what i’ve learned, about voice.

I have a damn loud voice.

Like, real loud yo. I know, it might be hard to tell around here because of poetics and stories woven, but that’s the truth.

I am one of the loud girls, and that’s one of the reasons why I came to this three-day conversation about feminism. It was one of the stirring things because, well, a lot of the other things in this conversation was handed down to me without my realizing it.

I’ve been criticized for being loud my whole life and it’s not just about using my inside voice. It was about the category of who I am supposed to be wrapped up in how I am supposed to sound and what I am supposed to say. It was often about what was too intimidating or not mysterious enough for men. Sometimes it still is.

But, I kept laughing loud and cracking wise and sitting in the parlor instead of hiding in the kitchen. I still do.

Because though I have cried my tears over the years about being too loud and too much, I was never silenced. By my environment and my own stubbornness, I was given volume that’s more than about mere sound and I think that is a kind of privilege, too.

I guess my heart came into #femfest for the loud ones– the ones like me who, just by being, are too much to handle, even if it’s loud by just being different, by resisting gender stereotypes.

But now I’m thinking more and more about the stifled.

Over the past two days, I have read so many stories (still reading!) from those who felt silenced and unheard, and I’ve been blown away.

And I read this from J.R. Goudeau about her Burmese refugee friends:

They have voices. They have a lot to say. They have opinions and values and desires and dreams. And I can’t begin to fathom what those are.

I have no more right to speak for them than anyone has a right to speak for me.

And this from Esther Emery about fixing:

Don’t let me silence you by speaking your story for you. Let me make room for you to tell your own.

And many others who kept weaving voice in because it’s so important in a conversation about feminism.

Because so much of patriarchy is about who has the mic.

And who doesn’t.

It’s such an obvious thing, but so shocking to me all the same.

It makes this bigmouth want to listen, makes her hope she’s not talking over anyone who needs to be heard.

Today’s post is the third and final post as a part of Feminisms Fest, and we’re talking about what we’ve learned from the whole experience. Head over to Preston’s to get the rest of the action. 

But today’s meditation on what it means to have a voice or be voiceless leaves me with a lot of questions: how to advocate, without further drowning out the suppressed? how to make space, so others can build? how to leave our assumptions at the door, and walk offstage if needed? or, is this conversation about ‘voice’ just an abstraction?

I would love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve mused through, and how you’ve reacted to the voice(lessness) theme during #femfest. Let’t talk it out.


14 thoughts on “what i’ve learned, about voice.

  1. Voice is key. I remember reading Jane Eyre and thinking, “She’s actually saying no. She’s saying her sense of ethics are greater and worth more than even Rochester’s love.” Reading Anna Karinina was same (but totally different) in that she was absolutely claiming the right to be selfish and indulgent and in love. I wanted to hear my mother disagree, to see the quiet Asian women around me speak up and call out wrongdoing. I myself am a woman of nuance and I want people to shut up long enough to hear me clarify what I”m saying. Not because I’m giving in, or wavering, or compromising (compromising in the sense of doing so under duress), but because what I have to say deserves the time to be heard clearly, precisely, with shading.
    I may not be loud but I am determined. I am speaking now. Listen.

  2. Antonia, I love this post. Thank you for your kind words–I think if anything, the older that I get the more I am interested in listening to other people’s voices, which has not always been the case. And as one loud girl to another, I’ll shoot right back–sometimes we need to screa, too, and I’m glad to have strong voices crying against injustice with me. Loved everything about this today.

  3. I love your voice so much, A. And of course, that’s a big theme of mine this year. I didn’t really know why I called my column Speaking Up last June. I had no idea it would come to this. But I’m so glad I did, because this, you, #femfest, all these stories, the support and love I’ve felt through it all, is incredible.

    • and THANK GOODNESS you are speaking up, Em. you do it with clarity, heart, power, and grace. you’re a voice we (read: I) can learn SO MUCH from.

      also, this makes me want to dig through twitter archives and find our first exchanges. xoxo.

  4. Loved this meditation – you summed it up perfectly. I had actually concluded that my role in this is to whisper (Though I’m a loud girl by nature too!) Loving the way that all these different posts have been unique voices but have melded together in harmony – it’s been such a beautiful and encouraging conversation.

    Thanks for this!

  5. This whole thing of voice and privilege and power can overwhelm me sometimes. It’s such a tangled web, but I’m grateful for the voices this week (yours and so many others) taking a turn at unraveling it. And I’m grateful for the men and women in my life who’ve encouraged and affirmed my loud voice, and for the space to let quiet grow too. Your words & your jumping in to this encouraged me this week, friend. Thanks!

    • I absolutely agree– it is overwhelming. It’s not the language I normally speak, and in some ways, I’m not sure where to go from here.

      and thank you thank you. love this comment, and love to you, Annie.

  6. Yes. Were you ever at an occupy event where there was a mic check moment? I only witnessed this (too many little kids to really get into occupy), but I watched the women’s caucus take the platform at a general assembly in Boston, and this is how it happened. Somebody said “mic check.” And then everybody who wanted her to have the floor called back “mic check.” Like…”yes, we can hear you.” I cried.

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