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Happy IWD2020! The Empowered Voice

The Empowered Voice

Dear Friend

“It only takes one voice, at the right pitch, to start an avalanche.”
- Dianna Hardy

A week or so ago, two extraordinary young women, Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai met for the first time. In the same week, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced for up to 25 years for rape, a historic victory for the #MeToo movement and campaign to prevent a third runway at Heathrow was successful.
Here's some reflections on how the power of both individual and collective voices of people of all genders can move mountains and change the world. 

Girl: A Song for IWD

As we reflect on the power of women's voices this #IWD2020, I offer up my annual song, Girl, this year inspired by Malawi Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, known as The Terminator, for her work annulling child marriage and making sure that young girls receive an education.  If this cause moves you, do join me in supporting Plan International who are working to make sure young girls stay in education.

The Power of the Strong Voice
When a young woman is encouraged to own her power and is given basic skills in claiming her own voice then huge, good changes follow. - Naomi Wolf
There many aspects to claiming the power of the voice and it is a unique journey for each individual. Time spent getting to know our own voices is invaluable as we come to understand the peaks and depths of our own unique instrument of expression.  There are mountains of our vocal range to climb and the valleys of our deepest creative longings to mine. There are also rocky precipices and places of peril  - fears, inhibitions, wounds and old stories that can often stop us in our tracks. However, as these two amazing young women demonstrate, when we face down the bullets, haters, oppressors, naysayers, bullies, extremists, critics... when we refuse to be silenced, when a voice is unleashed that resonates with many others, whole movements are formed and change happens:
"We still have a long way to go for women in the criminal justice system, but it’s also a message to those who would hurt women. It’s no longer going to be business as usual,” - Gloria Allred, who represented Miriam Haley, one of the main witnesses in the Harvey Weinstein case.

The Power to Express
You start out in life sensitive and full of wonder, open to the world and all its possibilities, but, then, after a certain age, these qualities are shamed, beaten, bullied out of you by the culture and, often, by the men who run our nations, corporations, legal firms, sporting clubs, schools, advertising agencies, film industries and media outlets. Is it any wonder that men are never taught to deal with their emotions in a healthy way?
..Centuries of patriarchy have raised boys to reject and scorn the interior world where our deepest feelings are lodged. Why should it surprise us, therefore, that boys might grow into men who view women as less than fully human? 
David Leser

When fully aligned with our authentic truth, our voice is an innate, natural source of power which can rise, roar, sing, speak and express every emotion in our human experience.  Traditional patriarchal norms that prevent men from crying and expressing themselves can be a contributing factor in male abuse, violence and suicide. Dismantling these norms and giving men a space where they can express themselves safely is part of the mission of movements such as She is Not Your Rehab and Andy's Men's Clubs.  This is one of many reasons why I am proud to lead ManSong, a now 40 strong male voice choir where we holler sea shanties, clown around with mad pop songs and cry over epic war ballads. 

The Power to Change
I think it’s important for people – including bullies and haters – to see me because people need to see there are kids like me out there. Gender creative kids need to see other kids like themselves. The more people see people like me, the less “different” we are and the more they accept people like me. Besides, I’m not ashamed of who I am. - C.J. - Gender is Over
Our voice can be powerful tool to enable us to create new possibilities and freedom around gender.  We liberate ourselves and widen the horizons of our communities and societies when we reclaim ourselves from oppressive gender norms.  Gender stereotypes such as boys don't cry or girls are sissy constrict everyone.  The LGBTQ community are yet to be fully honoured for the leadership they bring to our world in empowering a full rainbow spectrum of creativity around gender and sexual oppression.  It was an honour to sing with Sarah Fisher and Welcome Choir at the Croydon Civic Launch of LGBT History Month in February and I am looking forward to a lively spring sing with LGBTQ friends & allies at Many Voices on 14th March.

The Power to Play
An hour of play discovers more than a year of conversation. - Anon Proverb
I had a truly wonderful day with Esther Austin, multi-talented Editor of Turning Point Magazine and the many talented folks who shared their gifts and attended the Celebration of Life. Over an afternoon of dancing, laughing, sharing, eating, trading, exchanging - which could all be described as playing together -  rich connections were made and warmth generated.  For me, singing with people for just a couple of hours at choir - playing with our voices - creates such an deeply reassuring feeling of friendliness - of being welcomed, recognised, seen, heard and known.  It is as profound as it can be fun and silly. This is the wisdom of children, who naturally experiment with their voices all day long, whooping, screaming, yelling, howling, yabbering, burbling, giggling. The gurgle of a happy baby is an irresistible invitation back into the zone of vocal play.

The Power of Voices in Solidarity
"I cried the first time I heard Un Violador en Tu Camino. I’m so proud of the young women of today – and this performance represents us all.” - Victoria Gallardo, 71
On Valentine's Night I joined members of the Women's Strike Assembly to perform the song A Rapist In Your Path/ Un Violador en Tu Camino in Trafalgar Square.  The song was written by Lastesis, a feminist theatre group based in Valparaíso, Chile and inspired by the work of the Argentinian theorist Rita Segato.  The accompanying dance features squats, the position female protestors are made to assume when arrested by Chilean police and has been performed at Santiago’s National Stadium in Chile, the site of a prison and torture camp after Pinochet's 1973 military coup. The song has gone viral and been performed by women all over the world, and it was a powerful moment of solidarity to perform it at Trafalgar Square, feeling connected to not own women, but to people of all genders who are actively seeking empowerment and change.
In our voices ride the echoes of the voices of those who have gone before and those who are yet to come.
Our voices count, our voices matter and our voices are powerful.

Wishing you a playfully empowered March

Face Paint thanks to Stephanie's Faces of Fantasy
at Esther Austin's Celebration of Life ;)