“Who has been heard, we know; they are the well-mapped islands, the rest are the unmappable sea of unheard, unrecorded humanity. Many over the centuries were heard and loved, and their words disappeared in the air as soon as they were spoken but took root in minds, contributed to the culture, like something composting into rich earth; new things grow from those words. Many others were silenced, excluded, ignored. The earth is seven tenths water, but the ratio of silence to voice is far greater. If libraries hold all the stories that have been told, there are ghost libraries of all the stories that have not. The ghosts outnumber the books by some unimaginable cast sum. Even those who have been audible have often earned the privilege through strategic silences or the inability to hear certain voices, including their own.
If the right to speak, if having credibility, if being heard is a kind of wealth, that wealth is now being redistributed. There has long been an elite with audibility and credibility, an underclass of the voiceless. As the wealth is redistributed, the stunned incomprehension of the elites erupts over and over again, a fury and disbelief that this woman or child dared to speak up, that people deigned to believe her, that her voice counts for something, that her truth may end a powerful man’s reign. These voices, heard, upend power relations.
Who is heard and who is not defines the status quo. those who embody it , often at the cost of extraordinary silences with themselves, move to the center; those who embody what is not heard or what violates those who rise on silence are cast out. By redefining whose voice is valued, we redefine our society and its values.”
-Rebecca Solnit, A Short History of Silence