Writing in the Guardian earlier this week, Naomi Wolf called for young women — especially young women at work and studying — to “give up the vocal fry and reclaim your strong female voice.” Vocal fry is a vocalism, or technique, which allows you to reach the lowest register you can, but it comes with a kind of creaky vibrato: think Britney Spears asking,”oh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know?” Wolf put the trend down to patriarchy, arguing that young millennial women are being hobbled by the trend.
“Vocal fry” has joined more traditional young-women voice mannerisms such as run-ons, breathiness and the dreaded question marks in sentences (known by linguists as uptalk) to undermine these women’s authority in newly distinctive ways. Slate notes that older men (ie those in power over young women) find it intensely annoying. One study by a “deeply annoyed” professor, found that young women use “uptalk” to seek to hold the floor. But does cordially hating these speech patterns automatically mean you are anti-feminist?
Many devoted professors, employers who wish to move young women up the ranks and business owners who just want to evaluate personnel on merit flinch over the speech patterns of today’s young women.
While many people agreed with Wolf that vocal fry is nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying and completely unacceptable at work, just as many people disagreed. Loudly.
So this week’s Friday Top Five takes a look at this and related storms: Naomi Wolf, Vocal Fry and Millennials at Work.
1. Naomi Wolf Misses the Point About ‘Vocal Fry’. It’s Just an Excuse Not to Listen to Women
Is it the vocalism or the reaction to the vocalism that is the problem? Erin Riley is firm: “[Wolf] suggests those women who are raising their voices should change the way they speak. But history shows once vocal fry is no longer the excuse, there’ll be another. It is the listeners, not the speakers, who are the problem. And the listeners will continue to find reasons to dismiss women’s voices. They might be too high or too squeaky. […] Stop telling women how to speak. Instead, listen to them.”
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Going back to 2014, Business Insider called out out the study this whole vocal fry scare is based on for being fatally flawed. According to previous studies, vocal fry made young women more hireable. Well then.
2. More Millennials Are Finding Jobs, But Stress And Residual Debt Are Keeping Them At Home With Their Parents
Are millennials impossible to manage or are they just stressed? Medical Daily says they’re stressed and loaded down with debt, and that has implications for employers’ bottom line.
3. Why Make Applicants Jump Through Rings Of Fire?
Are detailed job application forms really helping recruiters and candidates find the right fit? Charlene Long at ERE Media says: no, stop, don’t do it. “Making it easier to apply will no doubt increase the total number of applicants but hopefully it will also increase the number of qualified applicants. And that is good news for both recruiters and candidates.”
4. Workers Like Beer and Ping-Pong, but Appreciation Is More important
Do you need a foosball table to make your millennials happy? Nope, says Neal McNamara at the HR Gazette. You just need to engage them, appreciate them, and communicate openly with them.
5. What Millennials Really Want at Work
Let’s circle back to vocal fry: is the speaker or the listener who’s the problem? Is it the millennial or the manager? Bartie Scott says millennials aren’t so different from other workers — so strop treating them that way. “This us-versus-them mentality is exactly the problem with today’s workplace dynamic. Findings suggest that there may be a way to motivate Millennial workers and all of your employees with one simple tactic: Talk to them.”
And finally, here on B4J, Doug Shaw explores Overcoming Fear of Creativity in HR. Employees and employers both say that more creativity at work would be great — so why is it so hard to just creative? We’re not encouraged. But don’t worry, Doug’s got you covered with four steps to turn it around.