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The Scholar & Feminist Online is a webjournal published three times a year by the Barnard Center for Research on Women
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Issue: 8.3: Summer 2010
Guest Edited by Mandy Van Deven and Julie Kubala
Polyphonic Feminisms: Acting in Concert

Singing as Social Justice

Nomy Lamm

I'm eleven years old in synagogue sitting with my butt on the turned-up leather theater seat, training my finger across the line of Hebrew, trying to keep up with all the old men who have been singing this song their whole lives. The sound of their voices is so sad, like they want something they lost, like they can touch it inside themselves to bring it back through their bodies. I imitate. Chadesh, chadesh yomeinu, chadesh yomeinu ki-ke-dem... (return us to days of old...) I want to be a singer. I want to feel it like that. Singing loud enough to hear myself, hoping to stand out as a natural, I push the air through my clenched throat, simultaneously trapped by the specifics of my surroundings and freed by my ability to give voice to my yearning.

Later, at play practice (I'm Toodles in Peter Pan), I work to project my voice, pushing the air up into my nose to sound bright and perky like Heidi and Melissa and the girls who get the good parts. If I don't sing loud nobody can hear me and I'll be overlooked. By the end of play practice my throat hurts, but I don't want to stop. Singing makes me feel good, like I can imagine another me. I could practically write a song about it right now! Look at me, you may think I'm fat, you may laugh at my fake leg, but you don't know what I got inside!

In the car ride home I sing for my mom, proud of my volume and the bright tone that I've learned from the theater girls. My mom rolls her eyes and rolls down the window.

"What, you don't like it?" I ask.

"You sound so nasal, I can't even listen to you," she says.

I cry the rest of the way home, hiding my red face as I run to my room, wondering if I will ever be loved for what's inside of me.

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© 2010 Barnard Center for Research on Women | S&F Online - Issue 8.3: Summer 2010 - Polyphonic Feminisms