They say women pick clothes to impress women, but do they pick voices to impress men? That's the question we were left with after listening to reporter Ashley Milne-Tyte's segment on NPR's 'Marketplace' about the disturbing — and apparently growing — trend of adult women who sound like little girls. Like Monica Goodling, the 33-year-old, right-wing Justice Department official with a suspicious law degree, bad ethics and the voice of a twelve-year-old. Seems that we weren't the only ones cringing during Goodling's Legally Blonde-like testimony before Congress last month: In fact, Milne-Tyte started off her Marketplace segment with an audio snippet of Goodling's remarks before the mostly-male House Justice Committee, then spoke to business and communication experts about this sort of vocal dumbing-down among female professionals. The theory behind it is that some women are either so scared of their own professional shadows or so afraid of being labeled feminists that they "overcorrect" by speaking and/or acting like young girls. Take Emily Longrio, a female professional who says she took voice training at the request of her boss. And what did Longrio learn? The power of "um"!
Making declarative statements is kind of intimidating. It's a lot easier to say "Um, I'd like to talk about our annual report today," than "I'd like to talk about our annual report today.
Apparently an "um" really changes things! But, seriously: If, as Naomi Wolf intimated in the Washington Post yesterday, the childlike behavior exhibited by certain women is some deep-seated attempt to reassure the world of their vulnerability and femininity, who exactly is pushing them to do so? Other women? Or the same type of men who criticize someone like Hillary Clinton for being nakedly ambitious and "shrill"? We're curious here, people. Weigh in, in the comments.