I’m Sick & Tired of Women Being Berated for Raised Voices

Hillary & Bernie @ MSNBC Debate

Hillary & Bernie @ MSNBC Debate

Eager to read the morning after feedback about the MSNBC debate between Hillary and Bernie, I clicked onto the New York Times on line. One header leapt out— “Clinton Raises Her Voice and a Debate over Sexism Rages.”

The Times columnist, Amy Chozick cites Bob Woodward, the veteran Washington Post Editor. “She shouts…there was something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating.” Rather than addressing the content of Hillary’s impassioned words, Woodward critiques further,” I think it has to do a lot with style and delivery.”

Who, today is writing about Bernie’s oratory style, his scowling, “make no mistake,” imperative style? To my ear, Bernie’s emphatic presentations rely on the shout out— the raised voice, the pointed finger, the “truth’s the truth” imperative.

During the debate, Bernie epitomized the wise man, his Einstein-wild, white hair groomed, his suit, dark and freshly pressed. He appears presidential while Hillary, blond, softly coiffed, white pearls at her neck and ears, cannot be “soft” in this debate. She knows what is coming. She is prepped and she needs to make herself heard over the rasping critics.

The issue here is not style but content and how it is, on balance, that when a woman (or girl) is fervent, needing to be heard, raises her voice— her God given high pitched voice— the issue becomes her pitch, the key and tone, not the content.

How we absorb sound is central to this dilemma. Elevated noise—a jack hammer, a fire engine’s sudden blare, a sonic boom, can cause stress. The body has no defense against sound; we feel the vibrations. When I raise my voice in conversation, my husband reacts with discomfort. I want to be heard. I tone it down.

When Hillary raised her voice during the debate to ascertain her point, I applauded her shout out. As Bernie listened, he frowned and it was familiar, the grimace, his discomfort, signaling a sense of judgment in my mind’s eye.

In contrast, Bernie’s tone is lower in range. According to Linda Lowen, who writes about Women, Voice Pitch, Authority and Gender Bias, “to gain authority, women have long believed that it’s better to pitch their voices lower.”

Sound is vibration. In his book, Healing At the Speed of Sound, Don Campbell writes, “So many aural influences affect our mood without our realizing it. When sounds are layered one over the other, their decibels combining and their sound waves colliding, we can start to grind our teeth, snap at our partners, and lose our tempers without knowing why.” It may be that a lower pitched voice is easier for our bodies and psyches to absorb.

An insightful client once remarked in a session, “Tone is everything.”

I am grateful this day for both Hillary & Bernie’s tone. They are cut from similar cloth— post World War II, both experienced and wise about the dire effect of disregard and disengagement, the essential need to speak out.


13 thoughts on “I’m Sick & Tired of Women Being Berated for Raised Voices

  1. Beverly Bader

    Why not? Women are equal to men, even if we’ve never had a woman president, “yet!”. Why not have women’s voices raised to those of men’s when
    they’re angry? What is being feminine anyway? Isn’t that also about women’s natural ability to be more “caring” than men. Does raising one’s voice make a woman less feminine? I agree whole heartedly with your premise that men prefer to ignore Hillary’s content and focus on the shrill tone of her voice.
    Men continue, even today, to try to put women in their place. I find that totally humiliating and unjust.
    I’m grateful that women, like Hillary, know their place as bright and caring. She feels justified in having the right to express her ideas in all the tones on the scale.

  2. Hannah Goodman

    Amen to both of you, Bev and Faye! Once again to be female is to be scrutinized for the exterior, for the presentation and not for the substance. Sick of it. Really sick of it.

  3. Hy Kempler

    A very well written piece. Amazing how the issue of women raising their voices continues to resound. In the political context it should be more acceptable.
    I liked when Hillary became louder and went after Sanders. She had enough of his bull and she is
    going to have to do more of that in future debates,

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Hy, Yes! I actually shouted out when Hillary matched Sanders pitch, and that ain’t no bull!

  4. Eva Skolnik-Avker

    Hi Faye
    Wonderful blog showing sexism is still alive
    and well in the USA. I would say that Hilliary would do well to find another approach to connect with her base. She is too smart to miss opportunities to prove
    her strong, smart and experienced leadership capabilities. Sexism makes this
    campaign an unequal playing field. She must get beyond sexism and show her colors. Thank you for writing this blog

  5. Rosemary Booth

    Right on the mark, and in tune with what’s happening, especially on the media/journalistic front. I liked seeing Sanders’ political imperative–“the truth’s the truth”–connected to the writer’s personal (family) experience, and it felt affirming to see “I’m grateful” linked with the power of a woman’s raised voice.

  6. Hy Kempler

    Keep on speaking out Faye. What do you think of Gloria Steinem speaking out about women deserting Hilary/ Sheila

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