The Hart of the Matter: The importance of a woman’s voice

This is my very last column of the year, so please indulge me as I make it slightly more personal than my other articles. Each Hart of the Matter has I wrote about was close to my heart and important to my values. This is why my column has been so important to me throughout the year — it allowed me the means to use my voice and speak about issues that matter to me. A voice is a powerful thing.

Ever since I could speak, I used my voice. My voice would let me take control of my surroundings. I was able to speak my mind. In group activities in elementary and middle school, I would take charge, dictating and organizing  While I was called bossy, my male peers were called leaders.

Being a girl and unafraid to use my own voice allowed many such double standards to come to light. I was frustrated that girls are supposed to fit in and be submissive, not take charge of her surroundings. That was for the boys.

I would say something in class or a group, and later a male would say the same thing. He was taken seriously, while I often found myself dismissed.

This is not an experience exclusive to me. Women everywhere have been shamed for speaking up, or talked over in a conversation.

When I started working in student journalism, I found a place where my voice was celebrated. Through journalism, I was allowed the means to develop my voice and publish it. And, more importantly, my words made a difference. Sometimes, students would come up to me and tell me how my articles offered them a new perspective. I got to talk to Principal Giglio about issues that were important to me

Journalism was instrumental in my acceptance of my voice. Being told constantly that I should not be speaking up had me believing such, but once I found a community that encouraged my voice I was able to use it. If I hadn’t, none of those little differences would have been made.

Places like this, where girls can find a community that empowers their voices, are absolutely crucial and so absolutely lacking.

In high school journalism, female students are censored disproportionately to male students, a trend noticed by the Student Press Law Center and later supported by a study from the University of Kansas.

 Despite this, women make up the majority of communications majors in college, according to DataUSA. Yet this does not translate into the workforce; only about 35 percent of newsroom employees or supervisors are women, according to the American Society of News Editors and Nieman Reports. There are always attempts to silence us.

I am not the first to take note of this alarming flip. One of my colleagues on the Epitaph, fellow columnist Thomas Denome, wrote about the issue earlier this year. In better words than mine, he comes to the same conclusion I have as to why there is still a lack of women in the industry: people don’t like tough women.

People particularly do not like the tough women who utilize their voices, which is essentially in the job description of a journalist. Society’s bias against strong women comes from decades of gender roles, as a means to keep women in their supposed place. This is exactly why using one’s voice matters more than ever. A woman speaking up is how change has been made, and how change and progress will continue to be made.

In order to empower future generations of girls, places where women can find a way to build and practice using their voice are essential. I found my place working on a school newspaper. To everyone who supported this endeavor by reading a column, picking up a paper or even writing nasty comments on my web articles, I am forever thankful. I have been incredibly lucky to be able to work in this environment.

Not all are as lucky. Nationally, student journalism programs are getting defunded, along with art and creative writing. Places of expression are shrinking, and girls are still getting censored and told to be less assertive. This is stunting the growth of our society as well as quelling the voices of our future.

 

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