-“We harbor an ideological bias against the feminine voice, rooted in positive primal associations with masculinity.”

Some highlights from the JSTOR article On Men and Women’s Public Speech.

“Gunn uses speeches delivered by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in their 2008 contest for the Democratic nomination to illustrate how gendered norms about speech create a double bind for women.

Gunn argues that the field of public address is an important symbolic arena where we harbor an “[ideological] bias against the feminine voice,” a bias, he contends, that is rooted in positive primal associations with masculinity (and the corresponding devaluation of femininity, the voice that constrains and nags—the mother, the droning Charlie Brown schoolteacher, the wife).

MFspeechBoth Gunn and Campbell contend that masculine speech is the cultural standard. It’s what we value and respect. The low pitch and assertive demeanor that characterize the adult male voice signify reason, control, and authority, suitable for the public domain. Women’s voices are higher pitched, like those of immature boys, and their characteristic speech patterns have a distinctive cadence that exhibits a wider range of emotional expression. In Western cultures, contends Gunn, this is bad because it comes across as uncontrolled. We associate uncontrolled speech (what Gunn calls “the cry, the grunt, the scream, and the yawp”) with bodily functions and sexuality—things that happen in the private, domestic spheres (both coded as feminine). Men are expected to repress passionate, emotional speech, Gunn explains, precisely because it threatens norms of masculine control and order.

The notion of control also relates to the cultural ideal of eloquence. Eloquence is not just a Western value but is rewarded in many cultures around the world.”


““Eloquence” is, essentially, code for values associated with masculinity.”

Ouch.  Yet another patriarchal societal barrier that needs to be brought to light and rectified with all due haste.