The Current

'Vocal Fry' undermines empowered young women, says Naomi Wolf

Vocal Fry. The widely-imitated speaking mannerism that some say is undermining the credibility of an otherwise empowered generation of young women. Feminist Naomi Wolf joins us to talk about the way women talk and we hear from a critic who says policing how women talk keeps them silent.
Author and feminist Naomi Wolf worries that the most empowered generation of women is hobbling itself by adapting the speaking style of the Kardashians, known as vocal fry, making them seem less educated, and less competent. (Tommy Forbes/Flickr cc)

Director Lake Bell, from the film In a World, demonstrated the way some young women speak today on Conan. It's called uptalk and vocal fry, and it's popular with celebs like Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry.

Last year, a study at Duke University found that "vocal fry" in particular - where the voice lowered until it creaks, or fries - made speakers seem less competent and trustworthy, especially to employers. 

And now the prominent feminist Naomi Wolf has leant her voice to the conversation. Last week she published an essay in The Guardian, headlined: "Young women, give up the vocal fry and reclaim your strong female voice."

Naomi Wolf is the author of several books, including The Beauty Myth and Vagina: A New Biography. She joined us from New York City.

Farrah Khan is a violence-against-women educator and counselor, who says that she herself has received emails critiquing her voice -- and the way she speaks. Farrah Khan joined us in our Toronto studio. 

Deborah Cameron takes issue with what Naomi Wolf has to say. She is a professor of language and communications at Oxford University.

What are your thoughts on uptalk and vocal fry? Are you a vocal frier?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Sonya Buyting, Idella Sturino and Amil Niazi. 


♦ Give up the vocal fry and reclaim your strong female voice - Naomi Wolf, The Guardian
♦ A response to Naomi Wolf - Deborah Cameron
 Upspeak To Vocal Fry: Are We 'Policing' Young Women's Voices? - NPR
♦ Like, totally don't talk like this to get ahead in business - Fortune