You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘speaking up’ tag.

I’ve been taking Miss Ruth’s lessons to heart so when I saw one of the young staffers at the city gym, I thanked him for doing such a good job.  This will make his day.

Sure enough. He smiled broadly.  But did he thank me for noticing?  No!   Did he say, “You’re welcome!”  He did not.

“It’s my job. I’m good at it.”

I laughed as my girl friend and I walked to our cars.  So much for my assumption that he needed my kind words to make his day.   Thanks but no, he’s got it under control.

Not that I’m going to let that stop me from thanking someone for a good job the next time I feel so moved.  After all, that person may need the kind word and may need to be seen at that point and time.

And isn’t that why I try to spread a bit of God’s love and joy every day?

–SueBE

 

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The funny thing is that no one believes that, at one point in my life, I was painfully shy.  It isn’t that I wouldn’t speak because I would volunteer information at school.  But if someone challenged me or yelled at me?  I simply shrank.

Sometimes we don’t  immediately recognize the help God sends our way.  My help came in the form of a radical professor.  She was an outspoken black woman whom no one was going to silence.  She had grown up in the poorest neighborhoods in St. Louis but she had made it into a tenure track position at a midwestern university.  And every day in class she pushed me.  And I don’t mean the way a teacher pushes a student to try harder.  This was personal and always a little mean.

And every day I wondered why.  I worked harder but still she pushed.  I couldn’t figure out why.

One day we were discussing our projects and she referred to something I had done as stupid.  To put it politely, I lost it.  I explained to her, none too quietly, that I was not stupid and that although my interpretation wasn’t her interpretation it was valid because of XYZ.

And then it hit me.  I was practically yelling at a professor.  Oh . . . no.

By the time I made eye contact, I was about to get sick.  But she was laughing.  Seriously laughing.  She ran up to me and hugged me.  “I didn’t think I was every going to get you to stand up for yourself.  Do you know how worried I’ve been that the world was going to eat you up?”

At the time, I didn’t appreciate what she had done.  But now?  When I need to speak up, I may be afraid but I am able to be heard and I recognize what a gift God sent my way.

–SueBE

Wow.  That’s a little ironic.  This is the image that was next up in the rotation after Miss Ruth’s post yesterday on standing up against sexual harassment.

I know that in every situation, a person cannot stand up for herself.  She may be in a situation that is truly life threatening.  She may be so badly damaged that any threat at all wipes her out.

But that’s why we have each other.  We are here to witness for each other.  To say, “I don’t think so.  This needs to stop.  Now.  Here.  Immediately.”  When you speak for one woman or man, who is the subject of harassment, you speak for all of us.  Even yourself.

And each time you speak up, it becomes easier to do the next time.

Who knows, maybe one day it won’t be necessary. Until then, God has given us each other.  Together, we can stand up for ourselves and for each other.  Each in our own unique way.

–SueBE

 

Dear Scott Baio,

This is not the letter I thought I’d be writing you when I was 15 and my girlfriends were betting their first-born children over the color of the shirt you’d worn on the previous night’s “Happy Days” episode. Funny how things turn out, huh?

I saw you recently on television defending your friend’s observations about women. (Move over, Voldemort — there’s a new “He Who Must Not Be Named”!) What you said essentially (and verbatim) is that this is simply the way men talk, and that we women should “grow up” and get over it.

Hey! Isn’t this like the time Jesus told the grieving widow of Nain, “Your son’s dead. Grow up and deal with it”? Or the famous Sermon on the Mount, when he told the peacemakers, “You’re never going to achieve world peace. Grow up”? Wait a second. That never happened! That’s because Jesus couldn’t stay quiet in the face of injustice. He stands for the marginalized and abused. And that’s why I can’t take your advice either, I’m afraid.

My faith compels me to speak out — and act out — against injustice, just as Jesus did. When women are treated as things, as commodities for the use of men — that is unjust. You say that all men talk this way. You also believe that women talk about men this way, maybe over a glass of white wine. Maybe some do. I’ve just never met them. Oh sure, my friends and I kept a “Sexy Men” list in college. But with entries as varied as John Taylor from Duran Duran and Shaggy from Scooby Doo (my friend Kathy was so besotted, she claimed she’d never make him shave his peach fuzz or change his green T-shirt), it was largely played for laughs. And we never, ever spoke about violating anyone’s space, let alone assaulting them. Maybe I’ve always hung out with prudes. But I don’t think so.

Your buddy’s comments got women talking, though…mostly about their first sexual assaults. One of my friends was six years old the first time a man put his hands on her. Is that normal? I’m asking. Because I guess I don’t know what “normal” people do “all the time.”

I was tempted to talk about my own experiences here. But I saw the backlash in the Twitterverse toward women who came forward. Some people said they should just “grow up and get over it.” That talking about it doesn’t help. That it should be kept quiet. I’m pretty sure every woman has heard that before, from male police officers, deans of students, campus security guards, even family members. So I’ll keep my example “light.” Those lewd phone calls didn’t hurt me, after all. It’s just that…how did he know my name? And which dorm I lived in and on what floor? Didn’t he have to be someone I knew? Why did he make it a point to call every Valentine’s Day? Why did he stop when I told him I had a boyfriend who would find him? Again, I’m asking.

If “growing up” means accepting that it’s okay for one person to assault, intimidate, humiliate or hurt someone else, I guess I’ll never grow up. But you know, I think that’s okay. I can name a great number of people, saints and otherwise, who take after Peter Pan in this regard. They won’t grow up and accept racism, bigotry, poverty, unequal opportunity, war, violence…any number of things. I look up to them for this.

Because the other thing my faith gives me is hope. It’s a rare and beautiful thing, hope. It’s hope that keeps a person from “growing up” and growing accustomed to things that are not right. And it’s hope that makes me believe — wrongly or not — that the way your friend talks is not the way all men (or all women) talk. That the world is a better place than that.

I guess that makes me a wide-eyed kid, huh? Maybe I haven’t changed that much since I was 15.

I’m cool with that.

They rang the bell. Twice. Then they knocked. They weren’t going away, so I opened the door. I could see copies of “The Watchtower” in the hands of one of the men. Ugh, Jehovah’s Witnesses! Maybe I could quickly blurt out, “I’m Catholic!” and slam the door. But I didn’t.

Instead, I listened to their spiel. And you know what? It was sweet, all about bringing God’s will in heaven to our earthly plane. Of course, we are bound to have doctrinal differences, and my view of God’s will being done on earth almost certainly does not strictly adhere to their vision. But it was nice, being near people who cared enough about their spirituality to slog door to door, undoubtedly facing plenty of rejection.

I understand rejection — or at least apathy. It is difficult to be a spiritual person in a consumer-driven, “might equals right”, “he (and I do not choose this pronoun thoughtlessly) with the most money rules” society. And it’s terribly difficult to keep putting yourself out there, knowing most people won’t listen or care…that they may, in fact, think that you’re a fanatic, or worse, just loopy.

I asked the Witnesses how they deal with rejection. It did not seem to get them down. “Some people just don’t understand,” said the retired minister. “But remember, Jesus could not get everyone to understand, either. He was simply happy with those who did get the message.”

Eventually, they moved on. On to face slammed doors, a mass of “no thank you’s,” and similar reactions. Having a blog and a radio show, I don’t get to actually see the slammed doors or hear the polite excuses, but I know they’re out there. I sometimes hear the more virulent responses, the ones from those who not only think I’m loopy but actually dangerous. But even that is a rare thing. Mostly, I live in a void, not knowing if anyone hears me at all.

And you know what? I can live with that. But is sure helps to know that I’m not alone. You don’t have to proselytize to show your spirituality, but it sure doesn’t hurt to let the world know you exist, that you and your faith are not going away. Keep knocking, people. Keep knocking.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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