Research has shown time and again that women’s voices are judged more harshly than men’s. For example, on the campaign trail, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was criticized for having an off-putting “shrill” voice. Younger women are often mocked or taken less seriously for their use of “vocal fry,” which became headline news in 2015 and has since been the center of many internet debates around women’s voices in classrooms, the office, the news, and other public spaces.
And it’s not just that. Women hate their own voices, too, says vocal coach Veronica Rueckert. She joins us to discuss the prejudices against women’s voices in broadcast media, the ongoing “vocal fry” controversy, and other findings (including practical advice) from her new book, Outspoken: Why Women’s Voices Get Silenced and How To Set Them Free.
In the second segment, we talk to Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics and author of many books on women’s voices in the workplace and in conversation, including Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work. She clarifies the distinctions between women’s speech production in public versus private life and sparks an interesting conversation about why so few of our own listener-callers on this show are women.
Veronica Rueckert is a media trainer and national media outreach specialist at the University of Wisconsin—Madison and owner of a coaching business, Veronica Rueckert Coaching. She previously worked for Wisconsin Public Radio, where she founded the statewide news magazine Central Time and the call-in arts and culture program The Veronica Rueckert Show. She also worked as a senior producer and contributor on To the Best of Our Knowledge. She is the author of Outspoken: Why Women’s Voices Get Silenced and How To Set Them Free (HarperCollins, 2019).
Deborah Tannen is University Professor and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and author of many books, including the New York Times bestsellers You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation and Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work.