by Ty Slobe
Whether we’re talking online or IRL, it seems that everyone takes issue with the ways that girls and women communicate: our voices, spelling, abbreviations, styles, words, manner, and language as a whole are discussed like we are orally spreading the plague. Our communication styles are scrutinized and blatantly judged by journalists and radio show hosts—and their audiences—as though a disgusting unstoppable infection is lodging itself into our throats and into our brains.
With all of this talk about our talk, we start to wonder if there really is something wrong, innately annoying, and horrible about the way we communicate:
‘Do You Have “Annoying” Girl Voice?’ omg, IDK, do I??? It seems likely since I AM A GIRL.
‘Selfies aren’t empowering. They’re a cry for help’ …and here I thought selfies were just a great way for my friends and me to show each other how awesome we are and how good we look. Help me?
‘Are women’s high pitched lady-voices holding them back?’ It’s official, I’ve hit a glass ceiling of vocal success.
‘The Uptalk Epidemic’ OH NO! Even this random professor in some psych department at a university in Canada has a problem with my voice!
Do women really talk like 12-year-old girls? Uh, no. Nope. I talk like a 22-year-old girl. Because I am. And this is how I talk.
There seems to be so much criticism about every little thing that girls do when communicating that it’s almost as though girls could do literally anything and be put down and pathologized for their speaking styles. In fact, I am almost certain that this is the case.
The thing about ‘girl voices’ is that they are—big shocker—representative of girls. While there is definitely no such thing as a specific way that all girls speak always, there are some tropes and commonalities that come from girls with particular identities and their communication styles. Do you identify as an avid feminist internet user? Maybe you communicate with your friends in a way that is specific to that community that you’re involved in—using specific things like key banging when you’re excited or angry (for example, ‘this Tumblr post just NVOBNWEBFREWIUB”), certain vocabulary words like ‘mansplaining’ or ‘amazeballs’ or ‘whatever’. Do you and your friends use the word ‘like’ a lot? Or end a lot of your sentences with a rising intonation, known as uptalk, or a low pitched creak known as creaky voice? Cool! A lot of girls and women do!
Chances are the people you hang out with talk in a certain way that is specific to that group of people. And if that group of people happens to be girls there’s a chance that you communicate using traits known by some as ‘girl talk’. And chances are if you speak ‘girl talk’ there is a lot of criticism out there about your communication style—criticism from the media, from teachers, from parents, from cranky old men, from your male-identifying peers, and even from other girls. Just yesterday I was walking down the street at night and witnessed two teenage boys approach two teenage girls and start mocking their voices. Out of nowhere. For no reason other than that they were talking.
Here’s the thing about girl voice and its ‘annoyingness’: it’s not real. Your voice is fine. The way you communicate is great. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that you need to change something about your voice in order to make them happy. You have cooler things to do and to talk about—like the things you’re already talking about.
We talk about women’s bodies being objectified in a world that systematically changes them into sex objects that have to ‘look’ or ‘be’ a certain way in order to be successful, liked, and valued. Demeaning women to a certain ‘sound’ or ‘style’ and then deciding whether or not that person is worth listening to based on that sound or style is the exact same problem: seeing women as a single trait and then fixating on that trait. The idea that certain ways that girls communicate are obnoxious and need to be fixed is problematic, because it is an idea that values girls only for how they communicate rather than what they say.
Quite frankly, the idea that girls’ communication is annoying is a boring and uncreative argument from people who think that they are better than girls, especially young girls. Girls just happen to be some of the most awesome people on the planet, and they know it. That’s why they form their own innovative ways of communicating their identities. Just because you, old dude/journalist/whoever, are not in on the ever-changing awesomeness that comes out of the ways that girls communicate with one another does not mean that you’re ‘smarter’ or even ‘smarter sounding’. People who make jokes about ‘girl voice’ and how stupid and obnoxious it sounds are certainly not smarter than people who speak different. After all, they are refusing to listen to an entire group of people and what they have to say based solely on a voice or communication style. That’s not something that smart people do. Smart people value other people because of the things that they say, not how they say them.
Developing speaking styles that are girl-specific is a really powerful thing because it means that you are connected with like-minded individuals. This sort of connection with other people is awesome, especially when it means that you’re connected with other girls in a society that regularly delegitimizes girls’ bodies, voices, and existence. That connection is important, and it’s how we survive and thrive.
Identifying as a girl is powerful—whether you portray this identity through your voice, your internet presence, your clothes, your hair, your anything—because girls are powerful. Don’t let people delegitimize your voice or actions because you ‘sound like a girl’ or ‘act like a girl’.
Anyone who doesn’t like girls isn’t worth listening to—not because of how those people sound, but because of the misogyny that they spew into the world.