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Three Phrases To Help Girls Make Their Voices Heard

These are critical phrases girls can use when their contributions to a discussion are interrupted or discounted.

There are ten words every girl should learn according to writer Soraya Chemaly — not vocabulary terms, but critical phrases they can use when their contributions to a discussion are interrupted or discounted. Practicing her three phrases — “Stop interrupting me," “I just said that," and "No explanation needed" — will help girls speak them in real life, and teach both boys and girls that it’s not socially acceptable to interrupt or ignore a female voice. Whether in the classroom, in the boardroom, or on the Senate floor, it's time for mighty girls and women to persist and ensure that their voices are heard.

Chemaly points out that, “Globally, childhood politeness lessons are gender asymmetrical... we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance.” As a result, boys and men are more prone to interrupt or talk over another person — and to firmly prevent someone from interrupting or talking over them — while girls and women are more prone not to interrupt, and to give way to someone who interrupts them.

“It starts in childhood and never ends," she continues. "Parents interrupt girls twice as often and hold them to stricter politeness norms. Teachers engage boys, who correctly see disruptive speech as a marker of dominant masculinity, more often and more dynamically than girls.” This continues into adulthood where "women’s speech is granted less authority." Research found that "in male-dominated problem solving groups such as boards, committees, and legislatures, men speak 75% more than women, which is why researchers summed up, ‘Having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice.’”

Chemaly also highlights another common problem: “A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.” This may not happen consciously, but Chemaly points out that makes it easier to underestimate “how broadly consequential the impact can be. [And w]hen you add race and class to the equation the incidence of this marginalization is even higher.”

"Socialized male speech dominance is a significant issue, not just in school, but everywhere.... It’s significant and consequential," Chemaly says. But women and girls can reclaim their voices by standing up and refusing to allow even unconscious sexism in the flow of discussion. So when people ask her “what to teach girls or what they themselves can do,” she says, “practice these words, every day: ‘Stop interrupting me,’ 'I just said that,’ and ‘No explanation needed.’ It will do both boys and girls a world of good. And no small number of adults, as well.”

To read more, visit HuffPost, or browse our recommendations of resources for girls and their parents below.

Resources to Raise Empowered Mighty Girls

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

Written by: Patty Lovell
Illustrated by: David Catrow
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

Little Molly Lou has always been proud of who she is... even if she is tiny, buck-toothed, and clumsy. Even her singing voice is like nothing anyone's heard before! When Molly Lou moves to a new school and has to face a bully's jeers, she remembers her grandmother's advice and turns every "disadvantage" to good use. Soon, everyone at school has learned that you should never underestimate Molly Lou Melon! Kids will love feisty, funny, and completely confident Molly Lou and will enjoy figuring out their own ways that they can "sing out clear and strong." Fans of Molly Lou can also check out the sequel, Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon.

The Confidence Code for Girls

Taking Risks, Messing Up, and Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self

The Confidence Code for Girls

Taking Risks, Messing Up, and Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self

Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Many girls are consumed by self-doubt on the inside, especially during the tween and teen years — but if they can crack the confidence code, they can learn how to set worries aside and focus their energy on what's really important: confidently pursuing their dreams and embracing their authentic selves! In this book, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, the authors of the best-selling The Confidence Code for adult women, draw on the latest research to help tweens understand how to short-circuit the thoughts that drain your confidence and hold you back. Illustrations throughout help draw girls into the book, while lists, quizzes, and stories from real-life girls help readers understand how to embrace risk (and failure), overcome anxieties, and be happy in their own skins.

A Smart Girl's Guide: Knowing What to Say

A Smart Girl's Guide: Knowing What to Say

Written by: Patti Kelley Criswell
Illustrated by: Angela Martini
Recommended Age: 9 - 12

A tween's complicated life is full of difficult conversations, from what to say to a friend who talks behind your back to how to ask your parents for a new privilege. Fortunately, with a little guidance from the American Girl Library, she'll feel ready to take on any situation! In this updated edition, scripts and suggestions for over 200 situations, from consoling a grieving friend to standing up to a bully, give you tips and techniques to speak up appropriately and assertively. With a little help knowing what to say, she'll be ready to take on the challenges ahead of her with confidence!

Express Yourself

A Teen Girl's Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are

Express Yourself

A Teen Girl's Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are

Written by: Emily Roberts MA LPC
Recommended Age: 13 and up

In an effort to be “likeable” and “nice”, many teen girls feel pressured to avoid speaking their mind or asserting their opinion — they may even fear being labeled “bossy” or “pushy” if they’re too outspoken. This book is designed to help teens remember they have a right to be heard — and find the confidence to speak up! Written in an accessible and friendly tone, with individual chapters tackling common situations like family conflict, digital drama, and romantic relationships, this guide by psychotherapist Emily Roberts draws on techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy to teach your teen how to express her opinion, stand up for herself in any situation, and boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Communications Skills for Teens

How to Listen, Express, and Connect for Success

Communications Skills for Teens

How to Listen, Express, and Connect for Success

Engaging in face-to-face conversations — and ensuring you express your point of view — is a critical skill for future success. As teen have more interactions online, it's getting harder to practice those in-person communications skills, but with a little guidance, they can feel comfortable and confident! In this book, teens will learn important aspects of good communication, from active listening and to knowing when (and how) to apologize to how to assert themselves when someone is ignoring or talking over them. Full of stories from real teens and practical exercises, this book will help her feel ready to go out and make her voice heard.

The Curse of the Good Girl

Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence

The Curse of the Good Girl

Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence

Written by: Rachel Simmons

For too long, the image of the "good girl" has meant being nice, meek, and selfless — but when girls try to force themselves into the "good girl" mold, they end up curtailing their power and potential. Rachel Simmons argues that the people-pleasing, rule-following model of femininity creates flawed communication and a fear of confrontation that discourages girls from achieving their goals. To help, Simmons provides exercises to help girls hear their inner voice, be polite but assertive with authority figures and peers, and stay true to themselves. By teaching our girls to be authentic to their own needs and desires, we give them the freedom to create their own futures.

Enough As She Is

How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives

Enough As She Is

How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives

Written by: Rachel Simmons

Although girls seem to be more "successful" than ever today, outpacing boys in GPA, college enrollment, and more, they're also reporting feeling overwhelmed by the need to be exceptional at everything. This book takes a look below the put-together surface that girls project to the world, and provides practical tips for parents to help them reduce negative thoughts, embrace risk and authenticity, and prioritize feeling confident and happy as the ultimate sign of success. Best-selling parenting author Rachel Simmons relies on in-depth case studies and careful research to create both a portrait of the challenges facing girls today and a road map to help girls create their own paths to happy, healthy lives.

Rage Becomes Her

The Power of Women's Anger

Rage Becomes Her

The Power of Women's Anger

Written by: Soraya Chemaly
Recommended Age: Adults

Girl and women are battered by discrimination, judgement, and conflicting expectations; it's no wonder that so many of them are angry. And yet the popular "self-help" wisdom, particularly for women — who are supposed to remain pleasant and smiling — is that anger is dangerous and unhelpful. Author Soraya Chemaly argues the exact opposite: women's rage is a tool, one that can help us reclaim power and force change in a society that all too often wants us to stay quiet. This eye-opening book provides a new perspective on anger and encourages women to ask how they can harness it to create lasting change.

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