Transforming Silence into Language and Action on International Day of the Girl


Reading my personal essay during our school's assembly on International Day of the Girl (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).
Reading my personal essay during our school’s assembly on International Day of the Girl (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).

Audre Lorde proclaims in her essay entitled, “The Transformation of Silence to Language and Action” that the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation.

On Tuesday, October 8, my high school feminism class hosted an amazing assembly about intersectionality. We spoke about experiences that not only affected our lives but make us who we are today. This assembly allowed my fellow classmates and me to explore and showcase different dimensions of our lives that we wouldn’t normally address.

I was very nervous about this assignment and the assembly because it took me out of my comfort zone. It’s one thing to write about your life for only yourself, but to read it out loud to your class and then to the entire school was a big step for me.

When it was my turn to get up to the podium I could feel my legs shaking. Every part of me wanted to run out of the auditorium. However, I started to read my piece and by the end I was glad that I did. I read:

Reflecting back on this time in my life, I realize now that I wasn’t always a strong-minded person. I wasn’t always comfortable in my skin. I let societal expectations create my definition of beauty. As Sam, a woman writer of color wrote in, “Loving Your Body in the Age of Patriarchy”, “every day that I step out and love myself is an act of resistance.

I wrote in my own piece that I can relate to this statement because “being an African-American woman in a society dominated by the Master Narrative, you have to be comfortable and proud of who you are and where you come from….We as African-American women tend to think that if we aren’t skinny, or light skinned, or have straight or mixed hair we aren’t marketable or considered pretty enough.”

This part of my essay was very important for me to share to the audience because I connected to iton a very personal level. Growing up, I wasn’t happy with my appearance. My father is biracial and I always wanted to have light colored eyes and relaxed hair like him. Instead, I have dark brown eyes and kinky, curly hair. Although it sounds superficial, these things took away from my confidence and I had very low self-esteem. It took me a while to come to terms with my appearance.  As I got older, I found ways to manage my hair and how to present myself in a way that I felt comfortable with; I found my own sense of beauty.

My peers shared stories of privilege, class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, age and geography. As a whole, I believe we realized that a 4-6 page paper wasn’t enough to encapsulate our lives. We lived in a world with many dimensions and even the smallest of stories have shaped us and molded us into who we were standing up at the pulpit. With the Audre Lorde quote projecting as the backdrop of our presentation, we were in fact transforming silence into language in hopes of not only us, but our audience to have a self-revelation on their lives as well.

Here I am with my feminist classmates at the UN for International Day of the Girl. I am second from the right. (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez).
Here I am with my feminist classmates at the UN for International Day of the Girl. I am second from the right. (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez).

Later that week, on Friday, October 11 the second annual International Day of the Girl was celebrated at the United Nations. I was very excited about this experience because I had always drove past the UN but had never actually been inside. After getting through security and walking into the room where the meeting was actually going to be held, I felt very official. I would be sitting with diplomats from different countries all over the world who hold high titles but we would be sitting as equals. We would be all sitting as active listeners, who stand and support women’s rights and equal opportunities for girls internationally.

The most inspiring speaker of the day was a Mexican girl named Diana. Her opening statement was: “My name is Diana and I am undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic”. This phenomenal girl was the youngest leader of New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC). She is committed to the fight for fundamental rights for everyone, including undocumented immigrants. Her assertiveness in the statement above blew me away. This is a girl who is younger than I am speaking out and acting fiercely and fearlessly for what she believes in. I am inspired and impressed by her boldness and confidence. *Two snaps for Diana*

After hosting an assembly and attending Girls Speak Out at the UN, I felt like I was a part of a larger celebration of IDG across the nation and the world. Although I didn’t physically go out and put out petitions to be signed for equal opportunity for girls internationally, I felt very inspired to address the issues that I heard come up at the speak-out that were relevant to my daily life. I felt a part of the celebration because I was educated on the issue and I was at least given the chance to make a change.

66 million girls are out of school globally. That’s 66 million girls that don’t have the same opportunity that I have. That’s 66 million girls that don’t get basic schooling, that are more acceptable to early marriage, trafficking, and early parenthood. 66 million is just TOO MUCH.

17 thoughts on “Transforming Silence into Language and Action on International Day of the Girl

  1. Every girl has a period in her life were she feels self conscious about who she is and how she looks. That is one of the hardest battles to fight in the transformation from childhood to adulthood. Your piece encompasses that perfectly. I don’t think its ” superficial ” because I went through it myself in a different way. My sister was always blond even in the winter ,when my natural highlights had already faded, her hair was still bright yellow. What I envied most about my sister where her grey blue eyes. Especially as a child ,it was so difficult to have someone who shared DNA with me be the stereotypical poster child for beauty. It didn’t help that she used to tell me I was adopted. The hardest part of my transformation is over, however, that does not mean that I still don’t struggle with my body image. It makes me feel more secure that it is a struggle that my friends are also battling.

  2. Maddie! I related to your piece and I appreciate your courage to share what you did because I know that it is a hard thing to do! In response to the intersectionality essays, I particularly loved the line, “As a whole, I believe we realized that a 4-6 page paper wasn’t enough to encapsulate our lives.” I could not agree more! I additionally felt empowered by Diana’s speech. I am glad to know that you are a different, more confident person and hope that you can work towards helping other girls reach the same goals.

  3. I’m fascinated by your love for uniqueness, especially in relation to matters of image. I agree that it’s very difficult, in the environment of strict conventionalities that we now live in, to grant a complete freedom of expression: I connected with your piece as you quoted Sam, “every day that I step out and love myself is an act of resistance”. It’s heartbreaking to admit that it’s so difficult, already for young adults, to break these limits; I think that it’s really important that you pointed this out. I’m happy to read that IDG conveyed so much meaning for you and pushed you to raise awareness!

  4. I completely agree that 66 million girls who are out of school is far from exceptable. To think it doesn’t even count in the number of girls who are getting a poor education because of the weak education system in many areas, including many public schools in the United States.

  5. I found it very interesting hearing about your story of how each day loving yourself is an act of resistance. I really love that quote it employs so many great aspects of our class and of feminism in general. When it comes to the everyday act of being comfortable in your body while I can’t understand the struggle myself I really appreciate people who are willing to discuss that publicly and talk about how it is a difficult thing to do.

  6. I think that its great you were able to share your feelings going into the assembly for the day of the girl. I was also skeptical about reading my piece, and was not sure about some of the reactions I might get from my peers, and teachers. I enjoyed how you ended your post with a powerful statistic. It allowed me to stay deeply involved in your post, with very little points of dullness.

  7. I was also very nervous about sharing my piece at the assembly. The thought of everyone knowing the struggles that I have dealt with is very intimidating. When each of our classmates read his or her piece, I felt like there was a strong and powerful connection that held us together. From hearing all of our stories, I felt like I was not so alone. There were themes that connected us all together and I felt like we really did transform silence into language and action. I’m sure that Audre Lorde would be very proud!

  8. I loved your story and blog post. I know it is hard to tell your personal story in front of people. I felt the same as you and after reading it I felt good about myself just like you. This course has been very informative to both of us. It has helped up grow as a person. Now you know that you have the guts and ability to speak up. I love how you are honest with yourself and had the courage to say it. Also, I agree with you when you say “two snaps to Diana” because she was truly amazing and motivating. I look forward to hearing more about your growth.

  9. I love how you found yourself through IDG and your intersectionality piece. I also really like how you talked about the Master Narrative and how you had to fight against it in order to be comfortable and proud of who you are.

  10. Maddie, I really related when you talked about being self conscious. It is something that everyone goes through, girls and boys.
    I also completely agree that 4-6 pages was not enough to “encapsulate our lives.” I also agree that hosting the assembly made me feel apart of a wider feminist community.
    The statistic that 66 million girls are out of school globally is sickening. Education is the way to change the world. How are girls going to change the world if they are not getting the education they need?

  11. It is really great to see how personal the intersectionality essay was for you, and how you went from not being very confident about your appearance, to preaching womanism. I also really like how you say that being at the UN and surrounded by diplomats who hold high titles we were all still sitting as equals. You made it very clear that we were all there for the same reason, and that was to stand and support women’s right.

    I like how you talk about the “most inspiring speaker of the day” and how it blew you away because she too did blow me away. Her fierceness and fearlessness were definitely two key factors that made her so inspiring.

  12. I love in the beginning when you quote yourself and talk briefly about the pressures of beauty because it is definitely something that every woman and girl everywhere experiences and for most of us it’s hard to put into words. I also like how at the end you repeat the statistic regarding the 66 million girls out of school globally. It is so powerful and I agree the number is WAY too big and now it’s a number I won’t forget.

  13. I really enjoyed reading your piece, and can relate to many of the experiences you wrote about. I completely agree with Sam’s statement “every day that I step out and love myself is an act of resistance.” It’s amazing and inspiring that you were able to find your “own sense of beauty,” in a world that constantly tells us we’re not good enough because we don’t meet societies unrealistic expectations of beauty. I also found Diana and her commitment to equality very inspiring, as well as her ability to captivate the room full of hundreds of men and women, most of whom were at least twice her age.

  14. I really can see the title of this piece ringing true for you as you develop your feminist voice in this post! I really enjoy reading hearing about your newfound perspective on girls image and how that relates to your culture and intersectionality. I definitely relate to the quote “everyday I step out and love myself is an act of resistance.” And it’s important that we stop letting patriarchy dictate what makes girls feel beautiful! And 66 million girls out of school is definitely TOO MUCH, and spreading awareness of this fact is helping, even of we arent quite as active as we want to be yet. I look forward to your next published piece!

  15. Your piece speaks for me, to me and about me! As African-American women we have multi-layered identities, from the many kinks in our hair to the diversity of our skin colors. I think your piece is particularly special because you tell your audience to love themselves. Something that can be forgotten the haste of daily life. By loving who we are we began to appreciate our qualities and the qualities of others.

  16. I love your piece! I think you perfectly shine a light on the added hardships of being an African-American girl in this country. I think you pin point on the conflict of body image in relation to where we come from. In the Combahee piece, the women mentioned how multi-dimensional an African-Americans woman’s life is. I think over time, African-American woman have lost their light and self-love. I think through your piece you are providing your reader with a pick-me-up. For some reason I couldn’t help but think about India.Aries’ song “Video”..
    “I’m not the average girl from your video
    And I ain’t built like a supermodel
    But I learned to love myself unconditionally,
    Because I am a queen”
    Great post!

  17. I just want to reflect quickly on the beauty ideals we receive as children. I think that as I have reflected on similarly on Hannah’s post, we as girls and women of color are stuck. If we are too curvy, too dark, our hair too curly, or too skinny we are labeled because we don’t fit in our box of Latina or African American. We are already told that we won’t reach the “White Ideal” and so we have to fit into the white ideal of our Check box ethnicity. This affects how we think, we judge, our motivation and our aspirations because we are told that as girls beauty is everything.

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