Wendy Barrish
Wendy Barrish

Not so loud, you may bring change

Not so loud, the boys can hear you.

Close your legs.

You’re attention-seeking.

Shhhh.

Women have said these words to me. Girls are socialized to sit still and look pretty. We don’t need other women to try and quiet us as well. Just think about the words we use to compliment babies and children. “Oh, she’s so sweet.” “What a clever boy!” We tend to highlight the demure or passive qualities of girls and encourage the performance of boys. Girls stay inwards, boys extend yourselves outwards.

This past weekend, I was celebrating Pesach (Passover) with friends. It was a lively, people-filled two days and boy, did I enjoy myself. I enjoyed myself in one of the best ways possible — by laughing a whole lot. Those who’ve heard my laugh know it can be LOUD, and I love that about myself. The thing is, not everyone does.

On Friday night I was sitting at my friend’s dinner table which was at full capacity, filled with the most fascinating people. I was sipping my wine and chatting and laughing and then it happened. A woman across the table turned to me and asked that I please bring the volume down. The pitch of my laughter was hurting her ears, and I of course acquiesced.

I did however respond to her.

I first thanked her for speaking up because so often we just suffer in silence, yet I added that I find it important to make my voice heard — and for me that includes laughing loudly to my heart’s content.

She answered back that of course I should, but like with everything — with love and kindness.

I thought about it for a moment, and retorted in what I feel is of absolute importance. This woman is about 30 years older than I. She has already lived so many more years of finding her voice and perhaps being a bit brash — all things I am only beginning to discover. It feels like a battle. I truly feel that I am constantly struggling to speak up and so I do perhaps to the extreme as a way to compensate for the fear. The fear of being quieted, or in the worst case scenario, not advocating for myself. So in return, I told her that at this point in my life it is crucial for me to find that voice and make it heard. The love and kindness can come later on when I am ready to find that balance.

The next night we were back at the dinner table, this time enjoying the seder. I could easily say it was one of my most fantastic seder experiences. I was yet again surrounded by people from all walks of life. Interesting people and wine? Nothing can be better! I set myself free and let my laughter ring loudly. I was having fun!

This time, the response to my volume didn’t bother me as much. It came from a man, which didn’t sting as much as the first time around. Instead of turning to face me or to ask politely, he began to bang on the table and loudly shush me. Did I respond? This time, no.

There is so much to unpack from both of these scenarios, yet I’ll keep my point short. Fellow females, we have been quieted for literally centuries. We must, it is our obligation, lift each other up and to amplify one another’s voices. Rather than quiet each other, let’s celebrate each other. The world needs to hear us. And to the male population — there’s no spoon feeding necessary here. If a woman’s voice is making you uncomfortable, stop for a moment and really try to consider why that is.

About the Author
Wendy is originally from Far Rockaway, NY and grew up going to Bais Yaakov schools from first through 12th grade. After high school she attended seminary at Darchei Binah, and then returned to New York to attend Touro College. After graduating with her BA, Wendy returned to Israel to visit on her own and was able to see the country in a new light, one which she loved, and led to her decision to move to Israel permanently. In 2016, she made Aliyah on her own, and has been happily living here since. She currently lives in Jerusalem and among other things, works as the Media Manager for Women of the Wall.
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