By Rachel Benner and Kerri Lynne Thorp
When I first heard about Vox Siren, I had a lot of questions. Vox Siren - Why that name? What does it mean? I loved the company’s work and mission, but I was a little bit confused. In my time working with Vox Siren, however, I’ve come to learn that our name and the story behind it is powerful. It speaks to our values as women, our practice as feminists, and our goals as a company.
I talked to the Vox Siren team about the process of naming Vox Siren. The company is a creative agency that promotes the stories, skills, and safety of women, so it needed a name that did the same. The team wanted a name that shifted harmful narratives and took back our story, so they looked to words that had been used against women.
Kerri thought a lot about words that are used to hurt women, like bitch or whore. These can be words of violence used to demean women, but at the same time we associate these words with power. As Kerri put it, “every time I have been called bitch it has been a time I have been standing up for myself or someone else.”
Of course, the business couldn’t really have expletive language in its name. The professional world is not quite ready for that! They had to get a little more creative. They started by asking “why.”
Feminized insults are an integral part of patriarchy. They serve to control and limit women who act outside gender normative behavior. “Bitch” is used to silence women. “Whore” shames women. These words are punishments used to keep women within their prescribed gender role. They quiet our voice and erase our experience.
Prescribed gender roles dehumanize both men and women by erasing individual expression and replacing it with one dimensional categories. Women can be virgin or whores, mothers or scientists, adventurous or stable. They have to pick just one of these myths. “The long history of mythologizing women is at the root systematic and institutionalized sexism,” said Kerri. “Myths about women are more about the historical thoughts of men than the experience of women. In order to promote our stories we need to dismantle our myths.”
Consider the myth of the siren. A siren is beautiful, but villainous. In the legends, the sound of her voice lures sailors overboard to their deaths. We want to reclaim and deconstruct this myth. To embrace the word “siren” is to reject the notion that having a voice is something dangerous or wrong. We label ourselves as sirens, with powerful voices that sing across the sea, and are celebrated, not feared.
The first part of our name literally illuminates the power of the siren label. Vox is the Latin word for voice or sound. We celebrate the song of all sirens. As Zoe put it, “listening to the voices and stories of all women is one of the most valuable ways that we create a society that fits all of us. My voice and the voices of women all over the globe should not be feared. We need to listen closely to our stories of strength, love, support, kindness, tragedy, accomplishments, pain, fortitude, resilience with open ears. “
“Vox Siren,” then, is a call to action. We prioritize women’s voices, and separate them from the myths, insults, and norms of the past. We envision a world where our voices are not feared, and our name reminds us to pursue that vision every day.
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