Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Mark O'Connell, L.C.S.W. Headshot

Kathleen Turner's Voice Could Save Your Life...

Posted: Updated:

... and I don't mean the sultry, breathy, whiskey-and-cigs, sex-goddess reverberations that generated seismic body heat, romanced the stone and enamored Roger Rabbit (and the whole universe) in the '80s. (Though I'm sure that sound -- which is still intact, enhanced by a gravelly wisdom -- has vitalized many). Rather, I refer to her ferociously self-assured speech on reproductive rights at The National Press Club earlier this month. Turner urgently reminded women that the November election has much more than politics depending on it, emphasizing that their basic survival is also at stake. She ultimately encouraged each of us to take a nervy stand whenever our lives are so threatened.

Her speech made clear the annihilating danger a Mitt Romney presidency would pose to women, referring to the Republican nominee's explicit promise to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, his support of the Blunt amendment, as well as his party's current opposition to the Violence Against Women Act.

Indeed the power of her "voice" was evident in the penetrating truth of her words. After hypothetically encouraging American women to take a collective day of rest, she stated, "We might show the country what an essential element we are, but perhaps more important, we might show ourselves".

The conviction of her delivery was possibly even more compelling than the text. This was one of Turner's finest performances, and by that I do not intend to discredit the authenticity of her message; it is my belief that great theater (all great art really) is a heightened expression of truth. As Aristotle said, "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."

This being the case, Turner's "voice" rivaled the highly effective political theater served up by the Democratic National Convention (DNC) the same week, which featured speakers who masterfully transmitted authenticity in a cogent, artfully heightened, and entertaining way. Though she had a smaller stage (fringe-theater compared to the Broadway-sized spectacle of the DNC), her speech was arguably more emboldening due to its rawness, demonstrating that to demand visibility often means to shed our palatable political cloaks and release a desperate, unwieldy, battle cry.

More potent yet was the body through which her content and grounded gravitas flowed. To witness a former iconic sex symbol inhabit a palpably weathered, burly frame and convey more self-possession and passion than ever before is an anomalous thrill.

Sure, Turner was known for "tough female roles" throughout her acting career, but when our world offers women power, it is too often dependent on "sex appeal," an ideal based on a very narrow idea of heterosexual male fantasy. No longer able to rely on this as a crutch she has transcended her former persona -- "type" if you will -- tapping into a power much deeper, more alluring and more authentically her own. Imagine the force behind your own voice if you could harness your own vulnerable truth, your own perceived deficits -- perhaps casting yourself against expected type -- with such self-acceptance, will to exist and demand to be recognized.

Our time calls for many of us to step outside of safety zones, to depart from limited notions of identity so as to better advocate for our rights, but even more so that we may live liveable lives.

Consider the inspiring boldness of hip-hop artists coming-out as gay, Catholic nuns holding their own against the Vatican, football players aggressively supporting marriage equality, Republican politicians supporting the Democratic presidential nominee, and let us not forget that the President of the United States is African-American, something believed to be impossible only a few years ago. Consider also the thousands of lives fueled by hope due to the nervy stands these people have taken.

Deviating from identities that are familiar, easily categorizable and "copacetic" certainly has a cost -- all of the aforementioned people have been hit with an insane amount of racism, sexism, homophobia and more -- but demanding visibility, respect and freedom requires us to expose ourselves, make ourselves targets and even risk losing friends in the process.

Consider those in the LGBT community who didn't feel included in Obama's nod to "the gays" at his DNC acceptance speech, or the transgender soldiers who must continue fighting for their rights post-Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In advocating for their lives, these people risk appearing to bite the hand that feeds in the eyes of the general public, but if they were to simply subsume themselves into the currently more palatable category of "the gays" in order to keep friends, they'd risk the annihilation of their true selves. As professor Judith Jack Halberstam says, "consensus destroys subtleties."

I believe we can create more space for human subtleties to live and breathe. We can garner encouragement and support in this task by looking to those around us who effectively turn their perceived "weaknesses" into strengths. Kathleen Turner's voice may save many lives, and so might you if you can find your own.