Picture Perfect Pitch

The NPR newscast brought up some incredibly interesting points about the way women’s voices are trained and belittled on a daily basis but especially in positions of power or jobs centering around their voice. I feel like they addressed the facts that people are afraid to admit but often think about. The fact that women are often trained to adjust the pitch of their voice depending on the circumstance and are almost always forced to lower the pitch of their voice to be taken seriously. They did bring up the point that younger people are recognizing women’s voices as authoritative regardless of pitch concluding that it was mostly a flaw seen in older generations and the women and people that were told and trained to see a higher pitch voice as not powerful of good for a leader. 

I was also intrigued about what they were saying about minorities changing their pitch and mannerism completely. It really struck me as a biracial person because I’ve always sort of made fun of the fact that me and my mom always answer or talk on the phone with ‘white lady’ voice which is basically us lowering our voice tone and evening out our vocal mannerism unless we are talking to someone we are close to. However, my white dad never seems to notice unless we point it out. When I’ve talked to my mom about it, she explained that she had to learn to do a different voice for business and especially over the phone because being a first generation black woman from Queens, no one would even bother listening to her or take her seriously. Whenever I’ve talked to my friends about it, the ‘white lady’ voice is something we make fun of but also something we all do because we’ve learned from our parent(s) that we have to sound ‘respectful’ over the phone and for work or else we will never be heard or succeed. In the minority case, the ‘white lady’ voice extends to all genders as I don’t know a single person of color who does not know about ‘white lady’ voice. However, I wonder how many white people are actually aware of  people of color doing this? In the case of my father, it took being married and having conversations about what it was in order to be aware of it. How can we help white people become more aware of people using ‘white lady’ voice to not be biased? How do we help minority communities get used to using their own voices instead of ‘white lady’ voice? 

Their discussion about how this is also a hyper-masculine issue caused me to think about how pitch of voices has been used for stereotypes of gender and sexuality. Why did our society create the wild stereotypes of high pitched voice must be female or gay and low pitched voice must be male or lesbian? Why did those stereotypes develop and how can we help diminish them? I have always disliked how high my voice was even before I knew I was non-binary but I wonder how much of my own discomfort comes from growing up around the stereotypes that high pitch meant female and low pitch meant male. It raises another battle with gender as people have a horrible tendency to want to label and categorize things. With the vocal pitch stereotypes, people have been arguing over what someone who identifies as non-binary should sound like. The answer is, of course, they will sound like whatever they sound like because gender is not determined by the pitch of ones voice. It is a whole other battle with trans men and women having to deal with people belittling them for not have a pitch of voice that aligns with their gender. Trans people of all genders are brutally attacked for things as simple as someone thinking they don’t have the right pitch of voice to be their gender. It is absolutely terrifying and I am in a constant battle of should I use the pitch I am comfortably with or is it safer for me to use my natural voice and be looked over as female. I have to wonder what I can do to fix these stereotypes without putting myself in to much danger of being attacked and without trying to get my cisgender friends do all the work of being a good example for society.


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