I meet new people, if they try and call me ‘Gabby’, I correct them. So many automatically shorten my name without my permission, which is especially irritating when I hardly know them. If we’ve just met, or have a more professional relationship, how are you already comfortable enough to use a nickname?

So yes, I’m Gabrielle, not Gabby.

Can you relate? Do you find people often shorten your name?