You Already Have Permission to Use Your Voice

For a long time, I would go see movies I didn’t like by a director I hated.

Friends and family were always dying to see this guy’s movies, and I never had the heart to ask them, “Can we see something else?”

Instead, I agreed to see these movies with them, hoping that something would change my mind. Everyone else wants to see this movie, but I don’t. I must be wrong.

I didn’t trust my own judgment. I made myself sit through two or three hours of horrific violence. If characters weren’t getting shot to pieces, they were speaking in dialogue that made me want to put a fork through my eye.

I never changed my mind. Each time, I came out of the theater thinking, Nope, still don’t like it.

It wasn’t until The Hateful 8, which won 3 Oscars, that I made a firm resolution to never see another Quentin Tarantino movie again.

I don’t like Tarantino’s work for the same reason I don’t like Woody Allen’s work. His dialogue is excruciating to sit through and doesn’t add anything to the story or it’s characters. As far as I can tell, it’s there for some kind of “coolness” factor. Why does any artist need to prove how cool they are?

And I’m only saying it now, because someone else has said it. After reading this piece, I thought, “I don’t either.” I didn’t value my judgment before, and now that someone else values it, I feel like I have permission to say it.

But this article implies that anyone needed permission to say this in the first place, just as I felt like I needed permission. I was always waiting until it felt safe, and that was weak.

So I’m not asking for permission anymore, and neither should you.

Those misogynistic, male geniuses referred to in this article are going extinct. There are new gatekeepers, now, and they exist in multitudes. They come from different backgrounds and crave different kinds of stories.

There are new gatekeepers, now: the audience.

The new gatekeepers are the audiences on WordPress and Medium and Wattpad. They are the audiences listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos. They are the audiences on Instagram, looking for amazing photography, and on Ello, searching for creators of art and design.

Generations of people before ours tried this and the struggle was that much harder, because they didn’t have the technology that we do now. It was harder to get permission to gather your audience. It was much, much harder to be accepted by the gatekeepers. But with the technology and platforms we have, you don’t need permission from the old Gatekeepers.

It is easier than ever for you to find the audience who needs to hear your story. And it is easier than ever for an audience to find the stories they need to hear.

Blogs, stories, movies, comics, music, art, photographs – you can create anything and share it with an audience that same day. You can open a social media account or create a website, click a button, and put it out in the world. The new gatekeepers are changing our standards for great art.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all this stuff about Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby and Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino and all the rest of them is coming out now. Technology has changed so much in the last ten years that men with that kind of power aren’t the gatekeepers anymore. They don’t have the power they once did to disempower the voices of those who aren’t like them.

Twenty-five years ago, this was not possible. Fifteen years ago it was barely possible. Now, with mobile devices and social media, people are always connected. They carry the Internet around with them and get notified whenever someone wants to connect.

Now, you don’t have to ask for permission. And since you don’t have to ask for permission, you don’t have any excuses. There is nobody stopping you except yourself.

You have the power to use your voice, and no one can take that away from you, not Sally or Wayne or Hugo or the Worldwide Institution of Forks and Knives.

You may meet some resistance, because there will be those who want you to ask for permission. They’ll say, Who do you think you are? Maybe they are afraid that with this massive change they won’t have a place in the world. You’re not going to diminish their power, if you keep asking them for permission.

You are never going to get anyone’s permission to use your voice. You have to give yourself permission.

With that comes power and a responsibility to yourself for that voice to be heard. If it feels scary, it’s because you’re not used to it and you’re not quite sure what to do with it. You’re still trying it on and breaking it in.

It’s all yours. It belongs to you, and nobody can take that from you. Don’t apologize for it. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for using it. If they try to make you feel bad, then that’s their bullshit.

Write like it’s 10 years from now. Write as if you’ve had this power your whole life and have always known what to do with it. Write as if you already own that voice. Write as if you were born to take a seat at the table.*

*Note: if you use your voice to be an intolerable prick to people of other races, genders, gender/sexual identities, or express hate or harm to other human beings, then others have permission to call you on your bullshit.*

Photo Credit: From Unsplash, by Lauris RK

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