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Women, we must find our voices

No more 'sorry, but..'; no more apologies for speaking out. In this powerful guest post from Dear Damsels co-founder Bridie Wilkinson explains how women can find their voices through writing and why, now more than ever, women must speak out. There is always someone listening.

I used to believe that I had nothing to say. It’s an easy feeling to develop – a thought bubbling away at you as you sit silent in class, as you are talked down in an argument, as you are swatted away mid-sentence and told to be quiet, wait your turn, let someone else speak first.

And I did. For a long time. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. That there are women who grew up swallowing their words, waiting patiently for the opportunity to blurt out “sorry, but”; an apologetic preamble because they were already worried if it was worth the trouble, if what they were trying to say held any value.

There’s a lot wrong with the way our society labels women who do speak up. They become Bossy. Loud. Opinionated. Sassy. Overbearing. Crazy. Words upon words building walls that we must climb. Some of us are already climbing, already navigated barriers of race or class, desperately trying to reach a place that seems to be so accessible to others; a place where our voices are respected. Where we are heard.

Eventually, I uncovered a shortcut, a chip in the brickwork. I have always been a writer, hiding away in endlessly unfinished notebooks and Word documents, keeping my voice locked in and saved down. I began to slowly post on a tiny, insignificant Wordpress, my stories and poems and ramblings finding their way online. It felt like speaking into a void, leaving a barely acknowledged echo; but at least I was speaking. At least I was finally giving my words a chance to be heard.

What I didn’t expect is that someone was listening. In October 2015 I got an email at work from my friend Abby, who told me that she liked my writing. That she had read my blog, and some of my other pieces. That she had been thinking, could there be a better platform for my writing? And the writing of other women we knew? Women who didn’t write in clickbait or Buzzfeed lists, but whose work still deserved a space online. Why wasn’t there a website like that? Did I want to help find out if there could be one?

And so, Dear Damsels, an online female writing collective, was born. We want to champion women who have found their voices through writing. We want to share our experiences, our stories, our creativity in a space that supports and promotes diversity in writers, styles, genres – somewhere that our writers can speak into the void and get a resounding, rallying response back.

We’ve been running for nearly two years now, and in that time have featured over 65 writers, opened submissions for 18 themes and counting, held an event, published the Dear Damsels Annual 2016/17, and continue to grow from strength to strength with our fantastic community.

I think back to the young girl, silent in a class, and cannot believe how far she has come. How much she has said. And how much she still has to say. I’m glad I realised the value of my voice. I’m glad our writers have too.

Dear Damsels’ message is “your words, your stories, your collective”; so why not join us? We’re always listening.

The women behind Dear Damsels are remarkable. Find out more about them on their website, or follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

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