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My Voice

And the Power of Using it

In 2006, I was home from college and needed a job. I had filled my college breaks with whatever work I could find to help make ends meet; that meant stints at everything from Waffle House and McDonalds to fitting expensive dresses in New Haven. This particular summer I got the idea that if I cold-called enough law firms from the phone book I could maybe snag an internship.

To my surprise, it worked! I spent weeks living the glamorous law intern life… filing, copying, mailing, grabbing lunch orders, alphabetizing things, trying to print things on little file labels using Avery templates, answering phones, etc. I tried to excel at it all. Every now and then the supervising attorney would break up the monotony of the mundane and ask if one of the two interns wanted to come along and observe court. It was always an enthusiastic yes from me, but week after week I was asked to stay behind.

A month in and I still hadn’t observed any hearings. One afternoon I was told to stay back yet again while the other male intern made another trip to the courthouse. I finally said what I’d been thinking, “Why?”

Without batting an eye, he said (in summary), “A man can’t answer phones at a law firm. We’d lose business. Research shows people want female voices. You have a pleasing voice and so you need to stay here as back-up to answer calls. That’s a role for a woman.” Then he and the other intern left for court. I packed up and never came back.

Recently I was writing postcards at a NOW event encouraging others to make their voices heard through voting. It brought up the memory of my internship and made me think about my own voice. I thought about how that lawyer actually had a few things right.

People do want to hear female voices. My voice, and the voices of many many women across the world are kind. Our voices are empathetic. Our voices are knowledgeable. And above all, our voices are powerful. My “pleasing” voice is what let me knock on thousands of doors and engage people in productive conversations, it is the same voice that lets me speak up in court for my clients, moderate contentious school board public comment with grace, and it is the voice that was brave enough to yell out orders at Waffle House (that was nerve-wracking) but also cold call lawyers and get myself an internship. And I want that lawyer to know (maybe I’ll send him this email!), my pleasing voice is going to be heard by even more people. It is going to be heard in the General Assembly when I speak passionately about protecting the rights of women to live and engage in our society with the same protections guaranteed to men, whether that is in the workplace, in a doctors office, or at home. More people need to hear women’s voices.

I want to encourage others to use their voices as well. One clear way to make your voice heard is to head to the polls and vote. Election Day is this Tuesday and voting is one way to say loudly and clearly what kind of future you support for our commonwealth.


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