“Cuz no one knows me no one ever will
if I don’t say something, take that dry blue pill
they may see that monster, they may run away
But I have to do this, do it anyway
I can’t keep quiet”
Singer-songwriter MILCK wrote those lyrics about her own struggles as a woman, but when she brought a group of female singers together to perform the “guerilla style” at the January 21 Women’s March in Washington D.C., a viral video of the performance quickly turned her song “Quiet” into an anthem for all women.
My first glimpse of MILCK was on Facebook in the days after the Women’s March (I marched in NYC when my bus to D.C. was cancelled). I was immediately struck by what I saw. It was a flashmob of women singing a song that I’d never heard, but knew I’d never forget, with this woman and her powerful presence at the center.
In the weeks following the Women’s March, women all over the world, in places like Sweden and Zimbabwe, began spontaneously creating their own flash mobs of “Quiet” and posting them on Facebook and Youtube. Soon, #ICANTKEEPQUIET Day was born. MILCK called singers and choirs all over the world to sing together on April 8, at 1:00 p.m. in their respective time zones. I couldn’t wait.
MILCK, along with her friends (including “Pussy Hat” creator Krista Suh) and a devoted crowd of excited fans, myself included, huddled in front of the arch in Washington Square at exactly 1:00. With MILCK herself in the lead, the women and girls around me seemed to release every word into the air as if it had been buried in their souls or caught in their throats for far too long.
Constantly moving as she feels the music, MILCK sings as if it comes to her as easily as breathing does. The crowd directed every word and note towards MILCK’s vibrant stage presence, unbroken. Her connection to her message and to her audience was evident, and as the song finished, the crowd (myself included) screamed to sing it again. MILCK obliged, and again, Washington Square swelled with voices.
Before “Quiet” hit the scene, MILCK (born Connie Lim) already had a growing songwriting career and released a successful debut single, “Devil Devil.” MILCK lived through depression, anorexia, and domestic abuse, but she found her power and fueled it into her voice to use it in her singing and songwriting.
MILCK’s musical battle-cry shares what life has taught her with women and girls around the world: “I can’t keep quiet,” and she encourages them to “let it out now.” Curious about the journey MILCK has taken since she was a teenager herself, I asked her over e-mail what she wants to tell girls at Stuyvesant High School, like me.
“I want teenage girls to know that even if they feel out of place or unheard, they are not alone. I felt so isolated, even though it looked like I was so happy from the outside. I want teenage girls to know that they have so much power, beyond their external appearances or academic/athletic achievements. The obsession with our achievements can keep us from finding our true selves. There is a little voice in your heart, a.k.a. your intuition, that knows what’s best for you. You are already enough and already worth all the good things in the world. Don’t think you have to wait for love or happiness until after you get that A, or lose those five pounds, or get those sunglasses that looked so good on that model from that magazine.”
I think that many of us know exactly what she’s saying. I always feel like I haven’t accomplished quite enough yet, and I need to reach another higher level, where it will be okay for me to take care of myself and just be happy. Maybe the most important thing we can do, as we all strive to reach our goals, is to recognize that now is as good a time as any to respect ourselves and to find our own voices.
It is from her own experiences that MILCK draws inspiration from in her songs, and she described the message she would give to her own teenage self, explaining, “I would encourage myself to think about things outside of my weight. I would encourage myself to not let media’s portrayal of sexuality to pressure me. I would tell myself to laugh at myself often and to take time to journal my gratitudes. I think gratitude is the surefire way to being more present and in the moment. The more present [I am] with where I am in my life, and the less focused I am on the outcome, the happier, and more impactful I am.”
She recognized the serious issues many teenage girls are known to face and struggle with. “I also want teenage girls to know that it’s very common to experience body shame or pressure to be sexy during that age. I felt it so much. It’s common to feel unheard and for you to feel like nobody knows who you truly are. I encourage you to journal, to paint, to run, to skate, to dance, to sing, to draw, to take photos, to take walks in nature, to read. Spend a little time every week doing something just for you…to remind your soul that you are beautiful as you are.”