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.

Now that I’ve found myself, why does everyone want to tell me how “not normal” I am?

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.

You may also like...

5 Responses

  1. nicolesbitani says:

    I love your style of writing and am so grateful you’ve pushed back against the pressure to be silent. The world needs your voice! Shushing is such a horrible response to laughter.

    I remember as a child doing a “fun quiz” with my peers at school where we all shared a list online of adjectives and people voted anonymously for our “best” and “worst” traits. Almost every single “worst” trait vote for me went to “loud”, and it’s probably telling that now – decades later – I can’t remember any of the nice words but I remember crying with embarrassment once I knew everyone thought of me as too loud.

    Thank you for being different and as you put it so beautifully “breaking through the barriers of a soundless world.”

  2. Anna says:

    I was also taught to be silent, and I don’t know that I have completely overcome those early lessons. I still only talk when I feel safe, which is only in small groups with people I know well enough to feel safe with. And I am an old lady of 70. Church was never safe for me and I hid behind my outgoing husband. People at church saw him, and assumed that of course I was the same way. Once I was giving a visiting teaching assignment with the explanation that I would have to do the phoning to make arrangements because my partner was so shy. Funny that those phone calls never got made, and when they pushed me after a year again with the idea that I was more outgoing than my partner, I just said to please release me as I was just too busy. I was to shy to explain that I was probably more shy than my partner. The person in charge of the visiting teaching had never seen past my husband to see me.

    And society isn’t really changing as time goes by. My granddaughter had her “best friend” break up with her because she was “too loud.” And well, she is loud. Loud, happy, and full of life. But the friend thought that loud was obnoxious. The friend was allowing my granddaughter to embarrass her because this girl had learned that being loud was not nice or feminine. I am glad my daughter explained that there was nothing wrong with being loud, and that if the friend objects, well she has other friends who like her loud and all.

    It is sad that traits like, quiet, submissive, shy, are considered feminine and good in a woman because those traits are not always healthy.

  3. TeresaHart says:

    This is so me. I talk too much and laugh too loud. So what? It gonna me me, you be you.
    And keep being you until the other loud proud people find you. Well behaved women will not make history. Make your own story, your own HERSTORY. Wonderful woman come in all volumes!

  4. Katie Rich says:

    “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?” These are powerful questions. I am glad that you are here and speaking up, not pretending to be someone else.

  5. Spunky says:

    One of the most important women in my life is a loud woman. Thanks to her, I found my voice. You never know how much of a positive example you are setting by being loud– don’t ever take a shushing personally. That is THEIR issue. Not your’s. ((hugs))

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.