We Don’t Know What To Do With Loud, Outspoken Women
I remember the first time I was shushed.
I was in Utah, laughing too hard at some silly joke. It was the first time I had belly-laughed since my grandmother’s passing that March. In a moment, months of shedding tears of soul-crushing grief seemed to evaporate into the air, filling me with a sense that all would be well again.
Instead of the acceptance of joyfulness, a friend shushed me. The action stung like a slap across the face as I recoiled back into my tormented emotions.
Growing up, I was as quiet as a dormouse. I followed the Barbadian philosophy that children should speak only when spoken to. At school, I kept to an extremely small friend group who shared similar interests. In time, I found solace in the soft tones of our lunchtime conversations, reflecting on our childhood dreams.
In high school, I recognized silence was the ammunition bullies used to overthrow quieter individuals to bend them to their will. For a moment, I followed along because of what was expected by school hierarchy. I had long cashed in my popularity points as I resigned myself to my solitary fate in the shadows.
In time, I soon found my voice grasping at the small moments of courage that allowed me to speak my mind openly. Years upon years of hiding my inner most thoughts had left me with a verbal diarrhea that seemed to spew nonstop. I became more confident in my words, cheered on my mother and grandmother as I charted my own path in the world.
Despite my best efforts, my courage didn’t last long.
Like stacked dominos, my resolve fell leaving a scared, naive soul left behind adapting to a new reality after high school. Still, suppression had done its damage. I left with the negative scar tissue that my passivity had allowed. I discovered that words were dangerous weapons when wielded by unprepared, immature hands as I became a chip to be bartered by friends who threw me to the “hyenas of life” due to my own inability to stick up for myself. I remained wounded by the pain my silence had caused as years of unresolved trauma appeared in the form of self-doubt and crippling depression.
Soon after my eighteen birthday, I sat on a therapist’s couch following the first of many suicidal attempts. The heavy burden of my own silence brought me to my knees as I was forced to reveal the parts of myself that I had selectively kept hidden from others, forcing me to remove the lids off the jars containing my most dangerous demons.
In therapy, I learned the importance of being vocal in a world that sought to silence me. I learned to lean into my emotions whether they were scary or volatile. I was taught the tools to overcome my own fears in ways I had never taught as a child.
In the years that followed, I used these tips as guiding lights as I entered college. With a new fire in my eyes, I championed for myself. I cheered for myself. I put myself first even when the world dictated that I shouldn’t be confidently myself.
I’m not suggesting by any means that I made all the right decisions or said the right things. In my efforts to make amends, I’ve apologized more times for my mouth now that I’m older and more secure in who I am.
So, when I was shushed in that small apartment in Provo, my mind went blank.
What would I be without being myself? Who would I have to pretend to be to appease the crowds of critics waiting for me to fail?
In the years since that encounter, more times that most I have heard twisted insults as those in my circle force me into the bonds of conformity. I recognize in Latter Day Saint culture, to be myself is to be an outsider. To be acceptable is to be passive and subservient.
To be accepted is to be quiet, still and “perfect”.
I am none of those things. I am loud, sassy with an attitude to last two lifetimes. I may not be the perfect example of what it means to be a Latter-Day Saint woman, but I am myself. I stand by the woman I am now whose journey to discover self no longer has detours, pitstops and sharp s-bend turns.
I stand in my loudness thanking God for the African ancestors who came before me(vocal in their own way and unapologetically themselves), recognizing my voice breaking through the barriers of a soundless world.
We may not know as a church what to do with loud women. We may hush them, roll our eyes or even bash them with our barbed insults. We may find harsh words about them by the bucketful or cast them aside for being labeled “different”.
I crave the difference thrust onto my emotionally weary shoulders. The rebel lives inside of me. She welcomes the chaos, marching to the beat of her own drum, creating a loudness of her very own.