Even writing this title makes me uncomfortable. I hate being called “loud” and every time someone refers to me as such, I cringe. Whether it’s the sudden turn of your head and narrowing of your eyes when you hear me laugh, or whether you actually call me “loud”, I hate it. It sounds like an insult, like you’ve invited an elephant to your tea party just so you can make fun of her for breaking your china. Shame. That’s an accurate description of what I feel when I’m called “loud”. I feel ashamed. Maybe in ancient times, my people required the power of sneakiness as a means of survival, and that’s why I’m ashamed to be loud. Maybe my brain triggers shame to protect me from an evolutionary perspective. Maybe, a more likely option, my shame is linked to the idea that women are not meant to be loud. To be a woman is to be quiet, delicate and gentle, you don’t speak out of turn and you’re not bossy or opinionated. To be a woman, is to be a creature of grace- serene femininity oozing from every measured word with the indulgence of a coquettish giggle when the occasion calls for it. How easily a loud girl fails that criteria. Truth be told, I don’t even consider myself loud. I am assertive, opinionated and unapologetic about using my voice, but I’d never describe myself as loud. But perhaps I should, perhaps I should reclaim it. Perhaps in this world, where all too often we silence the voice of women in so many inventive and subtle ways, I should be proud of being loud. If I am loud and just one woman hears my voice, isn’t that enough to be proud of?
In thinking about being loud, I’ve thought of my voice. I’ve also thought of women around the world who feel like they have none. I used to think that my greatest fear was not being understood, but I’m beginning to feel like it’s something that precedes understanding. At its most basic form, if no one hears you, if your voice is lost, how will you ever be understood? I can’t say with absolute conviction that I feel like I’m heard. I can’t say with even a little conviction that men have not spoken over me, that I haven’t been ignored in male dominated environments. Yes, even though I’m “loud”. I can say that often during a discussion when I offer a suggestion to an otherwise male audience, it lands heavy but with no purpose. It serves to draw silence before an awkward man who has not really heard the concept, or my idea, presses forward as if I had not said anything at all. My words were just a speed bump along the road that starts and ends with solutions that I have no power to shape. It’s more than a slap in the face to be ignored in that way, it more than an insult, it’s an indication of my worthlessness. It’s often at some later point, once I’ve tried to make my point for the third time, that some man comes to my “rescue” saying, “What I think she’s trying to say is…,”. It fascinates me to see others bob their head when my ideas take on a male voice. Of course, it’s not uncommon that whichever man explained my suggestion also gets the credit for “his idea”. I reread what I’ve just written and part of me wants to delete the entire thing because I want to believe I’m making it up. I want to believe this isn’t what I’m experiencing with a shocking and sickening regularity. But it is true, and it does happen and not only to me. I’ve also seen this happen to men, from all walks of life, but I’ve never seen it happen as frequently as I see it happening to women. All around me I see women being silenced, I see their ideas being trampled on, I see men taking the credit where they don’t deserve it. We silence women by telling them they need to show up in certain way to fit in. We silence women when they grow tired of fighting to be heard and simply give up. We silence women when we show them that their voices do not matter. We silence women daily, routinely and without thought. Women do have voices and they aren’t afraid to use them, but have we been listening?
Perhaps what I should be, beyond loud, is louder. Perhaps I should speak and write till I am heard, perhaps I should also let my actions be louder. Perhaps I should own who I am, along with my voice so that I can allow other women to also do the same . For the longest time one of my frustrations with being “loud” was the assumption that I should be anything but. That I shouldn’t own the space I occupy, that I should be apologetic for even existing. That I should make myself and my voice smaller so as not to inconvenience anyone. It feels like that judgement seeks to replace me with a more acceptable version. But I’m not having that. Sorry, that’s not me. I am inconvenient, and, you know what, I love that about myself. The world is better with me being loud, brass, assertive and ambitious because that’s who I am. And folks, that’s most certainly nothing to be quiet about.