Last week I was driving & flipped on the radio to my favorite station, NPR. Catapulted into a news interview regarding sexual assault awareness on campus, I listened as two women commented on the recent situation with the football players at the University of Minnesota.
Oddly unsurprised by my dispassionate response to the content, I found myself focusing on the disparity between what the women were saying and the sound of their voices.
Let me explain.
Having somehow been connected to the world of academia since 1991, my experience of campus culture is that there are gaps in communication between policy and campus needs, upper administration and faculty, faculty and students, sports and… well every other student group. Areas get fragmented due to the feeling of scarcity... of funding, of support, of space...
One thing Shakespeare has taught me is that there is no such thing as a protagonist or antagonist (those are just labels created long after, Shakespeare knew humans are too complex to simply be categorized as good or evil). Nonetheless, I shake my head at the fact we’re still having this conversation about violence… that in a place where the focus is on higher learning, we are yet unable to effectively communicate with one another in ways that example leadership for the next generation.
So the content, was not surprising. No new information. No new ideas. What was surprising to me were the broken sounds of women, purported to be voices for the next generation.
Vocal fry… that low gravelly scrape that happens when there isn’t enough breath underneath the uttered thought. Tone broken up by little pops of air, often heard in twenty-something females… now heard in women in their 30’s and 40’s… the sounds are low, unsupported. These are voices that cannot carry or command or convey with conviction.
Generations of women who have much to say but cannot speak.
Having lived the last 14 years in the Midwest, it’s quite rare I hear a woman of any age on her voice. If it’s not vocal fry, it’s what I call the nice girl voice (higher pitches, soft, usually accompanied with a tight jaw or pulling back of the chin, or smiles that are nicely “appropriate” but without inner authenticity). Of course there are also the women who shout, too... which is equally difficult for others to hear through.
What I'm talking about is contradiction in communication. The words say one thing, but the sound of the voice conveys something entirely different. You may think… ah… well, you’ve been tuned to voices & body, but most people don’t notice that…
Perhaps. But there is so much more to communication than the content of what we’re saying… if we’re present & listening, we consciously or subconsciously gather information with our eyes, ears, mind & gut… It’s partially why technology can cause so many miscommunication problems. We can’t see the speaker or hear how something was said or sense the full context out of which the words have been written, so we fill in the blanks, often erroneously.
What’s the alternative? What's possible? Syncing up your body with your voice and intent. Using your whole voice every time you speak… If you liken your voice to an entire orchestra, it’s as if every member has shown up exquisitely prepared, able to freely play. Your voice is an extension of your body, so the relationship you have with your body matters.
What I heard that afternoon was women asked to convey intelligent, useful, and instructive information, but without the breath support that would actually carry their voices onto the bones of the listeners…
How can we land our voices on one another's bones... so when we speak we can be heard...
Each of us has a story worth hearing, worth telling, worth living... how can you empower yourself to fully access the expansive possibilities...
with ready willingness,