Would women make a complex connection with their voices, trend I love you either? It may well be that the relationship we have with the latter, and the vision that culture sends back to us, is, more than a subjective feeling, a real and vast issue of gender, which is perpetuated throughout the centuries. More and more research and surveys are emphasizing this reality.
The story of our voice has a lot to say. Because basically, what does a voice tell about those who own it? In an era of the liberation of speech, what place is given to this voice too underestimated? There is cause for serious concern. As speeches multiply, there is nothing more normal than to dwell on what makes them resonate. This voice, so important, and yet so muffled.
A real gender issue
The voice, a gender issue? At least that’s what Veronica Rueckert, author of the aptly named essay Outspoken: Why Women’s Voices Get Silenced and How to Set Them Free, assures us. Asked by the online journal The Helm about her historical research, the expert explains that women’s voices have always been given the same pejorative qualifiers: they are squeaky, shrill, annoying, or, conversely, difficult to make heard. In short, voices that take up too much space, or not enough, in a world of men.
This contradictory “too much or too little” says a lot about the remarks and prejudices often associated with women, their bodies, and their attitudes, within the patriarchal system. The slightest fact – such as this outfit, such behavior at work, or such a speech in the media – will always be reduced to that too much or not enough. And it starts with the voice.
“Women have been forced into this dysfunctional relationship with their voices. The list of adjectives associated with these voices is astounding and super depressing”, laments Veronica Rueckert.
Is simple detail quite subjective? Quite the contrary. The voice of women has everything to do with the composition of the bodies that make up our society (to whom exactly the word of authority belongs?) and with the habits and injunctions associated with women at all times. The fashion of the corset, for example, details the author, developed in the 1700s and 1800s, had no other aim, beyond its aesthetic dimension, then to reduce the voice of women by preventing them from breathing properly.
As is often the case in the history of the status of women, organic issues are political issues. And the physical complexes partly explain those concerning the content of speech. Since it is also the body that carries the voice, what may have harassed it over the centuries is not indifferent to this “dysfunctional relationship”. Dysfunctional, because women have not learned to love what can represent their uniqueness, and even more so their strength.
It is a question of education, of habits, of culture too. Among the cultural representations, the stereotype of the”nice girl”, with polite and polite speech and golden discretion, “the one who does not make waves and therefore does not raise her voice”, details the essayist, who dates this social injunction… at the birth of biblical figures. Cultural discourses also, like those of many ancient philosophers, having trivialized in their precepts a form of millennial misogyny (“A modest silence is the honor of women”, wrote Aristotle).© Adobe Stock Hate his voice, a cultural history?
A long history
So this whole story of complex and complexing voices is not new. That is nothing to say. The space of a damning retro, the site The Cut wonders not without irony if “the voice of a woman can be correct” recalling that the same derogatory remarks were perpetuated from the Roman Forum to the American election campaign of 2016.
Thus the speaker and lawyer Caia Afrania made the time of ancient Rome the subject of much criticism aimed not only at her speeches but even more so at the sound of her voice. The ancient author Valerius Maximus did not hesitate to use the terms “supplement” or “barking” to designate the word of this woman who had the misfortune to plead. The exposure of the voice was almost considered obscenity in itself. In this context, castigating the supposedly unpleasant sounds of the voice makes it possible to better shake up the content of the speech, its strength, and above all, its legitimacy.
A method that is known to many current politicians, singers, entrepreneurs, and media figures, without a doubt. So much so that The Cut speaks of “cultural DNA”.
A relationship to reinvent?
DNA so well anchored that many media, such as the Daily Cannon, are now forced to remind obtuse readers: “There is no problem with the voice of women, there is a concern with you”. Understand, if women’s voices bother you, you’re the problem. A very current fix. Because as the online media points out, already in the 19th century, female switchboard operators were forced to take courses to guarantee their interlocutors “a soft and melodious timbre”. Another form of control.
And in some contemporary areas such as sports commentary, the site deplores, it is not uncommon for women to be the subject of the most virulent criticism from the public. A field yet not free of passion and vocal excesses on the side of the gentlemen … Enough to cry out for injustice in a system where gender equality (also) requires equality of votes. “We fight for every word and if we forget that, we miss what we are fighting for,” veronica Rueckert insists.
And the author, who leads workshops for precisely these purposes, concludes: “It would be a question of reclaiming this voice and learning to love it despite all this pressure”. Challenge accepted?
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