Friday, October 19, 2007

A Masculine Intonation, but with a Gentle Touch

What will it take for a woman to convince Americans that she has the leadership qualities needed to become their president? According to Beth McGuire, dialect coach to the stars, the secret might lie in pitch and intonation rather than policies and political insight.
"Any woman in a position of authority tends to lower her pitch,” she said. “But Hillary doesn’t vary her range a lot. She ends all her sentences on a down glide, which can make her sound masculine and hard."
So, have you got that, ladies? To prove your competence, try to speak using the lower pitches of a masculine voice. Wait, no, don't sound too masculine - that might make you seem... unfeminine.

So, perhaps we should talk in low voices, but use the intonation of a valley girl? Mark Liberman of Language Log is skeptical:
...is McGuire really suggesting that a candidate for president of the United States of America should systematically engage in uptalk? That would do wonders for her image, I'm sure.
He forgets, however, that sounding like an idiot has been a great political advantage for our current president. I mean, you wouldn't want a 'stuffy intellectual' who knew facts and stuff running things, would you?

The New Yorker article in which McGuire is quoted ends with Majella Hurley, another dialect coach and an associate of McGuire, timidly stating "I would hope that people actually listen to content," to which The New Yorker's responds, "that is not bloody likely." Well, it isn't bloody likely that people will talk about Hillary Clinton's content instead of her bloody intonation if our highly regarded journals don't talk about her content, is it?

Stupid gits.

3 comments:

Mächtige Maus said...

Ah...a post after our own hearts. Agincourt and I have both had discussions about this in the past. I would have to say that the issue is not so much about speaking in low tones in order to sound like a man. I think the issue that was trying to be addressed is this, Agincourt and I have both noticed that women (i.e. those appearing on Jeopardy) tend to end sentences on an "up" tone, which does nothing but make the response sound like a question. And by phrasing a response in terms of a question all that is achieved is a semblance of either misinformation, insecurity, or lack of confidence.

Mächtige Maus said...

Crap...I meant to say "(e.g. those appearing on Jeopardy)" because this is not a trend we have only witnessed on that show.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Yeah, that is what is so strange about the article - it seems like the diction coach is recommending that Hillary Clinton end on an "up" tone - which is usually does sound questioning. As for the pitch of the voice, Casmall says that I have a "work voice.” He can always tell if I'm on the phone for a professional or personal call. While this is not something that I do consciously, I don't doubt that I have internalized some idea that speaking in a lower tone makes you sound more competent. It is disturbing to think of this as a subconscious impersonation of a masculine trait.