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RUS Workshop Teaches Voice Use

* Women taught to speak with confidence


Visitors to the Science Center Saturday may have been surprised to hear shouts of "Hey, get back!" and "That's close enough!" emanating from one of the building's auditoriums.

The cries were coming from the Radcliffe Union of Students' (RUS) EXPO '97, which focussed on "how to say what you mean, (and get away with it!)"--both in the classroom and on the street.

About 20 women--and one man--were on hand for the workshop aimed at getting women to speak more assertively.

"We realize talking to women on campus that even some of the most active speakers get nervous," said Officer Maureen "Mo" Morrison of the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD), who opened the event with a discussion of the voice in self-defense.

"The hardest part [of self-defense] is to get the students to say 'No,'" said Morrison, who teaches HUPD's Rape Aggression Defense workshop.

Morrison related her experiences in learning to use her voice more assertively, describing situations in which calm dialogue broke down and she was forced to yell to gain a suspect's cooperation.

The group joined Morrison in yelling "No!" in order to practice "your natural response [to attack]," she said.

After Morrison's remarks, Marjorie L. North, a member of the faculty of the Speech Department at Boston's Northeastern University and co-master of Quincy House discussed speaking in the classroom.

"Studies have shown that underneath death, public speaking is the scariest thing for everybody," North said. "Women tend to be more tentative."

North, who studied theater in college, videotaped each participant in the EXPO expressing his or her opinion on how to speak in class. Participants then critiqued each other's speaking style and tone of voice while watching the video.

Learning how to express oneself confidently is key, North said. She cautioned students against making a statement with a doubtful tone of voice, so it sounds more like a question--called "up talk"--and using qualifiers such as "maybe," "I don't know but," "I think" and so on.

RUS mailed invitations to the EXPO to all undergraduate women, and more than 40 students registered before the event, said Meghna S. Majmudar '99, the Union's publicity chair and co-organizer of the EXPO.

The women who attended the event said afterward that they were interested in learning to speak more assertively.

"It was made very apparent that women don't treat their opinions like they have as much worth, especially in a group setting," said Siobhan K. Quinlan '01.

Brynne Zuccaro '99 said that though the advice on public speaking would be useful to anyone, using one's voice effectively is especially important for women at Harvard, "which is dominated by male organizations and traditions."

"[The EXPO] has been a way to bring women together and start certain conversations, to get women to talk to each other. That's our biggest goal," Majmudar said.

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