Top 3 “Oh Captain, my Captain” moments at The Sunday Times Festival of Education

July 4, 2012. By Erica Buist (Journalist, travel writer, comedian)

Number 2 – Yvonne Gilan, voicecraft coach, ardent feminist and mother of AA Gill

I was the only non-teacher present at Yvonne’s voice workshop for women. I was curious as to why teachers would want a workshop in public speaking – until it dawned on me that teachers are public speakers. As children, we have no respect for the fact that every time a teachers stands up to speak, they are taking on the number one fear.

As Yvonne taught us breathing exercises and how to speak from “the powerhouse” – the torso area housing the diaphragm – dashes of feminism were splashed into the session like olive oil on a salad.

“Women have a real problem with voice,” she said as we breathed in through our noses and out through our mouths, “we finish puberty and vocally retreat back into childhood. And it’s encouraged. Don’t use that high, squeaky tone from your throat. Speak from the powerhouse. Own the room.”

She taught us how to stand. Stunning that we would need to learn in our twenties, thirties and forties, but we did. Yvonne taught us to stand with our weight spread evenly on both our feet, and again, compared women to men.

“Men stand balanced. Women don’t. They put their feet together, or lean all their weight on one leg. Feminine.”

“Topple-able!” I said. She grabbed my arm and gave it a shake, indicating to the others – “See there? She’s got it. She knows!”

I blushed like a schoolgirl, and put my weight on both feet. I thought about the Dead Poets Society boys, standing on those desks. Their weight was balanced evenly on both feet. If the film has been set in a girls’ school, and they had stood on their desks in that “feminine” way, the final shot of that film would have been a clatter of desks and a mass of bloomers in the air. “Oh Captain, my –“ CRASH.

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