(Originally Published in On Purpose Magazine February 2019)
(Photo Credit Liz Lemon,
Women’s March 2017)
In a song called Liberation, Christina Aguilera begins by asking, “Where are you? Are you there?” Her words are barely a whisper. A calling out to a part of her that lies dormant. The rest of the song is a soft melody with piano and violins and other string instruments, until the end when she whispers, “Remember.” I don’t know what her personal intention was for the song. For me, it was a call out to a part of myself that had been suppressed for too long. After listening to her song today, I had a remembrance of a time when I had things to say and no place to say them. It reminded me that when I started to blog in 2008, I started every writing session with. “Dear Listener.” The subtext was, “Dear Listener, Are you there? Can you hear me?”
Liberation is one of those words, like power, that can bring up feelings of discomfort. Liberation means “setting free from oppression.” In order to heal and liberate your voice, you have to be willing to admit that you are, or have been, oppressed. As the artist and activist Judy Chicago, recently said on the Netflix film: Feminist: “liberation in the 70’s meant ‘you had to be disobedient.'”
For a moment, let’s push aside any feelings you may have about suffragettes and the second wave of feminism, the liberation movement in the 70’s. Separate from that, I want to ask you, “Were you ever taught to be a good girl?” Feel that for a moment. Did someone ever say to you, “Be a good girl.” What did it mean to be a good girl? Could a good girl have a liberated voice? Did she have to be disobedient to be free?
A deeper clue about the conditioning around being a good girl came to me recently when my mother read one of the stories I wrote in, “Heal My Voice: An Evolutionary Woman’s Journey.”(As an aside, this article is not about bashing my mother. I understand that being a good girl to her meant that I would be safe. If I didn’t challenge anyone with my voice and I was a good girl, I would be safe. That is a huge discovery in itself.) My story in the Heal My Voice book evolved around a moment when I yelled at a housemate in 2014, the year I shared a house with seven people in Los Angeles. My mother said she couldn’t read that story because she didn’t raise me to yell at people. She raised me to be “a good girl.” In the story, I talked about how I had acquiesced to someone for 4 months because she was having a hard time adjusting to sharing a house with so many people. I shut down my needs and desires and did anything I could to avoid conflict and make it easier for her. Although everyone had some private space of their own in the house, she was having a hard time with the shared spaces. Everything came to a head after I returned from a three-week business trip and she had set up her acupuncture office in my bedroom. Setting boundaries and asking her to remove her stuff from my bedroom by a certain date didn’t work. And on the final night, when her massage table blocked my ability to get into my bed, I snapped. All of the suppression and holding back and acquiescing finally boiled over and I screamed at her. The other housemates clapped and cheered that I had liberated my voice. My “good girl, people pleasing, community building” persona was stretched to the limit. I couldn’t repress my feelings any longer. To really claim my space and stand up for myself I had to break through the nice girl my mother had taught me to be.
The only problem with that scenario was that I didn’t have enough practice with my voice to use it firmly and directly before reaching that boiling point. There was no place in my childhood or in adulthood where it was safe to be messy emotionally. No place to express anger, fear, hurt, or anything else that felt uncomfortable. No place to practice expressing my thoughts and feelings and practice trying on different hats or different ideas. It took that moment with the roommate to help me break free from oppression. My liberated voice can now express feelings of anger, hurt, fear, as well as upliftment, joy and confidence.
As we watch women liberating their voices at the Women’s March and in the #metoo and #timesup movements, we are going to witness women with feelings. Feelings are clues that are connected to intuition. Feelings and liberation are a super power. It is time. We need your voice. We need your voice to create a ripple effect of liberation in the world. When you follow your heart, when you listen to your intuition, when you show up because you know in your heart that this is where you are meant to serve to offer, to lead, you are using your liberated voice.
I leave you with a few questions to explore:
What does liberation mean to you?
Where do you feel you have the freedom to speak, to express your thoughts and feelings?
Do you feel liberated at the dinner table, in your business, in your community, in the world?
Where do you feel your voice is shut down or not welcomed?
What is one step you could take to liberate your voice?
Andrea Hylen: Author of Heal My Voice: An Evolutionary Woman’s Journey. Creator of The Writing Incubator, on-line writing community. www.andreahylen.com