Women’s Voices

By Limor Shiponi

This worked out to be one of my favorite panels on CWA. The various perspectives brought forth by Lillian Boutté, Willow Wilson, Mary Hughes, myself, questions from the audience and the answers elicited on the spot, produced a poignant yet kind platform to look at one of the most painful issues influencing humanity’s well being.

At the request of people in the audience I’m publishing my notes that were written that same morning, wanting to make sure I’ll give full voice to my feelings in a language I don’t speak freely enough.

For me the word voice means first and foremost – movement, breath, life. Graveyards are quite. The first thing we do as a newborn is find breath and announce our arrival into the world. From that moment on and for the rest of our lives we will breath and produce voice. That is true also for people who are born mute.

As we grow we manifest our breath and voice in the world in forms others can understand and we can communicate – through laughing, crying, singing, speaking, mumbling, howling, screaming, chanting, praying.

What influences our voice and the way we choose to express ourselves? What we feel and think and how clear is the channel to let our feelings and thoughts come out.

  • There are places where women are not allowed to sing in public.
  • There are places where women laughing from their guts out loud is considered socially unacceptable.
  • There are places where you will be told not to cry like a girl.
  • There are places where you will be told “stop mumbling, speak-up women”.
  • There are places where women are not allowed to give sound to their prayer and it is discarded as invalid in the eyes of God. In those places women chants are considered the voice of the Devil.
  • There are places where women are not allowed to speak their mind or speak at all.
  • In most places women howling and screaming is considered primitive and hysterical.
  • As a toddler and young girl I grew up in a place where “little girls must be seen but not heard”.

I became a musician and storyteller. I make voice with freedom and feel at ease with silence. It was not always that way. It took persistence, search and time until I found. What I’ve learned during that time I taught my three daughters whom I didn’t teach intentionally very much:

  • Never take for granted adults and authorities being right.
  • If you feel in your guts something is wrong – trust that feeling.
  • You can call me at anytime from anywhere and I will try and help you sort out your feelings, thoughts or physically come and take you if you need me to.
  • When you are in a big party on club, never go to the toilet alone, borough a cigarette, drink from an open cup or bottle or ask for a ride. I’m telling you this because these are things that might get you into a position where you will be muted by force. If that happens first of all walk away and then give voice – don’t wait. I cannot save you from the world and I will not block it from you. What ever will happen, it cannot be something that will make me feel I don’t love you and appreciate you anymore, but you will have to give voice. If not to me, to another woman you trust.

My eldest married at 25. After getting to know her partner and before they were married I once asked him “she speaks a lot doesn’t she?” “she sure does” he replied, “but I like listening to her”. For that he received my blessing.

My middle daughter is a singer and a dancer. She is a very attractive young woman, exactly the kind parents would like to protect from the world. She gives voice without fear.

My youngest is a soldier right now but I can see where it’s going – stand-up comedy and social-activism. She already gives big voice.

Why am I telling you all this? It says on my bio that one of my interests is women doings in a man’s world. Now I’m telling you what that means to me: I’m not crazy about things that have headlines like “women’s rights”. I find they manifest a problem, not solve it. They self-admit a weakness I can’t really see that exists.

The earlier and deeper problem is the denial of the inherent right to give voice in any way or form the female body feels like. “A man’s world” does not stand against men although many help the oppression happen and very often enforce it. What it does point at is the simple fact that trying to sound women’s life through manly channels is only partly productive. There is a whole array of women’s feelings and needs that cannot be expressed through that channel – they just don’t fit and that feels as is we don’t fit, as if something is wrong with us.

Nothing is wrong with us. Let’s go open those channels. Demanding it from men I find unfair and counterproductive. It’s our responsibility not theirs.

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