What does it mean to be a woman with a voice?


Growing up as a woman in the 70’s and 80’s in England, UK, I was opinionated and yet also very much in a ‘man’s world’. What I learned from my environment was that women were often not considered to be as cultured, talented, or important as men – there was an assumption that men knew what they were doing, more than women did, were better at most things, and were most qualified to be in charge, share their opinions, be listened to, and respected. They were the ones who started and ran things. They had private clubs and public privilege.

Even though I knew it couldn’t be true, I slowly learned to navigate it in inside and outside myself – pushing against this false barrier, designed to keep me (and so many others) in or, rather, ‘out’. I found myself fighting my own inner voice of truth because it wasn’t ‘convenient’, it wasn’t supported. Also, being a creative I found myself constantly questioned for not being more ‘status quo’ oriented. I needed to explore but my culture was stodgy and fixed… unimaginative. It seemed convinced there was something wrong with me. That’s the part I found hard not to believe – so I contorted myself.

A little historical background: *In the UK 57% of women achieved the right to vote in 1918, whilst 11% of British men were already entitled to vote by 1831 (growing to 100% in 1918). In the US it was similarly around 1920 that – after approximately a century of protesting – American women had gained the right to vote. To add further context to this; in 1870 in the US, black men were granted the vote, which black women were not granted (fully) until 1964/65 (the year I was born). In the UK the women’s suffragette movement did not alienate women of colour as it did in the USA – it included all women. The right to vote exactly equates to the right to have a voice.

Female presence – and the female voice – is a gendered cultural issue that is so integral to a people’s consciousness that it damages and limits growth to all parties around the world when ignored. Female oppression has often been assumed not to even exist – that is how subversive it is – it blinds people. Doors are kept shut, even today – hostility sometimes presenting as humour.

Sometimes I find it hard to really get my head around what that did to my self-esteem and my own sense of entitlement as to how I can contribute to, and in, the world. Sometimes I get it, I can see the largeness of its reach, through this warped goldfish bowl, and its implications for my entire life – this idea that I’m ‘second’ – Simone De Beauvoir spoke of this in her book ‘The Second Sex’. And, beyond that, the way this whole world has been pilfered by patriarchy, speaks to the dangers of such harsh gender imbalance. Patriarchy has an agenda that unnaturally pushes humans to use up our generous Planet’s resources in a drunken stress stupor of ‘achievement/power/ownership madness’. Are we ‘going out of business’? It seems like it when I see our systemic consumption cycles drive us towards irreversible imbalance… and the lack of self-reflection. It’s a problem.

My personal confusion, born of my own cultural context, led to self-fulfilling behaviours and reinforcements of destructive patterns that I now can see, regret, and feel both angry, and sad, about. Sometimes a ‘wrong’ situation will drag me back into those states of self-doubt and low self-worth and I can feel suspended in time. So, yes, contexts are very important, and need our constant attention. 


As a member of the human race, one of the places I felt most comfortable as a young girl and young woman was in the forest and the elements. It wasn’t just because I felt at home there, it’s because I got to be myself there – not a second-class citizen and not a confused child. I felt alive and free, capable and at home – able to contemplate things and communicate with life itself without filters or irritating interruptions. Honestly, nature has been my sanctuary, my sanity, and my salvation. Perhaps this is why I seek to save it – it saved me.

Taking the mic

On my 21st birthday – it is a memory that has stayed with me – one of my father’s drunk friends had been asked at the last minute to give a speech about me at a party I had nearly cancelled. He knew nothing, literally nothing, about me and it was a painful moment, listening to him slur his words and not really elevate me as, in any way, to be cherished, as the celebrated person of the night. I was angry and frustrated as I stood there in my puffy lilac dress… I could feel the intensity of my inner clock ticking and when it was my turn to take the mic, the first thing I said was ‘I’ve got the mic, I’m speaking now, so please listen’. They were powerful words, and I meant them. I wanted to share things, what I know, what I feel, what I sense, what I see. And it wasn’t about me wanting the attention, it was about me wanting what I knew to get the attention – about me wanting people to truly show up for truth.

I just feel like I’m meant to speak; it’s that simple. About whatever is wrong and whatever is good, what we should consider, what to change, somehow…

I’ve always known what’s important. And I mean that in an ‘in situ’ kind of way; i.e. not to say absolutist ideas but site-specific gestalt truths of a moment. I can feel when things are off. And that’s always been true. I can also feel when things are ‘on’ and that’s exciting. It’s been hard to learn how to handle being this sensitive, how to make that work in a positive way; how can I help others, and protect myself from all the toxic energy of confusion, resentment, hostility, and the murder of truth, life, and honour, whilst staying open to, and inviting in, love, intimacy, and hope? Not that easy!

It’s been a lifelong journey and not really an easy one. Much has gone wrong, but when things go right, when my focus is true and connected to something larger than me, the worlds open up and I feel that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. Everything feels precious and alive, all feels possible and present. It’s an extraordinary state of belonging. I cherish it.

Truth saying

All this to say that ‘having a voice’ is as much about knowing ourselves as it is about being heard. Being heard isn’t worth much if what we’re saying isn’t coming from the depths of who we are. Speaking isn’t the same as ‘having a voice’ – speaking is a mechanical action that tends to use words. Being present is more profound than any words. As I’ve often said about sound and silence; silence can say much more about itself than any words can. There is a way of being that has dignity to it, where the internal encompasses the external – and there is no longer any need to negotiate or compromise.

I have taken a long time to develop my voice (in its various forms). It is – I am – still very much a work in progress. I am a journey unfolding. Whether I’m thinking, writing, singing or speaking, silence is at the base of all things that I value and learn from. 

My hesitancy is every day diminishing; especially as I watch the male leaders of this world continue to devastate the planet and the future of life. I cannot detect any respect for either in their actions. They do not demonstrate knowing how to have relationships that can grow things, that affirm the future of life, or respect the dignity of difference and belonging. 

It incenses me that such foolhardiness is still given merit. The answer is not as simple as women taking over – pendulum’s tend to swing – but I do think there is such a thing as time telling us what to do, learning to breathe together in this musicality of life, and removing barriers to contribution.

Urgency for balance

As a woman that has waited in the wings, watching and somehow waiting for an invitation, I feel a volcano rising. The balance is tipping, my feminine will is rising and it’s a little terrifying. But there is a time when the deep listening, the focus on innate wisdom – that is part of having a female body in a patriarchal culture – starts to speak up. The feminine within each of us, heaves to take a stand, yearns to take a seat. 

This motions seeks to allow the wisdom that inhabits a balanced soul, to speak, to sing, to object… it can also encourage, and help us navigate the essential changes to our collective self/selves. Balance needs to temper this escalation of destruction. There is a wisdom in each of us waiting to emerge and it will, to halt this urgent and unbalanced ‘progress’ – for it is killing us. There is no real profit if it is not feeding balance back into its source.

So, there is no time left to wait politely, quietly, hesitantly. We are learning on our feet. Life depends on it. I’m watching friends and strangers around the world take turns to fly the flock forwards – we are each needed in our own eclectic ways. Our strength emerges through our truth. And a truth from the depths is a collective truth. Speaking of depths, I am hearing talk on the radio about mining the deep oceans – surely there is nothing more suicidal than that for all of us and our collective future. It is simply insanity. A systemic understanding informs us of that. Intelligence is systemic. So we must become collectively intelligent. It’s not like we’re not designed for this! We absolutely are!


Taking Flight

Speaking as a fellow-fledgling, I witness the hesitation fall away as the truth of us takes over. We have to lean in. Let your intelligent soul create – and know how much life trusts you to rise. Lean in, learn who you are, take risks and rise – all as you fly – no longer waiting for permission in the classroom of your own doubt. You’ve got this. We all have. And we’ve got each other. Life depends on us allowing this rising, this speaking up – even within the hesitation – to happen. 

We are, quite literally, in flight already… take solace in knowing that we are flying together.

Clare – singer/songwriter, healer, human being, spirit being, connector of truths and souls. Available to help you grow too. Namaste, and thank you for being alive at this tricky time in our evolution – no small thing. 

* Ref:  House of Commons Library