VOICE is a biannual journal of art, literature, and theological ideas published by the Yale Divinity School Women’s Center. VOICE exists to honor the “dangerous memory” of women. When we use the word women, we make a conscious effort to uplift and acknowledge a designated space for the experience of womanhood today, while also being attentive to the fact that people of many gender identities and experiences relate to womanhood and femininity in empowering and complicated ways. We use women less as a category of gender and more as a particular way of relating to the world.
VOICE’s founding emerged through communal gathering, as feminist endeavors often do. Throughout the 1995-1996 academic year, women banded together in weekly conversations at the Women’s Center. Sitting together at a roundtable in the Women’s Center room, members took turns speaking candidly about moments when they felt silenced, disempowered, or voiceless, both at Yale and elsewhere. One conversation took place outside of the weekly meetings, finding newfound space in a seminar taught by YDS professor and Women’s Center member Serene Jones (’85 M.Div.), who is now the President of Union Theological Seminary. When a young woman in the class came forward to deliver her presentation, she suddenly and inexplicably lost her ability to use her voice. She stopped speaking halfway through her talk. The other students acknowledged that there was a biological explanation for this phenomenon— nervous system overload, for example—but Professor Jones took the opportunity to raise consciousness around the realities confronting women then and now, who frequently find their authentic voices interrupted by others or disconnected from themselves.
Through these conversations, the impulse to rediscover our sense of self and personal expression moved the students of the Women’s Center to establish an editorial space for further dialogue. The 1996-2002 run of VOICE was concerned with establishing a forum for women’s voices where personhood could be processed and elevated through creative work and community engagement. The student-led journal published writers such as Letty Russell (YDS Women’s Center advisor) and Kate Ott (editor of the 1999 issue). At its core, the journal stood in solidarity with conscientization, as exhibited through its past mission statement: VOICE is a journal that strives to explore the experience of voice in women’s lives. It delves into the times in our lives when something or someone has affected our sense of self; has moved us to do, to become, to feel, to see, to know differently, or to know more of ourselves—whether it leaves us to grope in the seeming darkness, or to shout and holler from clarity.
The fall 2020 resurrection of VOICE is still preoccupied with this idea of reconnecting with one’s voice. Through a variety of mediums and vantage points, VOICE is an emblem of feminist reflection within the religious domain. By engaging with past narratives of those left unheard, rendered invisible, emptied of power, and laid to waste by memory’s neglect, we hope that the revival of VOICE will reignite a space at YDS for women’s momentous expression.