“Vocal fry” among women has been a hot topic the past few years, even getting its own feature film mention with the movie In a World. It’s an especially hot topic in the public radio world, as a voice is all that listeners know their hosts by. There’s no face to judge, no reporter to tell she should change her hairstyle. It’s just what’s coming out of the speakers, and when listeners don’t like it, they don’t like it, okay?!
A couple weeks ago, radio producer Jenna Weiss-Berman shared the auto-reply Katie Mingle of 99% Invisible has started sending out to numerous people who write in to complain about the sound their female reporters make when they’re doing their job.
This is an issue Ira Glass tackled earlier in the year, on This American Life, when he discussed the number of emails the show gets about the voices of producers like Chana Joffe-Walt.
Chana Joffe-Walt I’m just trying to speak. Literally the way that the voice comes out of my mouth bothers you? What am I supposed to do about that? And even now as we’re speaking about it, I am noticing every single time I do it, and then hating every single time I do it, and trying not to do it. But trying not to do it is impossible because it’s the way that I talk, because it’s my actual voice. It’s crazy making.
Ira Glass It’s funny. Until we started talking about it for this story, I never even noticed it in your voice.
Chana Joffe-Walt And now you notice it every single—
Ira Glass Yeah. Have you noticed that I do it too?
Chana Joffe-Walt Not until right now.
“I get criticized for a lot of things in the emails to the show. No one has ever pointed this out,” Glass admitted of vocal fry.
As Glass notes, a Today Show segment with Matt Lauer is partially responsible for making this issue seem like it’s female-specific, when it stands to reason that anyone could have an imperfect speaking voice or practice upspeak or, as explored in the new documentary Do I Sound Gay?, sound, um, gay. To prove it, the producer of Slate’s Culture Gabfest, Ann Heppermann, put together this little mix. Enjoy!
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