Roxane Gay reminds us why we should never give up. Our voices matter.
Last week, WNYC hosted its first ever podcasting festival for women, called “Werk It: How To Be A Grown-Ass Podcaster.” Unsurprisingly, the two-day event drew an incredible crowd of incredible women — from The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams to Buzzfeed’s Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton (if you aren’t listening to Another Round, you’re seriously missing out, because it is everything).
The festival was filled with wisdom and hilarity from some very brilliant ladies; and to make it even more amazing, Roxane Gay — writer, Twitter expert, all-around badass, and author of both Bad Feminist and An Untamed State — was its keynote speaker. In her speech, she discussed the idea of feeling worthy, and feeling doubts about that worthiness and hopes of living up to it. She also discussed what it’s like to be a writer and a woman of color, along with the many challenges that come with being both. But perhaps most notably, Gay also delved into the importance and power behind using your voice — and what she had to say has us feeling completely empowered and ready to take on the world.
“I will admit, and I’m not proud of this, that I almost gave up — not on writing, but on the idea that I would find an audience that might take an interest in my books, my writing, my voice,” she said. “I will also admit I was intimidated, which I think most women are when it comes to this radical idea that our voices matter and deserve to be heard.”
Of course, when a writer as prolific, hardworking, and talented as Gay admits to feeling doubt about her work, it’s easy to feel like it’s hopeless for the rest of us. But rather than give in to that intimidation and fear, she embraced it to push her forward.
“Giving up does not accomplish anything. Working harder, being relentless, putting my work back out there does accomplish something,” she said. “People often ask me for advice and I tell them, ‘You have to be persistent, you have to be relentless, you have to be resilient while also accepting that you are human and susceptible to weakness.’ You have to trust and have faith in what you have to say.”
“That voice that you hear telling you that your voice is unnecessary and unworthy is fueled by fear, because it is f–king scary to put your work out into the world — and then, even worse, have people respond,” she continued. “Allow yourself to feel that fear and dig deep into your stronger self and keep trying and keep reaching for what you want. You have to be ambitious. You cannot hide from your ambition. Don’t keep it secret — own that s–t. And be responsible for how you use your voice. You will never, as a woman, only answer to yourself.”
Yes, she just sucker-punched all of us right in the feels (as she is prone to do with her writing). Gay completely nails just how important it is to believe in our voices, especially when we have been conditioned to believe they are not as valuable as those of our male peers. As a woman — as a human — there is no shame in having ambition and feeling pride in that ambition. Likewise, it is completely OK to feel unsure about yourself and your talents. But it is essential that you not let it keep you from using your voice with both honesty and responsibility.
“There is one truth that you should not let go of: No one can narrate or examine this world that we live in the way that you can,” she concluded. “And that is the power of your voice. If you bring the full force or yourself to what you have to say, your voice is going to be powerful beyond measure, and how. And I look forward to hearing it.”
Watch the speech in its entirety below. (Hopefully it can hold us off until Gay gets a podcast of her own.)