Black-and-white photo of a dark-haired young woman holding a microphone as if she is about to start singing.

My “Sin” of Vocal Fry:

I was watching a video on YouTube by linguist Dr. Geoff Lindsey about the recent hate expressed for the speech phenomenon of “Vocal Fry” and some of the mechanism, sound symbolism, and other issues around it. One of the things he brings up near the end of the video is the idea that much of the of the current discussion may have an element of sexism and/or ageism to it. And, as someone who does speak with a bit of “fry” (or “creaky voice” as the British call it), well… I have an opinion.

The Vocal Fry Among American Women discussion that’s going around reminds me of a phenomenon I encountered as a singer and speaker when I was in my twenties and thirties. My male instructors/directors and coworkers (with the exception of my High School choir director Richard Stout) often directed me to sing and speak more “forward,” to sound “brighter and more open,” while my female instructors/directors and coworkers often preferred my tone when it was slightly more relaxed, or “creaky.” “Pitchier” as one of them called it. Other women, I discovered, sometimes found my “bright” tone irritating or “girly,” while men found it more “feminine,” except on the phone, where, ironically, men often told me I sounded “sexy” when my voice was more “fried.” So, yes, I do think a lot of the current public hate for “vocal fry” utilized by American women is sexism (and ageism, since it’s usually directed at women under 40.)

I’ve been working to return to my lower, more relaxed tone recently, since, as I age, I care less about how “feminine” I sound and more about how comfortable I am with my own voice.

We should be comfortable with our voices as with our bodies, we should not find ourselves attacked for what is natural and comfortable for us. I’ve always had a little bit of a lisp; I speak in a lower register than some women, and with a bit of “fry”; I have a regional accent (Central California Valley melded to “SoCal/Val”); I “whoop” when I laugh; and I’m perfectly fine with it. You should be too.



6 thoughts on “Vocally Sexist?

  1. Bruce Shipman says:

    I’ve always thought you have a marvelous voice, and it suits you perfectly. (I’ve known you *how* long now? OY) Incidentally, one of the things I love about reading your stories is that I can actually “hear” your voice while reading them, and that just makes me like it more.

  2. Elsa DieLöwin says:

    I have always liked your voice. I used to think that recordings of me sound like a little kid, and when I considered trying to change that, your voice was one I thought to emulate.

    Before I got serious about it, I had people tell me that my voice suits me, and realized that it was only my own ears that thought there was a problem. Since others, incomprehensibly, have respected the content of my speaking, I decided not to do it.

  3. I love it when you talk! You bring your experiences to life. You make me laugh so hard my ribs hurt the next day. Always look forward to seeing you in person. I love your aunt S/uncle E dearly and I feel honored that I’ve known you since your teens. ❤️

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