For those keeping track of the endless list of things women are scrutinized for please add vocals.
Yes, women are now being judged by the sound of their voice to go along with public opinion on hair, clothing, weight, age, employment, managing skills, mothering capabilities and so forth.
Called vocal fry, this latest nitpicking is (supposedly) a rampant affliction amongst women ages 19 to 27. This means my age is a blessing for once as I am too old to be afflicted. Not that it matters, I am already far too aware of how my voice sounds without a catchy moniker. I’ve never cared for my voice. I cringe when I hear it in recording. I cringe if it happens to be presented in video because not only do I sound weird but make a lot of funny faces. Yet, for the most part, I really don’t think anything of it save those rare occasions when it feels highlighted, sort of like my handwriting.
When it comes to the physical task of writing on a piece of paper I leave much to be desired. When writing notes to the munchkins’ school teachers or signing cards for family and friends, I do so with full knowledge it will either look like a doctor’s prescription or the handiwork of a four year old.
Why it is assumed being female automatically equates to meticulous, beautiful handwriting is beyond me. Sort of like gift wrapping where Christmas, birthdays, and anniversaries leave no mistaking which gifts are from yours truly. They require no card but an entire roll of tape with crookedly cut paper and non-meeting edges. Yet, someone will insist that my being a woman means I should be up to performing this task — with a smile.
Let me put this into further perspective, an individual asked if I would write something for him. Why? I asked. Because my handwriting is horrendous, of course! came the response followed by a snort. This was code for “Duh, cause I’m a guy and you’re a girl.” I gave in to the request simply to prove a point and it did not take long for his change of heart when the chicken scrawl that is my handwriting quickly became apparent.
When I came across this new-fangled vocal fry keeping women down I had to learn more, of course, as all I could imagine was actress Kirstie Alley. She has a rather unique, throaty voice but is too old to be afflicted, at least, according to reputable news sources. (Note the sarcasm) A quick online search later produced a video of a woman emulating vocal fry, making this so-called affliction sound like a bad case of laryngitis coupled with an allergy attack while nursing a nosebleed.
I could not help wondering if I sound like that? Which is ridiculous. How my voice may sound to the masses is the least of my worries. Plus, isn’t the sound of one’s voice a tad subjective? Also — I used to lose my voice when working in a call center and it made the task exceedingly difficult. I’d much prefer to sound like Britney Spears or Zooey Deschanel than to have no voice, at all.
While vocal fry may be toe curling and maddening, as a mother of two young girls I can’t imagine pointing out how they will inevitably fail at being female, employable, intelligent and more due to the sound of their voice. Or any and every other item placed under microscopic public scrutiny to a nauseous, eye-rolling degree.
Not to be mistaken, I believe the power of one’s voice is as much a statement as a good handshake or sitting straight in your chair. However, when on my death bed will I really wish I had spent more time reducing obnoxious vocal fry? Will I beg the universe to answer why I hadn’t been blessed with the pipes of Barry White as opposed to Fran Drescher?
Hey, I’ll just be glad I won’t be responsible for writing on my own tombstone.
Bethany J. Royer is the mother of two munchkins and has a serious case of psychology student senior-itis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org