Telling our Daughters {and Sisters} They Have a Voice

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I grew up in the seventies and eighties after the women’s liberation movement. When I went to school, Title Nine was already in effect so if I had been the sporty type I would have been allowed to play soccer or even football if I wanted to. I went to college, got a couple degrees and ended up getting a job. When I had a baby, my husband got up with me in the night and helped change diapers and soothe the cries of an infant. He did that because that’s what dads of his age were supposed to do, and because that’s what I expected.

I also grew up with my father and my teachers telling me that I had a good mind and so I’d better use it. I’m a woman living in the United States in 2013 so I can vote. I can own land and property.

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I am also a woman living inside the benefits what other women have fought hard for. And I still believe that here in the US there is more equality than there is disparity.

Yet, as often as I was told I was smart, I was rarely told I had a voice.

No one ever dared declare this directly to me, but in the environment of my youth and young adulthood, I learned that I could think but not everyone would listen to me. I learned that I had a bright mind, but I didn’t necessarily have a place at the discussion table. I learned that I had a brain (a good one) but not necessarily something to say.

I’ve had to find that voice on my own.

It’s taken nearly six years of writing publicly to feel (in small ways) that I do have a voice and that what I say matters. Yet I still often fade into the corners of rooms and retreat into the fringes of conversations. I still pull back when I think I’m being too loud or outspoken.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be different. It seems to be part of a deep part of me.

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But I think we can change the future by telling our daughters they have voices.

We can whisper into their ears that they have a say, that they have a place at the table. We can take them by the hands, sit them on our laps if they still fit and tell them that they have words to speak and that we want to hear their stories. We can encourage the fathers to listen to their daughters, that first man that wants to hear them, and to listen to them well.

We can teach them to write and to communicate and to form sentences that have power. We can open up our own ears to the littlest of girls as they tell us their stories from school and the playground for in that they are practicing to tell their own deep stories later.

We can tell our girls that they should wait to find men who will not merely allow them to have a voice, but men who will celebrate what they have to say because they are worthy of celebration. We can show them that they are worthy of their voice and that they deserve to be heard, not because they are women, but because they are human.

And our sisters. Our sisters!

There are women around us who are our mothers and our real life sisters and our aunts and our friends and our spiritual sisters. They have been frightened into the edges of the conversation and made to believe that they don’t matter. They are full of fear and those of us who are less afraid must begin to tell our sisters and our friends that they something to say.

You have a voice. You have something to say.

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Begin to whisper into your baby-girl’s ears that the words she will someday speak are important. Rock your too-big kindergartener on your lap for a moment and say to her that her words matter. Tell your twelve-year-old to write the novel that has been burning a hole in her heart.  And encourage your sisters to speak out, to use the words that they have and to not be afraid of what will come out when they open their mouths.

Celebrate them.

What do you think? Was your voice celebrated growing up? Do you feel like you have a voice now? Who in your life celebrates your voice?

Can we do two things today? Can we 1.) Thank a woman who has celebrated us and 2.) be an encourager to another woman (or girl) who needs to hear that she has something important to say?

PS – I’m adding this to Sarah Bessey’s Synchroblog for Women’s Day. Click here to read other’s posts.

Comments

  1. says

    Sigh.
    No. My voice was not celebrated. It was tolerated.
    I’ve got about 10 years on you, Sarah, and that generational bump made a difference. Now? In my late 40s? Yes. Oh yes. And it’s getting louder and louder and more emphatic. It’s being infused with Holy Spirit permission to SHOUT.
    My girls celebrate my voice. My Bible Study chicks. My MOPS mommies that I mentor. My Dear Ones. My parents are now urging me to speak louder than ever before. And, sometimes, that guy I live with, he rolls over in bed and says (with exasperation of having encouraged too long on deaf ears), “Stop making excuses and just say it. Please.”
    My voice matters. A lot.

  2. says

    Oh, Sarah. This is beautiful. Just beautiful. I’m in my early 20s, but I still often feel like I’m jostling and fighting my way to the platform to speak. And I want to encourage the women I know – and someday, raise my daughters – to believe they have strong, credible, necessary voices. That their stories, their experiences, their opinions, do matter. They matter a lot.

  3. says

    I always knew, growing up, that my voice mattered. And my girls (ages 11 and 8) know that their voices matter, too. One of the things we regularly talk about here in our home is not so much that they HAVE a voice, but how our girls can help OTHER girls know that their voices matter. We want our girls to know that they can use their voices to encourage … or discourage. To build up … or tear down. My girls know they have a voice, and I pray that they use it well. Thank you, Sarah Markley, for your beautiful words here.

  4. says

    Thank you for sharing this post. I am a grateful father of two beautiful children, one being a daughter who is seven. I try everyday to be sure I am being the kind of man I hope she will choose, should she choose a man as her partner in life. She and I have a strong bond that started with months of her being colicy, sleeping every night in my arms as I slept sitting up on our couch, cushions surrounding her in my arms in case I let go–it was the only way she’d sleep. And it continues with me holding her before bed or at random times of the day, tucking her in, and telling her what an amazing person she is, to never let anyone make her feel she’s not, to never try to be different for someone else, to know that who she is is exactly who she should be. I believe I am in part so sensitive to this concern having watched my late mother endure years of emotional and verbal abuse; I am determined to do all I may to prevent any such tolerance of that by my daughter.
    Your post highlights the importance of not only telling her who she is is important, but that what she says is important, and showing it by always listening, putting all else aside and listening. Knowing you’re special is one thing. Being able to express it and speak up when you’re not being treated as such is another. Thank you; your voice clarifies in my mind the importance of fostering her voice.
    By the way, my daughter’s name is Sarah as well, my Princess.

  5. says

    beautiful post.. and I can so relate to what you wrote.. my earthly father disowned me over 10 years ago now.. simply because he refused to hear what I had to say and how I felt and the reason why I had to leave my first husband. He chose sides and chose his side, over his only daughter. The pain is still there, but I’ve learned now to only surround myself with ppl in my life that celebrate me and my voice.. ppl that understand me and realize that my life has worth, value and meaning. I say phhoooey on my father.. he’s missing out on knowing his daughter. hugs xo loved this today.

  6. says

    Your daughters are just beautiful. Yes tell them they have a voice. It is ok to speak up and have a mind set of their own.
    Give them encouragement to not fail and to keep trying. I have followed your blog for four years now and always feel you have a lot to say for others to be challenged by and you give us something to think about. Good job.

  7. says

    Gracefully said, Sarah. When you hold back in a conversation, could it be discretion? Could it be wisdom to know what you have to say won’t be received by the audience? I suggest putting yourself in an audience that is more open to hearing your voice to allow your gift to flourish more. I know in some circles, it’s just not time for me to speak up, whereas with other circles I have more freedom. And where there’s freedom, I’m able to grow.

  8. says

    Jumping over from Sarah’s synchroblog. Wow. What a call, what a challenge. To give the young ones the permission slip to speak that we may have either never had signed or ended up squished in the bottom of the backpack. I see them so clearly, rising up, reaching out . . . but how to pull it forth, help it along . . . ? That is such a different matter. You have addressed it well, Sarah. To listen to them now. To build their confidence in the beauty that lies within. That is teaching them their voice, isn’t it? Thank you for this. *Inspired.*

  9. Polly says

    This is so beautifully and powerfully said. Thank you! This is a message I want to share with my daughter, and granddaughters, and sisters and niece’s and friends!

  10. says

    this resonated deeply within me. as a woman in ministry, i find that i’m often told how much my work is appreciated, to keep it up, how i have experiences & wisdom beyond my years, & yet, i’m not taken seriously in discussions. i’m not heard when i speak up about something. i’m always listened to — in a sort of patronizing way, but i appreciate that i receive at least that much. i’m listened to but not heard. i’m dismissed. i’m perceived as too passionate, too involved, too young, etc. i’m too much & not enough. and i know i don’t know everything! far far far from it. but i have a unique perspective that could be helpful if added to the collective of voices. i feel confident that God has blessed me with my experiences & gifts & personality & positions for just such a reason. yet, i am not heard. i want to not only tell my dozens of spiritual daughters that they have a voice, i want to work toward a future where it’s true. thank you for your encouraging words!

    • says

      Danae-
      First of all, I love Sarah’s post!!!

      Secondly, Danae, your response is a mirror of my own and I appreciate the connection. I am a leader in ministry and yet I struggle to believe or see that my voice matters as profoundly as it could if I spoke in a register lower and had boy parts.

      We live in the tension of lifting our daughters up so they can see over the wall. I think so many of us still live with the doubt that our voices matter – that, frankly, it makes our voices not matter. But, if I can help my daughters KNOW that their voices are true and strong and valuable , maybe they will be able to push to another level in the near future where their voices actually DO matter.

      But, I cannot live with only hope for our daughters. I need to have hope for myself as well. And you.

      Thank you! – Nicole

  11. Melanie says

    This is all very true… However we can’t forget that our sons need this encouragement as well. In my family, my daughters are very opinionated and have no problem being heard, but my son is more sensitive and sometimes I think he feels like his voice doesn’t count. So we can’t lose our boys in all this. They are the next generation of husbands and fathers.

  12. says

    “You have a voice. You have something to say.”
    We all need this. Each person is valuable – not just as an object but as a living, breathing creator. God created with words and so do we. Our words matter.

    Sarah, thank you for your words – the way you paint pictures and inspire others to speak. :)

    When I struggle with this (which I do a lot!!), the old song from Sesame Street pops into my head:

    Sing
    Sing a song
    Make it simple To last your whole life long
    Don’t worry that it’s not good enough
    For anyone else to hear
    Just Sing
    Sing a song
    from SESAME STREET – SING

    Keep speaking + writing, friends! It matters.
    -Nicole

  13. says

    Oh, I am so with Holly above! I am almost 51 and never really had a voice either. Had 3 younger brothers that were all allowed to go to college and fulfill their callings – I was told if I took typing classes in high school my dad could get me a job in his office. Wow, I thought. And work for an ass like you? I don’t think so!

    With that said, I am giving more to my own daughter and letting her know that she does indeed have a voice and it matters! Oh, does it matter.

    Love this!

  14. says

    What an absolutely lovely post. My mother always told my sister and I how important it was to make ourselves heard, to follow our dreams, to educate ourselves, and to listen to what others says. It’s advise that I follow to this very day.

  15. Maggie says

    May I just say that I really like your post and that I have felt a bit like this in my early years (teens and early twenties) but now in my forties I have learned that an old German saying is very true: “Speaking is silver but silence is golden”. I know it does not sound very good in English but I think one can understand the meaning of it.
    I have learned that being more quite can have more power than all those lost words in today’s society that people think are so important.
    A great example are the friends of my fathers and they are in their 70’s, where male voices were of more importance usually than a females, but when they got together they all talked and talked until blue in their face, besides one friend who was always very quite, he just listened and nodded from time to time. When he opened his mouth though to say something the whole crowd of more than 20 people went quite just to hear what he had to say, because they all knew that it was important and wise. He listened to my sister and myself, even when we were kids, he knew that we had a lot to say and when one of the others interrupted us children he would silence them. He was always, and still is a very admired man by everyone who know him.

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