There have been a lot of articles floating around lately about vocal fry, a speech pattern which has been described by feminist writer Naomi Wolf as the way, “a Valley girl might sound if she had been shouting herself hoarse at a rave all night.” It’s a guttural growl at the back of your throat that, frankly a lot of people have. But most of the studies surrounding vocal fry has been about women’s use of it, and how it apparently makes them sound weak, stupid, and annoying…especially to men.
As a woman who is from California and speaks with vocal fry on a pretty regular basis, I’m blissfully imagining my voice making some old dude’s ears bleed.
I wish that people’s critiques of women’s speech patterns focused more on telling men to stop assuming a woman is stupid just because of the way her voice lilts. However, I know that thanks to our good friend gender, girls and women are socialized–whether with speech or actions–in some brutally sexist ways that men simply aren’t. Seriously, things you do everyday are a result of our society socializing you to be less assertive, take up less space, etc. If you’re skeptical, try denying doing any of these nine things.
1. You refrain from being frank and honest about something because you’re worried that you’ll come across as bitchy.
Nicki Minaj was keeping it real when she said, “When I’m assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss.” There are unfair double standards at play when it comes to frank and firm behavior. Women are socialized to be complacent and easy going, calm in nature and keeping the peace, men are socialized to be the hard hitters, not taking no for an answer. Whenever women decide to play the more seemingly masculine role, they’re demonized for it.
2. You apologize a lot for things you shouldn’t even have to apologize for.
I’m guilty of apologizing for literally everything. I’ve said sorry just for speaking my mind, as if I have to apologize for making my voice heard and making other people aware of my existence. I’m sure this is relatable for a lot of you. Also, have you apologized for things that aren’t even your fault? Probably. Again, it all ties into women trying to keep the peace, even if it’s not their job or responsibility.
3. You deny liking something that is seen as super girly even when you definitely liked it.
Sure, deciding that anyone with a vagina must identify as a girl and must live and breathe the color pink is very unfair, yet it’s an expectation that’s placed on many of us from birth. Since girliness is considered weak, vapid, and frankly worse than masculinity, it’s natural that some girls experience a lot of internalized misogyny (AKA hating themselves and their seemingly inherent girliness). It’s one thing to reject assumptions that society assumes of you just because you’re a girl, like liking makeup, clothes, and talking about how cute boys are. It’s another to reject anything associated with femininity just because you think it makes you look bad. Pretending you hate glitter just because it’s feminine and feminine is bad is a result of sexism.
4. You accept settling into uncomfortable, cramped positions when men are taking up a lot more space around you.
This is especially true for those of us who use public transport. There could be a lot of reasons as to why men take up so much space as if it’s God given. I mean, if men grow up with the idea that it’s their world and ladies are just living in it, it’s no surprise that they think that they can literally take up as much space as they want. Hey, it’s their domain, right? Coincide that with the fact that girls are socialized to be more caring and considerate of others–it’s our maternal instinct or something, pfft–and it’s easy to understand why dudes seem oblivious to the fact that we’re literally being squeezed out of physical spaces.
You deserve to take up space, girl. Take it.
5. You low key consider a girl or woman to be slutty based on her outfit or attitude.
I’m going to make this quick: Stop calling women sluts. I don’t care if you and, like, two other people in the universe call men sluts. Slut is a gendered word used against women and their sexuality. The double standards with this phrase are so strong, too. For example, a man can sleep with plenty of men and not be considered used goods or a sexual deviant. A woman who has a lot of sex? Instant slut. Screw that.
6. You instinctively move out of the way whenever you’re walking towards a dude.
So here’s something interesting. A woman did an experiment in which she didn’t move out of the way for men walking toward her in the street, something she would normally do. The result: Lots of collisions. This goes back to that point I made about men and their entitlement to space. Men, possibly, assume that everyone is supposed to just walk around them, especially women, to make space for them. When that doesn’t happen, well…BAM.
Maybe someday dudes will learn to maneuver their way around women just like we maneuver our way around them. Common courtesy.
7. You say you’re not interested in feminism or women’s liberation because of the way you’re afraid you’ll be perceived.
So, a bunch of ignorant guys think that feminists are all a bunch of hairy man haters who can’t get a boyfriend…and you’re going to subscribe to that because you want those dudes to think you’re cool? You want society to think that you’re not crazy? You want to be likable by tearing other women down? Um, not a good look, sis. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with being hairy, or not having a boyfriend, or hating male-dominated BS. Second of all, the idea of women who are invested in women’s rights are just a bunch is sexist AF. That whole line of thinking is all about silencing women.
8. You awkwardly smile at men who are “complimenting” you in the street as a way to placate them.
Street harassment is a menace for so many girls and women out there. While a lot of us will just try to ignore it with a straight face and keep it moving, it’s sometimes difficult not to feel as if you should be polite to these people who are harassing you. Of course, they’ll think that calling you sexy is just a compliment, even though it feels violating (but who cares what we think, right?). So we’ll awkwardly smile, nod, and swallow the vomit creeping its way up our throats.
These situations can be harmless or they can be dangerous, so it’s natural for us to gage our reactions by what our instincts are telling us at a given moment. Still, this idea that we should smile and acknowledge street harassers so that we don’t look like rude bitches is sexism at work.
9. You think that you’re not like other girls.
You are not a special snowflake. Not all girls are the same. You are not better or cooler or smarter than the other three billion women on this planet just because you don’t like boy bands or don’t wear crop tops. This goes back to these sexist notions of girlhood being petty and frivolous. Don’t buy into this lie. Girls are so diverse, okay? Don’t erase that fact just to make yourself feel holier than thou.
Which of these things do you do more than you care to admit? Have you had to unlearn any of these things? Let me know in the comments!