Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finding Your Voice

Growing up, I didn't think much of my opinion. It didn't seem others thought much about it either, so I didn't give it unless it was explicitly asked of me - which wasn't often.

In college, it got better. I had women's studies classes where I felt comfortable opening up. I had my Hermanas (sorority sisters) who always valued my opinion, asked for it all the time, and let me give it even if they didn't ask! But even then, it was hard to do this in a group of strangers.

What really changed this was my involvement in TWM. Suddenly, I was asked to give an opinion about everything, even things I didn't really have an opinion about. I mingled at events, spoke up at a Visioning Workshop, organized an entire event, and became an integral part of TWM. I slowly started to speak up at work and grew more confident each time. I'm still quiet, but usually because I'm thinking - not from fear of speaking up. Oftentimes, I don't shut up really!

I'm writing all of this not just to reflect, but because I've met countless other women who still haven't found their voice. When I was young, it seemed everybody else was speaking out with little effort and I was the odd one out. Unfortunately, I wasn't.

The truth is, women are still being silenced. There are cultural and generational differences, but, on the whole, women's opinions just don't matter as much. What do we know? What interest could we possibly have in politics or society or the workforce? We're defined by those around us without much thought to who we actually are.

That's why I love blogs! Women who normally keep quiet can comment on whatever moves them, without as much fear. Nobody knows who they are, and they're likely to find a space somewhere, where others share their opinions. Best case scenario, if you don't already speak up in "real life," this helps you come closer to doing that.

Are you making sure your voice is heard? If you have something to say, do you say it, or keep quiet more often than not?


habladora said...

I really have my parents to thank for teaching me to voice my opinions with confidence. They simply asked me about what I thought and why - showing that they were thinking about what I'd said. Now I try to remember to do the same with my female students, ask what they think and why. Apparently that's more radical than it sounds. Although I can't place my hands on the study right now (though I will look later), its been shown that classroom teachers give most of their attention to white males. The attention hierarchy, if I remember correctly, goes like this: white males, African American males, Latinos, white females, African American females, Latinas. (The study didn't explain how racial categories were determined, so I sort of assumed that Latinos were considered any 1st or 2nd generation child from a Spanish-speaking country.) It just goes to show how invisible white male privilege can be - the kids don't notice the difference, nor do the teachers unless someone sits in the room and tallies time spent with members of each group. Yet, this unnoticed attention difference has a lasting impact - as you point out.

sally said...

I'm glad to hear that you had a better experience! The sad thing is that it's been even worst for my youngest sister who is now 21(!! holy crap, I feel old) and STILL hasn't really found the confidence to speak up or speak out.

Pauline Karakat said...

I definitely remember feeling stifled as a child and teenager. I thought for a long time that it was because of certain people around me, but now I know I had to assert myself so to find my voice. It is an unfair world at times, and I know I haven't been given the same opportunities as men (particularly white men) but that just makes me want to work harder. I am a work in progress, of course...but aren't we all?

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