You Don't Sound "Girly" Enough
For years, I believed that a girl's femininity is linked to the pitch of her voice.
Although it's rarely direct, society tells girls that higher pitched voices are normal and lower pitched tones are manly and unnatural. I remember, in the 9th grade, sitting in the bathroom, at my house, practicing speaking in a higher tone because I felt my voice was not “girly” enough. The reflection in the mirror told me I was not enough.
Looking back, I can see the trigger for these feelings occurred at 13 years old while on a long distance call with a family member. We spoke for nearly 4 minutes and at the end of the conversation, he asked to speak to “Anjola”. My name is Anjola. For those few minutes he thought he was speaking to my brother who was 18 months older than me. I laughed it off, but that moment crushed me deeply. It hurt knowing that I was mistaken for a boy at a time when I was still finding my confidence as a young woman.
This deep feeling of unhappiness with the natural pitch of my voice continued for many years. It would come in seasons of discontent followed by a temporary understanding that God made me this way, so I should accept how I am with joy. In theory, I knew this but this fact did not easily translate into an attitude change.
However, as I’ve seen the diversity of women in recent years, I have grown to have a greater appreciation for low pitched voices. Women who had a profound effect on how I viewed my talking voice were women like Lauryn Hill and Chimamanda Adichie who both speak with a measure of confidence.
Lauryn Hill’s Iconic album, MTV Unplugged 2.0 session included raw singing and interludes filled with her raspy deep tone I love. She did not apologize for the rawness in her voice, but rather, informed the audience to listen to her story. I saw a representation of a more confident version myself; someone who doesn’t have to fake a pitch two notches higher to validate my femininity.
I have been a fan of Chimamanda Adichie's Ted talks and her words for some years now. What struck me in her interviews, aside from her eloquence in speech and relatable storytelling, is the fact that she speaks freely in pitch and tone of voice without shame.
How many times have you apologized for certain characteristics about yourself that were never a mistake to begin with?
God doesn’t make mistakes. He did not make a mistake when he made the shape of your nose, the texture of your hair, your height, the pitch of your voice nor the color of your skin. Accepting my voice in all its originality is still a lesson I am learning. A recent pile of feelings about it surfaced causing me write this, so this encouragement is placed here as a constant reminder for myself as well as for you.
In the words of my friend Olamide, "God made you different for a reason. If you’re not different you’re not needed.”
x: Anjola Coker