“A woman with an opinion must develop a thick skin and a loud voice. Arrows will fly at you but they’ll never pierce through. Louder voices will try to drown yours out, but their pitches would never be high enough…”
These words from my grandmother were going through my head that day in 12th grade when it was time for the selection of a head pupil (called a student body president in the U.S). My high school previously had the ‘head girl’ and ‘head boy’ positions, one to represent each group of students in the co-educational system. The head students were the ultimate role models – the students who serve as a bridge between the authority and the student body. They were revered by everyone.
The roles were later merged into one, a ‘head pupil’, which could be taken up by a boy or a girl. For three consecutive years after the inception of the concept, boys exclusively held the post. Girls were being marginalized and sadly, the teachers seemed to have no problems with it. Boys were thought to be more energetic, efficient, and influential. When 17-year-old me hit my Upper 6th, the final year, I was having none of it.
Declaration of interest
The day came when it was time for the prospective candidates to declare their interests in the elections. The principal and his vice walked into our classroom and began the process. Four boys stepped out to receive their forms. Everyone began to giggle when I made my way out to the front – head held high, shoulders straight, chest out, eyes piercing, lips slightly pursed, all at a normal heart rate. My confidence was palpable.
The principal narrowed his eyes at me and asked, “Are you certain you want to do this, Ms. Wilson?” I smiled and nodded in affirmation. The other girls were looking at me the way you would look at a person dressed in dry leaves. I accepted my candidacy form and returned to my seat.
At home, my mother commended me proudly, her eyes shining as though I‘d just given her a gift. I was expecting my father to yell at me for being “too forward”, as he often did, but to my surprise, he was happier than my mother. They encouraged me to always go after what I wanted, and even if I didn’t win, I’d have tried the best I could.
When it was time for the aspirants to sit in a pre-election debate with the students, everyone expected that I would have dropped by then. Too bad, I got bolder and stronger. I was going to do whatever it took to let myself be seen and my voice be heard. I was petite, even small for a 17 year old. I don’t have a naturally loud voice, but they were going to hear me all right. Some parents were seated at the back, and I could see my mom smiling at me. That was all the driving force I needed.
The four guys took turns talking about all the things they were going to do if elected. The students tossed silly questions at them, and the whole debate was starting to look like one big joke. Of course, I was scheduled to go last. When I walked up to the podium, I could hear several suppressed giggles, even from some of the teachers, and some uncouth bouts of laughter. I smiled inwardly. I was prepared for that reaction. Every wave of stage fright trying to rise to the surface, I suppressed them all and paced my breathing with a calm mind.
I delivered my manifesto, focusing on improving the quality of student-teacher interaction, pressing for more excursions and field activities, since our school was desperately lacking in that area. I spoke about student-organized programs to build interpersonal communication skills, and other important additions I believed the extra-curriculum needed. I write every word myself, the avid writer that I am. I kept my reasons for aspiring to be head pupil completely gender-neutral. I could see that most of the audience was duly impressed. I’d spoken so boldly and clearly, hitting my points directly.
I was to answer three questions. The last one came from a certain girl I always felt uncomfortable around. She asked, “What makes you think a girl like you should be the head pupil?”
Then it happened. Other students began to echo her words, becoming agitated. They all wanted to know why I thought I should be head pupil, or rather, why I thought I could be the head pupil. I may not remember the very words I used, but my reply was,
“I want to be head pupil, not only for me to carry out all the agendas I have on my manifesto, but to prove to other girls in the student body that they too, CAN do it. ‘Head pupil’ wasn’t created for the males alone. We are GIRLS and we have the power to act as effectively as they can. We can perform the same duties with even higher precision and dedication because we are women. My grandmother says the word woman means, “force of nature.” Be a force. Do not be afraid to stand up for what you want. If you aspire to be a leader, go for it. Your gender is only a classification and not a limitation. Thank you.”
The applause was deafening. When the principal stood, the teachers stood too, and soon, the entire audience (except the rude girl and her cohorts) were on their feet raining the applause down on tiny Penny Wilson. My mom was shedding tears of joy.
I won the head pupil post that year and since then, more girls have been coming up to prove their capability.
“Do you know who you are? The world is your oyster.”
Having a loud voice doesn’t mean you should be a loudspeaker when talking to everyone. It doesn’t mean you should have a nasty attitude or be rude. You shouldn’t parade yourself as a person who can never be wrong, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should never take corrections.
Dear young girls, to have a loud voice is to step up boldly and fearlessly when the situation calls for it. If you’re being oppressed, marginalized, abused or segregated, speak out and let your voice be heard. Be the confident queen you were born to be. People may misunderstand you. They may not like you for being who they cannot be. They may judge you wrongly but remain who you are as long as you are good.
In an article published on Motherly, contributor Angela Anagnost-Repke narrates her coming-of-age story of oppression and loss of confidence . She used to be a bold kid who was never afraid to say what was on her mind. As she got older, she was scolded into quietness, lost her confidence, and developed a strong fear for public speaking. Now, 36 and still afraid, she’s raising her daughter to be the firebrand she wasn’t allowed to be.
“As long as she’s not being rude or disrespectful, she’s harmless. She’s being a kid. She’s enjoying her life. She’s discovering who she is.
I want her to always feel that confidence like she does today. I won’t silence her. I won’t let her feel cheated.
And when she’s older, I want her to confidently speak up in a class discussion, to fearlessly tell a joke at a party, to flawlessly give a speech in front of a crowd. To have courage when she needs to speak out about injustice and to have poise when she needs to articulate her feelings. To feel comfortable using her words, as I remind her now—and for the rest of her life.”
Stay strong, ladies. Be fearless, be brave, be bold, and love yourself.
- Angela Anagnost-Repke. Dear daughter: Be loud, take up space—your voice matters. Motherly. https://www.mother.ly/life/dear-daughter-be-loud-take-up-space-your-voice-matters. Retrieved 17-09-19
- Admin. Conquering Stage Fright. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder/treatment/conquering-stage-fright. Retrieved 17-09-19
- Kali Rogers. REAL LIFE. REAL NEWS. REAL VOICES. Huff Post. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/9-qualities-of-confident-women_b_5799710. Retrieved 17-09-19
The post Dear Daughters: Let Your Voice Be Loud, Clear, and Unwavering. It Is Your Super Power appeared first on The Hearty Soul.