If You’re A Woman With Something to Say, Speak Up, dammit

This was last week’s post on MidLife-Beauty. I’m posting it here because I think we need to read it again and again. I just came back from another women-centered conference and while the majority of the speakers would do the Toastmasters proud, there were a few who–well, I’m still not sure what they said.
public-speakingCan you write when you’re mad? I can’t. If I’m truly pissed, not mildly aggrieved, I can’t get past the uproar in my head to focus on anything else. And then, that makes me even madder.

I don’t get that angry very often. Fortunately. Today it’s just a concatenation of little annoyances that built one on top of the next to leave me feeling ambushed by a surge of fucking, weasel-pissing, goddamning frustration that is billed in neon in my mind as

I’m Not Getting Anything Done

I vented to a friend and felt better for about two seconds. Maybe I need a bigger audience for my vent.

I’m Now Venting:

I spent the past day and a half at a conference of sorts for women interested in being entrepreneurs. The first half day was pretty good. The organizer, who is a brand name speaker, was dynamic. She had lots to say and said it well. I took notes. I felt jazzed. I went home enthused about what day two would bring.

Day Two was a major disappointment. Major.

Part of it was that my entrepreneurial intentions have nothing to do with a retail product. Thus, the advice from successful marketers of tea bags or baby towels mean nothing to me.

Part of it was that my years online mean I couldn’t benefit from the Intro to Social Media 101 approach that the speakers took. I was the wrong audience.

But a large part of it–and my anger right now–has to do with this: Goddamit, women, speak up. Enough with the wispy voice. It may have been attractive in the days of crinolines, but today, it’s standing in the way of people taking you seriously.

If what you’re saying is worth saying–and you mean it–say it loud and proud. Try to get your voice down a register. Know that Minnie Mouse and Betty Boop are not good role models in this regard.

And if you’re looking to be an entrepreneur, particularly one who speaks at meetings and conferences, take a public speaking course. Join Toastmasters. Get a coach.

Do not stand in front of a roomful of people and low-talk your way through your presentation. Do not hold the microphone near your mouth and then keep turning your head from side to side away from it. Do not be afraid of the mic: it’s your friend, because it’s the reason your audience can hear your pearls of wisdom.

Creating an intimate relationship between you and your audience cannot be done at the same decibel level that you normally speak. The trick is to give the illusion that you are speaking personally and only to each and every person present, but to do it so that she or he in the far reaches of the room can clearly hear every word you’re saying.

It’s called projection. It’s how actors make their lines heard in the back of the second balcony. It’s a technique that anyone can learn.

Why does this make me so mad? Because we women do ourselves such a disservice when we don’t take seriously how we actually sound. The timbre of one’s voice conveys a lot of non-verbal information that affects how we’re perceived, judged and rewarded for our efforts. Speak softly and it can come across as hesitant, unsure, fearful. Voice a complaint or negative comment in anything but a straightforward manner and it can come across as whining.

Yes, yes,, I know that these are epithets that have historically been applied to women to reduce their effectiveness. I can just see that commenter who tells me I’m buying into the male-dominated version of the world. I look at it, rather, as buying into reality as it exists right now. Maybe years down the road, our culture will have evolved to the point that Minnie Mouse will be a voice of authority. But right now is what we’re dealing with.

Right now, we need to say what we mean and say it loud and proud.


Photo credit: Publicspeakingsuperpowers.com


  • LaTonya Baldwin

    I’m not ranting but if I am, not gonna apologize. I really resent, hate the two messages we are taught from birth: “Be nice” and “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.” Both are telling us, women what to feel and what is appropriate to express. This is in part why so many women are soft-spoken and fail to speak assertively.

    Bite me. I’m nice when I feel like it and I say what feel and think. I’m not a mean person. I’m honest, open and opinionated. I’m not going to compromise how I communicate to not offend someone. As a black woman, I’m also really sick of being told I’m angry, too loud and/or too aggressive. Sometimes, I am angry but how about we stop pigeon-holing communication styles and work harder at listening and back to the topic at hand: speak up?

    I’m there with you. Say what you think and say it like you expect to be heard.

    Getting off my soapbox, now. Thanks.

  • Morgana Morgaine

    Well, I come late to respond to this post…but I must! I have totally lost patience and respect for “little girl voices” in real time women! Mothers need to teach daughters and curb “barbie doll” speech, mannerisms, and looks. Sorry, but when I look at a cloned row of young women all looking the same and then opening their mouths with a little girl plea to be heard or affirmed or noticed, I see “red” knowing that unconscious dis-empowered parents make the same in their girl children.
    Beyond that, I just know we have a responsibility to help each other become the expansive -authentic- real- kind-embodied women that is our true genetic inheritance. The world awaits us in ever growing numbers. I call us borderless broads, whatever our age, we are not pseudo-men nor do we want to be. We are an expression of what loves and defends life and we are so joyous that we cannot be contained. No phoney “dolls” need apply. I’m here! You are here! We have a brilliance that can take us all to being grounded in who we really are. Someone said to me: “you are the mountain, not the weather”! YES!

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryann.candito Maryann Candito

    Thank you Jane, I couldn’t agree more…I have this part of me that wants to just shout to everyone out there – it’s your life dammit, go out and create it, manifest it, attract to you everything you want, including financial freedom- you have that ability! Stop whining and saying ___is not working for me- figure out why it’s not working and make it work! It takes action, clearing our old patterns and adopting a “failure in not an option” attitude. Thank you again Jane!

    • Jane Gassner

      But, Maryann, it is so much easier just to blame the world. One can wrap oneself in a cozy blanket of victimhood!

  • http://twitter.com/TheNewElizabeth Elizabeth B

    Thank you! I am sick to death of hearing women sound like Minnie Mouse. We can’t be taken seriously if we sound like children or cartoon characters.

    • Jane Gassner

      I really feel bad calling out the Minnie Mouses, Elizabeth B, because I’m not sure how much of that is vocal chords and how much is habit. However, I can name a number of prominent women who project authority and confidence despite sounding like Minnie. Kristen Chenoweth is one, and I’m sure it’s not coincidence that she’s an actor/singer for whom projection is a way of life.

  • http://twitter.com/LynneSpreen Lynne Spreen

    You are so right! I agree, and further, I think invisibility after 50 is partly self-inflicted for many of the same reasons. Am I blaming the victim? Yes, but she’s not completely powerless. Per the Power and Influence training film (see link), at about the 12-minute mark, Professor Gruenfeld says women are socialized to project lower-status body language, and further, that 93% of your presentation is body language. A bad combo. Check it out: http://leanin.org/education/ PS Sheryl Sandberg offers these CEO-level 20-minute training films for free if you’re interested. I found the Power and Influence one to be empowering, if kind of chilling.

    • Jane Gassner

      Thanks for the link, Lynne. I’ll have a look and check out the Sandbergs films as well. That comment that you found one film to be empowering and chilling has me really really curious!

  • Laurie Kennedy

    A wonderful article. It reminds me of, ironically–or not ironically but what ever–Margaret Thatcher–who had an unfortunate voice and was told that she did and she took lessons to lower her voice. And of course she spoke slowly and with authority in spite of her views which I found distasteful. I’m sorry– I know how excited you were to go to this conference–at least the first day was good. But yeah you are not marketing tea bags or baby towels. I hope your next conference goes better. Will call later this week. Living in the world of Pinter right now who i’ve become very fond of. Love you Laur

    • Jane Gassner

      The next conference more than made up for the disappointment of the first one, Laur.

Previous post:

Next post: