As detailed in "Does Women's language really exists? " by Yuki Mizokami, there is a difference in how women actually speak and how people think women should speak. Women have become a soft target when it comes to many behavioral aspects, one of them being language. Even though new research suggests that men uptalk just as much as women, or that women, nowadays use vocal fry to sound in fact smarter, society is often policing many negative stereotypes against women and their speech. This essay aims to investigate this heated topic by exploring errors in criticism against women's speech. These errors range from linguists treating men's speech as the default, women passively defending women's speech and not criticizing male's speech stereotypes. By committing these errors, not only does it ascribe more power to male speech, it also strengthens the negative stereotypes of female speech.
Men's speech is considered the default and women's speech is deviant especially in the framework of criticisms of women's speech. There is a large discourse regarding women's speech; new wave of ideology suggests that young women should not have to talk like men to be taken seriously. Even though this ideology holds a lot of value, and should be accepted by the larger majority, it is often passively justified. For instance, Marybeth Brown, an activist for anti-sexual violence and a linguist amiably suggests, " I also receive several messages suggesting that I change my voice so that people will take me seriously. Why? Well, I up talk. But I'm not afraid of it, and no one else should". Brown is addressing this to other young girls and women and telling them that they should not be afraid to uptalk. Although Brown's message has a lot of gravity and truth, she uses a passive tone to justify her speech. The fact that she says 'no one should be afraid of it' implies that women's speech, in this case uptalk, is weaker in comparison to male speech. Brown, just like many researchers, is comparing/ judging women's speech to men's speech where men's speech is treated as the norm. The word 'afraid' especially suggests that the way females talk is wrong and not the norm. Hence, even though Brown is authorizing more power to women's speech, she is falling into the trap of treating men's speech as the norm and judging women's speech according to that. Not only does this ascribe more power to male speech, but it also promotes women to be seen as the exception to all the male-centric norms of society.
Women defend criticisms against women speech in a passive manner and don't criticize men's speech. By passively defending women's speech, women acknowledge the concept and further strengthen women speech stereotypes without realizing it. This can be illustrated in 'Does women's language really exist?" by Yuki Mizokami. Yuki defends the criticisms against women speech by arguing that "the way someone (woman) speaks on any occasion in fact depends on several factors other than sex. A woman may speak differently when talking to her mother about clothes than when discussing a problem with classmates in a university seminar" (Mizokami 149). Mizokami is passively defending the way women talk because she is implying not only that talking about clothes is a feminine activity, but also that women use uptalk, vocal fry, and such when discussing clothes. Mizokami suggests that women sound 'dumb', or 'unsophisticated' when women discuss clothes with their mothers when she mentions "a woman talks differently when talking to her mother about clothes" (Yuki, 149). She never once criticizes or acknowledges that males can sound equally 'dumb' or 'unsophisticated' while discussing stereotypically masculine activities such as discussing gaming, girls (in dating context), or pornography. Many female linguists often commit to such errors; instead of criticizing male speech, they often try to nullify the criticisms by defending women speech. This act, once again, strengthens negative women speech stereotypes.
There are like a lot of like criticisms against like women's speech and my essay basically just talks about how there are like errors in such criticisms. Does that make sense? I'm sorry, I am no expert and English is not my first language. Sarcasm aside, the reality is that the way women speak is policed to a great extent, to a point that it is undermining women's credibility at workplaces. Women are being brainwashed into becoming conscious about the way they speak and they are having to put an unhealthy amount of focus on sounding smarter regardless of the content of their speech. Women need to stop passively justifying their speech patterns because it not only strengthens the negative stereotypes of female speech but also, promotes women as an exception to all the male-centric norms of society. Men use just, vocal fry, uptalk and have unnecessary likes and sorrys as well, but such generalizations are never made for men's speech. Instead of telling young females to 'sound' smarter, critics, should encourage good diction and expression of ideas (instead of diluting opinions). At the end of the day, language is about communication, and ideas can be communicated with or without 'just' and 'like'.
Ms Miha Alam
Byrn Mawr College
Mizokami, Yuki. "Does 'Women's Language Really Exist?: A Critical Assessment of Sex Difference Research in Sociolinguistics." Women's Language (n.d.): n. pag. Pdf.
Seitz-Brown, Marybeth. "Young Women Shouldn't Have to Talk Like Men to Be Taken Seriously." https://www.slate.com/. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.
"The List of Male Privileges." XY Feminist. N.p., 02 Nov. 2012. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.