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This post is dedicated to the voices that are not being heard

August 17, 2010

Yesterday I picked up the textbook I’ll be using to teach a series of courses on Writing for Public Relations. That’s the cover of the book you see above. Does anything jump out at you when you look at the picture?

Think about it… three well-known men at microphones, and one anonymous woman at a keyboard, presumably writing their speeches and press releases. What does that say about who’s allowed to have a voice? At the same time, though, whose wisdom might be in the words those voices expresses?

Now, I know I have been guilty of over-analysis before, and some of you  might be clicking away from this post already because “Heather’s on her soap-box again”, but bear with me for a moment, will you?

I haven’t read the book yet, so I cannot judge it, and I suspect that whoever designed/published it had no intentions of making any gender statements, but none-the-less, statements are often made by the subtle ways in which we communicate our values and opinions without even being fully aware of what we’re communicating. When I started in the position I’m about to leave, for example, I had to work very hard at changing our publications, website, etc., to ensure that the images we used to represent our donors weren’t all white men over fifty. (That’s not a dig at my predecessor – I just don’t think anyone noticed before.)

(Confession time: just this morning in a management meeting, we were talking about a part time job that’s available at our office, which requires more hours in winter than in summer. I said “it might be perfect for a working mom who wants to be at home with her kids in summer.” And the male feminist sitting next to me nudged me and whispered “or the working dad”. I was duly chastised. Hence I have no right to suggest I always get it right. Old habits die hard.)

Back to the textbook… I find it rather interesting (in a “God directs us when we’re paying attention” sort of way) that while I’m getting ready to walk away from my day job to teach people how to be better communicators and to lead people in imagining a world where we all trust our feminine wisdom more and let those voices be heard in our leadership, politics, art, healthcare, schools, etc., I am faced with such a strong image of what continues to be acceptable in our society.

Let’s face it – men’s voices are still heard more often. Men’s leadership is still trusted more broadly. Yes, we’ve definitely seen some significant changes in that regard, and I acknowledge that I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to work in some of the roles I’ve worked in fifty or a hundred years ago.  We may have come a long way, baby… but… it’s not okay to become complacent and assume that it’s smooth sailing from here on in.

That’s why some of what I mentioned in the last post worries me. If we forget the hard work that our feminist fore-mothers and fore-fathers did to ensure that ALL of our voices can be heard, and if we get too caught up in living self-centred, consumerist lives because we are “entitled and empowered”, then women the world over will continue to be marginalized, abused, genitally mutilated, sold into sex slavery, etc., etc.

Below is a photo of some young women I met in India. They had been rescued from slavery by the staff of an incredible organization that we met with in a remote rural town, but their families didn’t want them back because they are damaged goods. I wish I could remember their names (and part of me – quite honestly – is not sure I have the right to use their picture without at least that dignity), but I don’t. None-the-less, it is for these women – and others like them – that I hereby commit to following this calling wherever it leads, to speaking up when I am called to do so, to encouraging others (women AND men) to trust their feminine wisdom, to not be satisfied with the status quo, and to teaching each and every student in my writing class to remember the power of their own voices.

I admit, I have not always remembered the power of my own voice and I have too often deferred to what I perceive to be the “voice of power”. But now is the time to begin to make that right. For these women. And for my daughters.


9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 11:30 am

    Oh, yes! I can feel your passion and commitment – and I’ll tell you, Heather, I believe in your leadership!

  2. Rosemary Augustine permalink
    August 17, 2010 11:33 am

    For the women pictured, for your daughters and for the world. Keep following your passion and continue to tell the world. Thank You Heather! Great post!

  3. August 17, 2010 11:35 am

    I am thinking that the “lack of intention” regarding the design of that cover IS quite a culturally inculcated intention in and of itself. Sigh.

    You haven’t even cracked the text and you’re already teaching! 🙂

  4. August 17, 2010 12:20 pm

    You inspire me.

    I don’t have any illusions that sexism or racism (or countless other isms) continue, and those that are imbeded so deeply we often don’t see them are the most insidious.

    I have a vision, a dream that I haven’t articulated to anyone yet. For now I feel I need to hold it close and let it sink in. You inspire me to move forward no matter how impossible it seems that I could reach others to inspire and empower them – and I know that word “empower” has taken on a twisted up meaning I almost hesitate to use it.

    Always a pleasure to come by.

  5. August 17, 2010 12:36 pm

    Heather… thanks so much for noting how easy it is for us to slip back into our ‘patterned’ ways of thinking. That was beautiful. And for the reminder of the power of our own voices.

  6. August 17, 2010 12:44 pm

    Though tangential to your post, Heather ( I am learning how to find my way into this kind of conversation) I appreciate K’s comment about the word “empower” and how it has taken a twisted up meaning so she hesitates to use it.

    We do this…the collective “we”… words that have a potency, even though sometimes limited in ability to fully, adequately, accurately describe…then “we” overuse or glibly use the word and are at a loss to find a means of expression without embarrassment, apology.

    I, too, have felt this same hesitancy about words like empowerment, paradigm, complexity, systems, inspired, leadership, and now even feminine wisdom….I am perplexed with the continuum that I experience, that of taking the sacred, making it mundane, and then even profane. Especially as we value words and stories…written, spoken, sung, chanted, painted….and their potency, possibility and potential to connect us to ourselves and each other – to empower us. (Hmmmm even these words – potency, possibility, potential – may soon need to added to my list!)

  7. August 17, 2010 1:31 pm

    I strongly believe in empowering women. Our foster child must be a girl, and my KIVA loans must go to women.

  8. August 17, 2010 4:21 pm

    ugh. i hope what’s IN the textbook is better than the cover. i know you asked, but it sure was the first thing i noticed.

    and ARNOLD?!! i hope he’s there as an example of what is WRONG in communication.

  9. August 17, 2010 6:17 pm

    This was a great post Heather!
    Ill listen to any bodies voice but I absolutely agree with you, the volume on women’s voices must be turned up to high and broadcast further a field and I do believe that you will make a big difference in ensuring that this does happen.
    Thank you for your passion

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