The Power of the Amplification Theory
In honour of International Women's Day, we give you one our favourite pieces published in Issue 02. This article explores the ways women can give space and amplify the voices of other women, and in turn increase our collective strength.
The expression 'give a voice to the voiceless' has always irked me. In spaces where I did not feel comfortable or safe to speak my truth, I never ‘lost’ my voice—I was silenced. One day whilst standing in front of my university in protest with other black women and women of colour, a black woman stepped up to the mic and said: “We are not voiceless on this campus, those of you with power just need to pass the mic”. I’ve found that as I’ve grown into myself and my identity, I've taken up more space and used my voice as a way to open up space for others. I believe that as women, both in the workplace and in schools, it’s not enough to just ‘speak up’ or ‘speak out’. What we should also be doing is using our voice to amplify those of other women, especially the voices of those who are silenced and disenfranchised.
Recently, I read a Washington Post article on how female staffers at the White House applied this notion of ‘amplification’ and in turn, influenced decision-making in what is arguably the most powerful office in the world. In meetings, “when a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognise the contribution—and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.” According to these women, the tactic was effective, and Obama began to call on women and female junior aides more often.
Part of the strength of our womanhood lies in our ability to work collectively. We live in a patriarchal and often misogynistic society where, as women, there’s little benefit in self-progression if the progress made doesn’t pave the way for others. At the end of the day, we’re individually stronger when we amplify other women and act together. This is particularly true for issues such as closing the gender gap, which requires resolute and intentional action.
‘Amplification’ as a method to affect change is simple and practical. As students, we learn to hone these skills whilst formulating arguments and writing essays. We use quotes and draw from sources to solidify an argument or our opinions, and we are extensively encouraged to cite our sources. That’s the way we should honour the women around us—use our own voices to highlight and amplify theirs. We should also do this for the women who come after us. By creating spaces for ourselves and our truths, we in turn carve out spaces for their perspectives too.
Ann Friedman calls it the ‘shine theory’. It’s the idea that when I shine, you shine too, and vice versa. More importantly, she notes that most women, at one point or another, have played the role of the ‘idoliser’ and the ‘idolised’. That is to say somewhere, someone looks up to you in the same way you look up to other women. As a black woman in university in America, one of the greatest lessons I learned was ‘paying it forward’ and the power it generates. When another woman’s actions or words have helped you get in the door, your responsibility is to open more doors, stick your foot in and hold it open for the woman behind you.
Amplification in everyday life has been practiced by women for years. Some of the most powerful women on our screens do it often (such as Oprah Winfrey, Ava Duvernay, and Shonda Rhimes). They use their platforms to promote the strengths of other women and amplify their voices. Amplification and the power of collaboration is not a new message. It’s important that we not only let other women know of it, but also apply it to our daily lives. Our collective power can bring about social and political change, and that collective power works through amplification.
Love our content? Order one of the few last copies of Issue 02 here!