Vocal fry and #MeToo chefs

I personally don’t like podcasts, they take too much time.  But this is where all the millennials are getting their information now.  It is the wave of the future.

So this podcast is an interview by chef Dave Chang with Helen Rosner, the food writer for the New Yorker.   She is very much a media insider, as well as a food insider, and the interview eventually gets around to the subject of the celebrity chefs exposed in the #metoo movement. She points out that every one of them was the result of a financial decision of a major newspaper.  In this case it was the New York Times and Washington Post who were willing to commit the financial resources to the story.  Rosner believes that this only represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual harassment in the restaurant industry.

But seriously, listen to the podcast.  If you are tired of clickbait and paywalls, this is some refreshing exercise for the brain.  A warning though, she drops the f-bomb constantly and eventfully gets her interviewer to drop of few of them as well.

Of all the places the podcast is listed, I can only get it to play from here:


Okay so it’s nearly an hour long, but seriously, I did listen to it.  Really.  Try it while you are eating, it’s about food after all. And Donald Trump. (He eats.)

So, the only reason I listened to the podcast at all was the context.  Some guy went on Twitter to trash Rosner for something called “vocal fry”. When he was told in no uncertain terms that this was a sexist meme, he backed off, googled “code switching”, and actually started listening and responding to what people were telling him.

If you want to go down this rabbit hole,  it’s a humane and thinking one, which is more than you can say for the rest of the internet these days. (Click on the tweet, then open all the comment threads by clicking in the space at the bottom of the comment.)

Apparently “vocal fry” is a type of code switching, or changing your style of engagement to fit the audience, and criticizing it is a new way of silencing women popularized by Howard Stern and the Mens Rights Movement.

“Complaining about vocal fry is just a new way to diminish women and what they are actually saying.”

Women have to change their natural voices to be taken seriously and exhibit “professionalism.” It’s sexist bullshit that devalues women’s voices. “Vocal fry” is a result of this.

Women lower their voices. That’s the result. If we don’t we’re called girlish and/or unprofessional.

…criticism of vocal fry in women is a sexist trope.

As a man who sits next to women who get criticized all day—absolutely horrible things said to them at a rate of 10-to-1 what I get—this doesn’t surprise me one bit. It is sad though. And infuriating.

Here’s the bibliography from the thread, so I can go back and read them some day. Really.

  • INTERVIEWS: From Upspeak To Vocal Fry: Are We ‘Policing’ Young Women’s Voices? July 23, 2015, Heard on Fresh Air
  • To Code Switch or Not to Code Switch? That is the Question. | Katelynn Duggins | TEDxMaysHighSchool, YouTube.

This American Life has been getting a lot of hate mail about the young women on our staff — listeners complain about their “vocal fry.” Ira investigates the phenomenon. (8 1/2 minutes)

Vocal fry. Upspeak. Overuse of qualifiers — it seems like we can’t open our mouths without being criticized. Elisa Kreisinger talks to public radio journalist Sally Herships and politics writer Amanda Marcotte and asks: If a woman is saying something intelligent and all you hear is the way it’s being said, is that her problem or yours?


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