Female Empowerment: Amplification

Ashna Satpathy and Olivia Syftestad   Last year, members of LAW implemented something in their everyday lives at school called “amplifying,” which is another word for making something louder. An example of this would be when a girl says something in class and another girl agrees with her, thereby giving her credit and legitimizing her idea in order to bring overall empowerment to girls at Latin. This notion was brought to fruition when former President Obama’s female aides recognized that, in regards to gender, they were vastly outnumbered, and therefore their ideas were seldom heard. Amplification, they realized, was a necessity for them to be effective as individuals. Although neither of us attended Latin when the concept of amplification was first brought to the school last year, we interviewed Ms. Barker who has been a long time member of LAW. Ms. Barker said, “We challenged the members of LAW last year to go into classes and amplify voices that sometimes are not fully heard… It’s this idea that makes sure that women are getting credit for their ideas and I love it.” Adding on to this idea of amplifying, the term “mansplaining” has become widespread. When someone is “mansplaining” they are usually a man who explains something to someone, typically a woman, in a manner that is condescending or patronizing. More often than not, mansplaining happens in more subtle and discreet ways that neither the male or the female would notice. Perhaps it goes unnoticed because people are so used to it; they are so used to men having power in conversation; they are used to the idea that men are supposedly smarter than women; and they are used to men subconsciously thinking it is adequate to speak down to a women, especially in her own field of knowledge. Ms. Barker states, “Sometimes I think it comes from that power dynamic of [what society believes to be] whose voice is more valuable and who knows more, but regardless, it’s very deep seeded in our society.” We then asked her if she thinks Latin encourages mansplaining she said, “I don’t think so, I’m not sure what it would look like to have a school encourage it. I think that would look like individual teachers in their classroom not fully valuing a female’s voice, and I don’t think that happens. It seems that teachers [at Latin] care a lot about equity of who is speaking in classes and how they are speaking.” We also asked her about what she thinks Latin can do to prevent things like mansplaining from happening, and she shared her thoughts, “This has a lot to do with why we did the amplifying concept in LAW last year. A lot of female students in LAW were feeling that when they spoke in classes that their male peers were not listening to their ideas, and in turn, we challenged them to amplify through strength in multiple people. I think across the board if Latin continues to equitably value everyone’s voice, and that’s everyone; males, females, students of color, students who don’t fall into dominant culture in other ways. I think it means that we make space for people to share their voices.” How does amplifying relate to mansplaining? By pushing women to amplify their voices, we reduce the stereotype that men even need to “mansplain.” By bringing these ideas together, we are able to address the gender issues embedded in our society and strengthen the voices of women across the globe. Georgetown linguist Deborah Tannen says “the inequality of the treatment results not simply from the men’s behavior alone but from the differences in men’s and women’s styles.” New York Times writer Jill Krasny believes that “Tannen argues that men talk to determine and achieve status, while for women, it’s about making connections. Women view life as a network, while men view it as a ladder.” Conceivably, a part of this may not come from our patriarchal society, but rather the natural differences in the ways men and women are wired. From a young age, females are taught that their opinions don’t matter as much, that they never will. Subsequently, the voices of women across the world are silenced. It is time to repeal the overwhelming masculinity that has hindered our social structure. It is time to end the ongoing biases that the same physical differences between genders equate to the same intellectual differences. It is time for people to acknowledge that women are not inferior to men and that men are not inferior to women. So, next time you see anyone, not just males, talking to someone in a prejudiced, condescending manner, do not stand in silence, take a stand. ]]>