Speak your piece.
In the past couple of days, I came across two pieces of writing that sounded similar chords, and the connections between them helped me to solidify an idea that has been percolating for a while.
This idea is, when discussing the disempowerment of the female voice, usually the viewpoint taken is that women are excluded due to the social conditioning or physical characteristics that combine or interact to take away that voice. Thus, the voice must be “given” to them, whether by a system that forces male voices to be quiet, or by justifying those softer voices through an essentialist perspective that views women as naturally inclusive creatures, who won’t raise their voices. Many times, persons with this viewpoint are advocating for some sort of power-sharing structure that will give – again I stress the word “give” – them their chance to be heard.
The two pieces I refer to are the Indigo Girls’ “Pendulum Swinger” (“Eyes show the hell you’re gonna give them/When they back off the mic for once and give it to a woman…) and a piece on the communications systems at the Occupy Protests, http://occupypatriarchy.org/2011/11/16/empowering-the-feminist-voice-at-occupy-confronting-the-silencing-of-mic-check-and-other-misogynies-in-the-occupy-movement/ originally posted by saigh.
Now, I’m not here to argue the basic points of these pieces. I personally think that the song is an excellent one with great lyrics and very timely, and the Occupy Patriarchy piece points out something that really should be considered, especially by a movement that claims to speak for the “99%”.
However, as a female who has been described as “loud,” “pushy,” “aggressive,” and “violent,” sometimes by men, sometimes by women, I am here to state my argument that waiting around for someone to GIVE you a voice is, in the words of Captain Mal “A long wait for a train don’t come.”
If you want to be heard, whether you are man, woman, child, transgender, YOU MUST SPEAK UP. YOU must take that mic and if someone tries to yank it away, you get in their face and you don’t back down.
Do you think a woman cannot be as loud as a man? Talk to my sister-in-law Katie M., a trained classical singer, whose voice can fill a cathedral unassisted by modern technology. Talk to my friend Liz S., whose confinement to a wheelchair does not impede her witty online presence. Talk to my fellow women in the military, who know that if you want to be heard, you have to have what is known as “command presence.”
You want to lead? You want to make a contribution? Nobody is going to GIVE you that chance – you must take it. Does that scare you? Okay fair enough. Find that loud, pushy, aggressive, violent woman and make her your friend. I’ll clear the floor for you. I don’t even have to agree with what you’re about to say, I’ll make sure you get the chance to say it.
Does speaking up in public make you feel uncomfortable? Surprise, this is not a gender-specific feeling of discomfort. Some people of both genders seem to view girly parts as automatic signifiers that you are going to be a naturally soft-spoken, community minded, social being who is also a team player. I believe this perspective is known as essentialism, by which a certain characteristic confers intrinsic properties. It annoys me when this perspective is held by a man, but it DRIVES ME BONKERS when it is held by a woman. Sorry, ladies and gents, my uterus doesn’t determine how I interact in conversation. If you think I’m going to shut up and let a conversation roll over me, you obviously never grew up as the oldest of six children where dinner table conversation was a combat sport.
Yes. I agree that gender relations have a long way to go, and we would get there faster if some loudmouths (such as, sometimes, myself) would shut up and let someone else have a turn talking.
But I also believe, with all my heart, that attitudes promoting female confidence, forwardness, volume and, of course, high levels of physical fitness which allows one to not grow weary when standing in the wings, are more productive than telling someone to just “give” someone a chance.
TAKE IT, LADIES!!