WEB EXCLUSIVE: Speaker suggests concept of ‘original voice’

Leila Archer

Renowned psychologist Carol Gilligan urged students and faculty to free their “original voice.”

Gilligan spoke at the Kiva yesterday as a part of the Guest of Honor University Artist/Lecture series, sponsored by the Honors College.

Gilligan called the original voice the voice that people suppress in order to control people’s judgment of themselves.

“It’s a new way of making sense of the world,” Gilligan explained.

She said the original voice concept came to her when a one of her patients said to her, “Would you like to know what I think or would you like to know what I really think?”

This statement led Gilligan to the conclusion that the voice of what someone thinks is different from what they really think.

Gilligan, who is known for her work in adolescent and human development, wanted to pursue this issue, and she soon began work on identifying the “original voice.”

An example Gilligan gave was a student writing a paper his or her teacher wants to see, instead of what the student really wants to write about.

In her studies, Gilligan found girls will typically lose their original voice when they enter adolescence, and boys generally lose their voice between the ages of 5 to 7.

She argued that because we have a false idea of human nature, the original voice becomes lost over time.

“A healthy psyche resists debilitating distortions and lies,” she said, adding that this causes tension between democracy and patriarchy.

Democracy and patriarchy were two ideas Gilligan mentioned throughout the speech. Democracy, she said, depends on everyone having a voice.

“If people’s voices weren’t different, voting would have no point.” she said.

Patriarchy, on the other hand, she said, is the force that represses the original voice.

She said the key to freeing the captive original voice is education.

“Education and democracy need to foster and develop the original voice,” she said.

Gilligan said that graduate students begin to use their voices when conducting research and when writing a dissertation.

“If they want to move ahead, they need to make an original contribution,” she said, adding that this is when the original voice becomes adaptive.

Gilligan said there is “sadness surrounding the retrieval of the original voice,” because a person is not used to speaking for him or herself because he or she has always believed their voice could not carry authority.

Gilligan urged the audience to foster the “original voice.”

“It should be listened to, heard and loved for what it is – an original voice,” she said.

Junior sociology major Jean Hopkins said she didn’t know what to expect from the lecture, but found it very interesting, and she agreed with Gilligan on many of her main points.

Associate professor of philosophy Linda Williams said she was very excited to see Gilligan speak. Williams teaches Introduction to Ethics and uses some of her work when teaching feminist ethics.

Williams said she thought Gilligan did a great job of explaining the importance of not just men’s but also women’s voices.

She said she liked that Gilligan did not want to “squash men’s voices,” but rather engage them in genuine dialogue.

“She did a great job of saying that gender issues affect both males and females,” Williams said.

Contact Honors College reporter Leila Archer at [email protected].