Let’s Talk About Sexism, Baby.

Let’s Talk About Sexism, Baby.

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Image from the Reclaim our Streets: Women’s Solidarity March, Barbados

Everyday instances of sexism and sexual harrasment are still common in Cayman. I’m used to the catcalls I hear when I’m out for a run; I try not to let it get to me (most days) because as irritating and degrading as it might be, I need to choose which battles I pick. And when I’m on the road alone, I don’t pick that battle. Instead, I turn my music up and run harder.

But today, I’m picking a battle. Because yesterday, when I was just out living my life, going around town running errands, I dealt with a lot of patriarchal bullshit… and it’s not okay.

First up, 8:45 AM: I meet with a driving instructor before I go take my road test (yep, finally). The first thing he (middle aged man) says to me is “well, you’re a beautiful girl, so you’ll be fine.” Is that supposed to ease my nerves? It has the opposite effect.

9:15 AM: Road test time. Driving examiner (different middle aged man) “jokingly” tells me he’s single. Then asks who my family is. Of course he knows my dad, and says “Well, I better not say anything else to you because your father would come looking for me.” Yeah, he would. And you shouldn’t be saying anything to me in the first place!!! (I still fail my road test)

12:30 PM: In a shop with dad. See someone he knows on our way out (of course). This guy (yet another middle aged man) says “Is she your daughter? She must have gotten her looks from her mom!” This happens each time I meet one of my dad’s acquaintances. It’s the same joke every time. Wasn’t funny the first time, even less so now. He then proceeds to ask my father questions about me, while I am standing right there. He doesn’t look at me, or ask me any questions directly. I am a trophy daughter. I am humiliated.

1:30 PM: Sitting in a waiting room. A man is next to me, reading the paper. The frontpage headline shows the new Miss Cayman who was crowned on Saturday night. He makes a comment about her weight. I scold him. He asks, “Well, what do you think about her?” to which I reply that I don’t know what I think about her because I haven’t been paying attention, since I don’t agree with the institution of beauty pageants and think they should do away with them altogether. He back-pedals and agrees with me.

So, this was just half a day dealing with demeaning, objectifying comments from numerous men, under the most mundane circumstances. Comments made in passing, as if they were nothing. Comments made as jokes, as if they were funny.

Examples like these don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the ongoing issues of gender discrimination and gender-based violence so prevalent throughout the Caribbean. It’s been normalised in our culture(s). But, the thing about culture is: it’s learned. It changes over time.

And it is beginning to change. The #LifeinLeggings movement is a brilliant example of this: what started as a hashtag for Caribbean women to share their experiences of sexual harassment on social media has blossomed into a full-on registered charity in Barbados, “dedicated to tackling gender based violence and assault,” through numerous projects, including a regional women’s solidarity march.

Next week is the premier of a new film about the women’s suffrage movement in Cayman. Watching the trailer, my heart swelled with pride and adoration for the women who came before me and worked diligently to achieve gender equality. But we still need to work on it, because legislation is one thing, and culture is another.

So Cayman, we need to change the way we speak to and about women. We need to pay attention to the words we speak, and hold ourselves and those around us accountable for those words. It may be difficult and uncomfortable to do so, but it’s much more difficult and uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of those derogatory comments. 

My great grandmother fought for gender quality. I shouldn’t have to fight the same battle she did.

….

Love and light ALWAYS.

-Jess.

A light in the dark.

A light in the dark.

I’d been holding off of writing for the last few weeks because I had this gross, guilty, feeling that everything I wrote was futile in the Age of Trump. How could I share stories about my life when millions of lives were being threatened by Trump’s Draconian policies? How could I have the audacity to express my joy when I was listening to stories of Somali refugees who, after finally being approved to seek asylum in America after spending decades in a Kenyan camp, learned that they couldn’t come to the US, and had to return to the camp with nothing but the winter coats they had bought for their new lives as Americans?  If I wasn’t expressing rage, or sorrow, or sharing political articles, should I be expressing anything at all? Who was I to write about what a great time I had at the Taste of Cayman festival while 450 miles away, the executive order on immigration had just come into effect?

I felt small and powerless during this time of extreme fear and unrest.

But then I realised: feeling guilty and staying silent isn’t the answer. Withholding my story isn’t helping me, or anyone else. Even though these policies don’t directly affect my life, and even though I may feel isolated from what’s happening in the States while I’m on this small island, I came to the realisation that sharing my truth can be an act of resistance. I’m a mixed race, liberal, foreign woman. The rights of people like me are being infringed upon. And the fact that I have the ability to share whatever I wish to share is something that I cannot take for granted. So, maybe sometimes I’ll share links to articles or podcasts that I find thought-provoking and pertinent, and other times I’ll share a recipe for the smoothie I had for breakfast. . . and I need to remind myself that that’s okay. Because spreading a little light amidst the darkness isn’t superfluous or superficial, it’s necessary.

And with that being said, I’ll say that things in my life have been pretty great lately. Last weekend I celebrated a friend’s birthday by dancing my troubles away on a boat party. On Wednesday I went to a full moon Rave Aerobics class, which is as amazing as it sounds… a high energy dance workout under the stars, led by an awesome crew of people, complete with light-up rave accessories! This past Saturday I was lucky enough to attend a concert by the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble as part of the Cayman Arts Festival, which was phenomenal. And this morning I woke up to the news that my best friend Mel has booked her flight to come visit me in April!!! I feel so. damn. grateful to be where I am and to have these opportunities.

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GOOD THINGS: My brother got engaged to this amazing lady! A bunch of girls gathered to celebrate over brunch at Blue Cilantro
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Sunset walks at Smith Cove to quiet the mind.

So, a gentle reminder to those feeling disheartened by ALL THE THINGS happening right now: stay woke, and also enjoy your life. Because you can do both.

Sending all the light & love,

Jess.

Hello & Welcome

Hello & Welcome

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Hi all!

Welcome to Jessie from the Rock. As you may have gathered from the title of this little blog, my name is Jessica (AKA Jess– no one calls me Jessie any more, but it sounded catchy). . . and “the Rock” I reference is Grand Cayman. Yes, I live on a tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean sea. And! I’m from another rock, too. I spent 18 years living on Vancouver Island, on the wild West Coast of Canada. Here, you’ll find musings about daily life on a remote Caribbean island, as well as posts about life lessons, self-care, food, travel and whatever else suits my fancy. My intention is to create a welcoming online space to share my experiences in Cayman with friends & family in Canada and beyond. I hope you, dear reader, stay awhile and find something here that resonates with you.

Light & Love,

Jess.