Girl Power: Overcoming Silence!

Here I am reading my personal essay on race, class, and gender on our International Day of the Girl assembly  (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).
Here I am reading my personal essay on race, class, and gender on our International Day of the Girl assembly
(photo credit: Lexie Clinton).

International Day of the Girl is October 11 each year. On that day, we recognize the struggles and triumphs of girls globally and we speak out on girls’ issues.

I am a sixteen year old girl whose birthday is June 2. Personally, I believe that International Day of the Girl should be on June 2. I believe that International Day of the Girl should also be on June 1, 3, 4, 5, and October 10, 12, 13.

I believe that International Day of the Girl should be all 365 days of the year. Each and every day, girls around the world of all ages should be encouraged to question their environments, to pick up a pen and paper or a book, to declare their bodies their own, and feel empowered to speak their and OUR silences.

In my mind, every day has become International Day of the Girl. It has taken me a while, but finally I have become aware of the power of one single voice, even if that begins with discovering my own.

In my high school feminism class, I have not only heard the voices of the greatest feminists, but have taken on the role of becoming my own force. A  quote I love by fierce and fabulous feminist Audre Lorde is: “Your silence will not protect you.”

This line has made me really think about myself. I have thought a lot about silence and the role it plays on girls. My whole life, I have been burdened by silence. In my Puerto Rican family, it is seen as virtuous for a girl, a young girl especially, to be seen but not heard. My opinion did not matter because for me being a child and a girl, I had no choice. I, like many girls worldwide and daily, experienced a forced silence by my culture and later, my inhibitions.

No matter how much I disagreed with what was being said around me or how much I hated that I was not outspoken or confident, all of these forces silenced me, and kept me vulnerable and scared.

Silence is what destroys relationships, families, and humanity. Silence has made the girl who was raped blame herself, blame her actions, her clothing and has made her question all of the above. Silence has forced girls to stay home and not pursue their education because it does not matter to those around her. Silence has held us all back at one point or another because we are scared of what we truly want and think because it may not always be a part of the status quo, because our parents and culture will disown us.

We need to realize that things unsaid are never changed. The oppressors will continue to oppress. We girls have been taught that our silence will make us good girls, better wives, and submissive lovers; these are the only roles we have been given since birth.

Yet, I will not be silenced.

No, I will not. And I am not going to let my sisters, my best friends, my classmates, my fellow girls worldwide be silenced. Not only will I speak out on International Day of the Girl, but since everyday must be International Day of the Girl, that means that every day is another day where my hopes, my dreams, my struggles, and my fears will not be silenced.

I admire all of those women and girls who speak out against the current, when all odds are against them. I still struggle in my own battle with silence. After learning about Malala Yousafzai, a sixteen year old girl from Pakistan who was shot in the face by the Taliban for speaking out for girls’ education, I really felt the power of our voice as girls.

As much as our society and culture tells us that we are weaker than that of boys and men, it is up to us to realize that they are wrong. They want to silence us, because as Malala Yousafzai said in her inspiring UN speech: “They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.”

It is also as Chicana feminist Cherríe Moraga says in her essay titled “La Guera” “[our oppressors] fear [they] will have to change [their] life once [they] have seen themselves in the bodies of the people he had called different. [They] fear the hatred, anger and vengeances of those [they] have hurt.”

That is why it is necessary for us to speak out. The more and more we silence ourselves, the more we succumb to our oppressors and feed their egos. We as girls have to be taught and feel the empowerment of our sisterhood. If not, we will never see a brighter future for girls’ education, girls’ health, female sexuality, our own self worth, etc.

We have to raise our voices because we will be heard. We have to raise our voices and make every day International Day of the Girl because NOTHING is stronger than GIRL POWER!

16 thoughts on “Girl Power: Overcoming Silence!

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your realization about the negativity to staying silent, to not speaking out. Especially in today’s society, it seems to be the wide belief and acceptance of ” don’t ask, don’t tell. At first, I never realized why this phrase was so attacked as being negative. I interpreted it as “mind your own business.” But really, it’s a way to silence the voices of people fighting for their rights, people who are trying to speak up about oppression, racism, sexuality, all of the above. This is not the way a society should want to function. Being silent is not the solution and takes away the opportunity for change.

  2. I really like your focus on silence and how it is a huge part of our struggle as being women. I find this interesting because I think my silence hasn’t come from my family, since I grew up with parents who always told me “you need to speak up.” I also like your quote from Malala and how you highlight it with your last line “NOTHING is stronger than GIRL POWER.” I think it is so strong and really articulates your main point that IDG isn’t forgotten about on the other 364 days of the year.

  3. I agree, everyday should be the day of the girl, not just October 11th. Everyday we can make a difference by using our voices and powerful words. I agree, “we need to realize that things unsaid are never changed.” That is why it is of the utmost importance for everyone, both girls and boys, to speak out, even if the odds are against them. Our personal stories lead to education and education leads to enlightenment. In order to have a change, we need to share our stories to let people know that the commercial exploitation and trafficking of girls and sexual assault are not obscure concept: it is something happening outside their door!

  4. Like everyone said before me what is so amazing about this post is how you describe what being silence really means. It is just an awful thing when someone is silenced because it’s such a gift to speak up that everyone should have the ability to speak their mind. You really did put this in a new lens for me in terms of thinking about how silence effects everybody everyday even the people I am very close to.

  5. International Day of the Girl should be 365 days of the year! Girls should be encouraged to “question their environments, to pick up a pen and paper or a book, to declare their bodies their own, and feel empowered to speak their and OUR silences.” That is a very powerful statement and I completely agree on the importance of speaking our silences and “turning our silence into language and action.” Seeing silence as something that destroys families, makes girls blame themselves, hold back on receiving an education, and generally something that holds girls back, is a very important realization to make. We see how overcoming this silence is so crucial and it is so powerful that you will not let your “fellow girls worldwide be silenced” and in part doing this by speaking out yourself.

  6. I really like your piece. I think through this class so many of us feel the exact same way. I know that I have a new view of what staying silent means, because similarly to you, I have the experience of being required to be seen and not heard. I think that at my age of 17, it is too late for me just begin to feel empowered enough to use my voice. I think it should be earlier. I think that if I had found my voice, I would avoided many heartbreaks because I would known, that my voice was powerful. Thus, making ME powerful. Really love your post.

  7. Your message is very powerful. I really enjoyed your crystal-clear, exhaustive reflection on silence and what it implies for the individual’s relationship with himself and with others. It’s very communicative, because it’s very VISIBLE. Oftentimes things such as the issue of ownership of one’s own body, of knowledge and education, of speaking about core parts of one’s identity are underestimated, because they’re invisible. It’s clearly much easier to focus on matters that are bright-colored and present right before us; but the invisibility of silence can have a much greater burden on us. How can we ignore something so central to our (censored) identities? It’s particularly impressive to notice the contrast between your Puerto Rican background and the voice that you have developed; it’s a revealing story on the strength that a cultural message can have today and the effort that must be taken to infringe all the conventional roles that stereotypes have set for women. I agree that silence is “what destroys relationships, families, and humanity”; it’s heartbreaking to see that many cannot see beyond the conventions and, eventually, limit and damage themselves more than anyone else. I believe that examples like yours can start bringing change.

  8. I really like your attitude on rebelling against silence because it does make us “succumb to our oppressors and feed their egos”. It makes us cater to them and I could not agree with you more when you said that International Day of the Girl should be celebrated every single day. We shouldn’t have ONE day celebrating girls and women all over the world. It should be everyday and eventually it will be when everyone chooses to surrender their silences.

  9. I like how you explain the damages of being silent. Like you I am apart of a family were I have to agree with everything that is said. Growing up being outspoken was seen as something bad and rude. The older I get the more I realize the damage being silent causes. I love the title you use because together we can overcome silence. Being apart of this feminism class is just the beginning.

  10. Nice article Paris! I felt that your yearning for IDG to be everyday is very insirational and I totally agree! I also agree with the fact that one single voice is such a powerful thing. We can all use our voices for amazing things and when we put our voices together it is great! When you wrote, “we need to realize that things unsaid are never changed,” I instantly applauded you for your discovery. A large part of change and being apart of the feminist movement is knowing where we stand as women and being proactive with our need for change.

  11. I really enjoyed how you started your post by saying that the international day of the girl should not only be one day, but everyday. I agree. I love your analysis of Audre Lorde’s line, “Your silence will not protect you.” I believe she is saying that you can’t score unless you shoot. After discussing this idea of speaking up, Malala’s story was more then fitting. It allows the reader of the post to see a real life example of someone speaking up, and making a huge change.

  12. I found your thinking of International Day of the Girl being all 365 days of the year to be interesting. It’s very important that issues aren’t just recognized on one day but understood, and implemented throughout our daily lives. It’s important that we find ways to help improve the lives of both girls and woman even if we start small. What resented the most with me was when you spoke about growing up and you being silenced and thinking it was part of the culture. It’s amazing how being in a Feminism class can change the way you look at so many things that happen in your daily life. From the way I analyze the way people speak to the television shows I watch. The culture to “silence” is everywhere. It’s about time we broke it.

  13. Paris, your post is AMAZING! I completely agree with you about silence being more destructive, than it is constructive. When you say “Silence is what destroys relationships, families, and humanity,” I actually screamed “YES!” because your point is one that is often overlooked. Too often, people fail to realize how silence allows feelings of unfairness and oppression to fester to an uncontrollable point. I also LOVE your line “We need to realize that things unsaid are never changed,” because this is exactly what Feminism seeks to teach. This is exactly why we need to speak up!

  14. Paris, I completely 100% agree with you that IDG should be everyday! Every girl should be taught to “question their environments, to pick up a pen and paper or a book, to declare their bodies their own, and feel empowered to speak their and OUR silences.” I also love how you focused on silence. In class we have talked a lot about speaking up and doing something but we haven’t really dug deep into the silence of girls.

  15. Paris, this post is truly inspiring to me. Your statement, “I believe that International Day of the Girl should be all 365 days of the year. Each and every day, girls around the world of all ages should… feel empowered to speak their and OUR silences,” sums up my belief of what feminism is about. Its aim is not for a few individual girls to achieve great things and occasionally be celebrated. Feminism is a global movement, fighting for a world where every single girl has the opportunity to achieve great things, and feels empowered to do so everyday. I really appreciated your description of your Puerto Rican family and culture, and that despite how much you wanted to speak out, “all of these forces silenced me.” Every girl experiences these forces in someway. Often, we don’t even realize when these forces are present because being silenced has become such a normal and widely accepted part of our lives. I wish every girl could hear and believe Audrey Lorde’s quote, “Your silence will not protect you,” because, as you said, “we need to realize that things unsaid are never changed.”

  16. Paris, your paragraph on silence is so moving. Your statement “things unsaid are never unchanged” rang true to me. So many girls are assaulted or raped and are too scared to speak about what has happened to them. Silence can eat you up, girls and society need to realize that silence is not the answer to anything! Only through communication can we find consensus and justice. I believe that many girls stay silent because they believe that their voice isn’t important or that their ideas or their experiences wont make a difference. This is societies greatest downfall because women ARE powerful and important. I also believe that IDG should be every day. Women should celebrate who they are everyday of their lives, always.

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