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'That’s What She Said': Daring To Be Authentic

Women telling stories that empower women is the goal of the She Said Project.

In recent years, the phrase, “That’s What She Said” has become a popular punchline. It also is the title of a series of live events that showcase everyday women. The series began in Champaign in 2013 and was supposed to come to Bloomington earlier this year until, well, everything shut down.

Now, it's going online Friday evening.

One of the speakers is Michelle Vaught a voice professor at Illinois State University. Vought said the goal is to share stories to give women everywhere a voice.

Vought said historically the U.S. has had a pretty patriarchal society. And although women are emerging into more powerful positions, she said there is still intense social pressure to conform.

Vaught said her own story is about learning and daring to be authentic.

“As a preacher’s daughter, I was taught that how I looked and how I behaved was very important and other people’s opinions of me were more important than my opinion of myself,” said Vought. “I remember distinctly promenading with my mother down the aisle in the church every Sunday morning. We would dress to the nines because we knew we were going to be seen and that was important.”

She said she was trained to package herself well and stuff down any voice of dissent. That changed in high school during a pivotal experience at a Junior Miss Pagaent in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She said her mom pushed and pushed for her to do the pageant. And on a hot day in August in an unairconditioned auditorium, it wasn’t fun. At. All.

“You know, sweat dripping off all of our faces, armpit stains. It was a ludicrous event. And we all looked and felt disgusting,” said Vought.

Add to that, she said the sound tech botched her tap dance talent routine by failing to turn on the volume of the music.

“So, I stood there for probably a full minute of minute and a half waiting in my position with my pink dress and my pink bow, ready to dance, waiting waiting waiting. And then suddenly the music technician realized her foible and turned up the music full blast and suddenly the middle of the dance was screaming in the auditorium,” Vought said.

At that point, she told herself she would never do a pageant again. Yet, social conventions are hard to overcome. There are constant incremental pressures to conform and small battles to fight.

“Every day I have to, after I do my meditation, I say, ‘I am enough and I honor myself.’ So it’s a constant affirmation that needs to be said because its so easy to be a people pleaser again and live my life for everyone myself,” said Vought. “To really be authentic in life I have to be willing to disappoint others in the name of satisfying myself.” 

The national "That's What She Said" event is Friday evening at 7:30 pm on Facebook Live. Organizers said they hope to have a live event in Bloomington next year.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.