This week, in shit-hot stuff happening on the internet, once-great feminist pundit Naomi Wolf wrote a column about how vocal fry is Keeping Women Down, and then other women across the internet rebutted her, rightly positing that when your dads bitch about the way you talk it’s because they’re just trying to not listen to you talk, period, so fuck your dads.
Vocal fry, in case you did not know, is the method of talking in which your voice dips, valley girl-style, from the front of your throat to the back, like a Kardashian. Here is an informative, incredulous, vaguely kids-say-the-darndest-things news bit about vocal from from a local Fox news broadcast in Cleveland, which features a speech pathologist describing the sound of vocal fry as sounding like “bacon sizzling on a pan.”
Much of the coverage around vocal fry has been approached with the same alarm that is reserved for anything primarily viewed as the domain of the millennial. It is making young women sound less serious! go the scolds, just like Twitter is ruining writing and “hook up” culture is turning our children all into feckless slutz! Millennials more like HELLennials, amirite, sent to destroy the exceedingly civilized culture that the Greatest Generation (TM Tom Brokaw) created for us, where everything ran perfectly until these entitled youths came along and destroyed it with their HTTPs and their LOLs and their URLs and their STIs. Vocal fry is seen as yet another example of hell-in-a-handbasket by grandpa people who are freaked out that the culture might actually be shifting and, perhaps, that they are becoming out of touch.
A perfect example of the adult scold, and the young person with vocal fry, is this iconic scene from greatest reality show ever filmed Pretty Wild, in which Alexis Neiers cries ‘n’ fries her way through a melodramatic phone call to Nancy Jo Sales, a Vanity Fair writer who Neiers accuses of misrepresenting her in a profile about the Bling Ring.
Sales has built her reputation writing about millennials in often salacious and, yes, alarmist ways; Neiers built her reputation on getting high and robbing Paris Hilton, and also starring in the greatest reality show ever filmed. The vocal fry contains and facilitates multitudes.
Pretty Wild is far superior to the Sofia Coppola-directed, fictionalized film based on Sales’s portrayal of the Bling Ring, but Emma Watson, playing a version of Neiers, is phenomenal at nailing the voice:
Vocal fry, as interpreted via California’s finest Calabasians, is a weapon of the young, disaffected woman, not a way to connote that they don’t care about anything, per se—just that specifically, they do not care about you. It is the speaking equivalent of “you ain’t shit,” an affectation of the perpetually unbothered. It’s a protective force between the pejorative You—dads, Sales types, bosses, basically anyone who represents the establishment—and the collective Us, which is to say, a misunderstood generation that inherited a whole landscape of bullshit because y’all didn’t fix it when you had the goddamn chance. It’s a way of communicating to you “We have this handled,” and also “Get off my dick.” It’s a proscenium of absolute dismissal and it is one of the most beautiful mannerisms millennials possess.
Ladies, own your vocal fry, use it when you need to, put it away when you don’t (because as all of us who aren’t Kardashians know, we shelve that way of speaking when we’re in safe spaces) and most of all, be proud of every goddamn thing you do, and don’t let a local news broadcast try to tell you about yourself, because you already know every ounce.
Finally, I would like to end on this note; the greatest Instavideo I have ever taken. I invite Naomi Wolf to watch this clip of Kim Kardashian, and try and tell me this is a woman who is not handling her business.
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