Friday, January 27, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Ashley Judd at the Women's March

Even if she hadn't demonstrated in action how you keep a man from hogging the mic as she took the stage, actor and activist Ashley Judd was widely considered to be the standout speaker at the Women's March on Washington last Saturday. But she didn't do it with a standard speech.

Instead, Judd announced she would be performing a poem written by 19-year-old Nina Davenport, who, like Judd, lives in Tennessee. The poem, called "Nasty Woman," after an epithet made by Donald Trump about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential debates, comprised the rest of Judd's performance. And while it was short--clocking in at about 7 minutes--the poem and Judd's delivery was an energy boost for the crowd I estimate to have been around one million marchers.

None of the poem minced words, but these two paragraphs form what I think of as its core:
I am nasty like my bloodstains on my bed sheets. We don't actually choose if and when to have our periods. Believe me if we could some of us would. We do not like throwing away our favorite pairs of underpants. Tell me,why are pads and tampons still taxed when Viagra and Rogaine are not? Is your erection really more than protecting the sacred messy part of my womanhood? Is the bloodstain on my jeans more embarrassing than the thinning of your hair? 
I know it is hard to look at your own entitlement and privilege. You may be afraid of the truth. I am unafraid to be honest. It may sound petty bringing up a few extra cents. It adds up to the pile of change I have yet to see in my country. I can't see. My eyes are too busy praying to my feet hoping you don't mistake eye contact for wanting physical contact. Half my life I have been zipping up my smile hoping you don't think I want to unzip your jeans. 
She wound up the poem with a reminder:
And our pussies ain’t for grabbing. They're for reminding you that our walls are stronger than America's ever will be. Our pussies are for our pleasure. They are for birthing new generations of filthy, vulgar, nasty, proud, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, you name it, for new generations of nasty women. 
After the performance, Judd was criticized for using the word "pussy," and pointed out that it was the new president who'd used it first--the poem was written to reflect that. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Someone else's words are not a reason to be boring: Whether you're working with a speechwriter, a poet, or any other writer's writing, that's no reason to merely read their words. Judd put energy, vocal variety, and movement into her performance, making this a good example of how much a speaker can add to someone else's words.
  • For a gigantic crowd, share some energy: The marchers were crowded, and had been standing a long time, when Judd took the stage. She followed the longest-winded speaker, Michael Moore. So an energetic delivery mattered. The crowd connected, cheered, and listened with attention, as a result.
  • Gestures matter: Despite big screens for the crowd to see, Judd plays her gestures large and emphatic, a must for a large-audience event like this one.
Take a look at Judd's electrifying performance:

We're lucky to have video of the author, whose performance of her poem inspired Judd to ask to perform it at the march in Washington. Enjoy comparing them!

#NastyWoman by Nina Mariah (Live at State of the Word)

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