My column this week is about how women’s voices are policed and punished in the workplace:
Don’t get me wrong: vocal fry drives me mad. Up-talk makes me crazy. Other feminine vocal affectations, like starting a sentence on a very high note before dropping down, or the overuse of “like,” and “you know,” drive me up the, like, you know, wall? I have to restrain myself from rolling my eyes when this happens:
MODERATOR/TEACHER/FACILITATOR: Does anyone have any questions?
MAN: [Asks question]
WOMAN: [Raises hand, usually halfway up] Uh, yeah, I have a question, and it’s piggybacking off what XYZ said, and it’s sort of a complicated question, but what I was wondering is [asks question].
I want to say, “Stop wasting my time.” I want to say, “Stop wasting your time.” But I understand why women do this — why they pad and soften and hedge — whether it’s a conscious choice or not. These affectations and verbal ticks exist for a reason. As Julia Reinstein at New York magazine noted, one recent study posited that rising inflection — up-talk — is a survival mechanism. “A rise at the end of a sentences serves as a signal that the person is not finished speaking, thus deterring interruption or floor-stealing. It’s not a sign of shallowness — it’s a strategy to be heard.” In other words, as a culture, we don’t take femininity seriously, but we get awfully uncomfortable when women aren’t appropriately feminine. Which leaves actual women in a rather tough spot, and results in a plethora of survival strategies and, in this case, verbal workarounds.
You can read the whole thing here.