What is 'vocal fry,' and why doesn't anyone care when men talk like that?

We've noticed women using 'vocal fry' for a while now, but it's recently been recognized that dudes are getting in on the action, too!

"Vocal Fry" is a term for the glottal, creaking sound of lower-register speech oscillation.

You know, like that raspy Zooey-Deschanel-type thing where your voice has that little "GuUuUuUuUuUuUuUh" crackle, instead of the smooth, consistent "Guuuuuuuuuuuuuuh" and — that really didn't help at all, huh?

OK, it's this:



We've noticed women using "vocal fry" for a while now...

A scientific study was reported in a 2011 issue of Science magazine that's generally credited with adding the phrase "vocal fry" into the popular lexicon. Before this point, according to the magazine, apparently vocal fry did not exist, although Britney Spears anachronistically employed it in the first line of her debut single, "Baby One More Time" all the way back in 1998. And she wasn't the only pop star to do so.

GIF via "Baby One More Time" music video.

The study from Science purported that women are often different than men (groundbreaking!), and thus, women talked less good with their mouth-sounds. (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist.) (Please excuse my rolling eyes.)

Specifically, vocal fry was said to be a trend among college-aged women of a certain social standing. "Young students tend to use it when they get together. Maybe this is a social link between members of a group," noted one female researcher.

...but recently it's been recognized that us dudes have been getting in on the action for a while too.

All right, guys! We're finally getting closer to true gender parity! But the question remains: How come no one noticed that men have been using vocal fry for years?

"This American Life" host Ira Glass recently admitted that he uses vocal fry. But in a conversation with Chana Jaffe-Walt (who is not a dude), Glass also admitted that no one notices his vocal fry. And it's not that no one notices — women are criticized for using vocal fry while men have been getting away with it for years.

"I get criticized for a lot of things in the emails to the show," Glass said. "No one has ever pointed this out."

Ira Glass. GIF via Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band.

Noted academic and anarcho-syndicalist advocate Noam Chomsky has also been known to employ vocal fry (presumably as a means of dismantling capitalism). Chomsky certainly has his detractors, but none of them seem to take issue with his vocal quality either. And even The Hairpin noted last week that male vocal fry has become "a thing."

If you think those two dudes are just rare outliers, here's a fun little mashup/remix of male vocal fry put together by Ann Heppermann, producer of Culture Gabfest on Slate:

  

In reality, associating the vocal fry trend only with women — both in practice and in naming — is a really just another way of trying to define gender roles.

It's certainly interesting to observe the trends in human social interactions in the same way we observe a pack of wild capuchin monkeys. But the way that vocal fry gained traction in popular culture was, well, kind of weird.

After that Science magazine article came out, women were suddenly being judged for the supposedly abrasive way in which they spoke when they used vocal fry, even though both women and men had probably been talking that way since well before 2011.

There are many legitimate reasons — beyond gender — for why a person might develop vocal fry.

The simple truth is that vocal fry is just one way that people talk, regardless of their gender. Some people employ it as a means of being heard, as differentiating their voices from the rest of the masses. Other people really do just talk that way!

And it's another example of the way we treat women like Goldilocks ("This one's too sexy, and this one's too prude, and..."). If a woman uses a higher register to speak, then it's classified as ditzy, valley-girl uptalk. If a woman uses her lower register, it's vocal fry. If she speaks in the middle (modal range), her words often get lost entirely.

So maybe instead of listening to the sound of someone's voice, we should listen to the actual words they're saying.

The vocal fry drama has reached a point where Katie Mingle, producer of the 99% Invisible podcast, has had to set up this autoreply filter for the show:

And maybe, just maybe, we should all try to worry less about the way people speak (or dress or...) and instead try to actually listen to and hear what they're saying.

So vocal fry? Don't vocal fry? Do what you want! Because if our crappy earbud headphones have taught us anything, it's that content matters more than the quality of delivery.

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Women around the world are constantly bombarded by traditional and outdated societal expectations when it comes to how they live their lives: meet a man, get married, buy a home, have kids.

Many of these pressures often come from within their own families and friend circles, which can be a source of tension and disconnect in their lives.

Global skincare brand SK-II created a new campaign exploring these expectations from the perspective of four women in four different countries whose timelines vary dramatically from what their mothers, grandmothers, or close friends envision for them.

SK-II had Katie Couric meet with these women and their loved ones to discuss the evolving and controversial topic of marriage pressure and societal expectations.

SK-II

"What happens when dreams clash with expectations? We're all supposed to hit certain milestones: a degree, marriage, a family," Couric said before diving into conversation with the "young women who are defining their own lives while navigating the expectations of the ones who love them most."

Maluca, a musician in New York, explains that she comes from an immigrant family, which comes with the expectation that she should live the "American Dream."

"You come here, go to school, you get married, buy a house, have kids," she said.

Her mother, who herself achieved the "American Dream" with hard work and dedication when she came to the United States, wants to see her daughter living a stable life.

"I'd love for her to be married and I'd love her to have a big wedding," she said.

Chun Xia, an award-winning Chinese actress who's outspoken about empowering other young women in China, said people question her marital status regularly.

"I'm always asked, 'Don't you want to get married? Don't you want to start a family and have kids like you should at your age?' But the truth is I really don't want to at this point. I am not ready yet," she said.

In South Korea, Nara, a queer-identifying artist, believes her generation should have a choice in everything they do, but her mother has a different plan in mind.

SK-II

"I just thought she would have a job and meet a man to get married in her early 30s," Nara's mom said.

But Nara hopes she can one day marry her girlfriend, even though it's currently illegal in her country.

Her mother, however, still envisions a different life for her daughter. "Deep in my heart, I hope she will change her mind one day," she said.

Maina, a 27-year-old Japanese woman, explains that in her home country, those who aren't married by the time they're 25 to 30, are often referred to as "unsold goods."

Her mom is worried about her daughter not being able to find a boyfriend because she isn't "conventional."

"I really want her to find the right man and get married, to be seen as marriage material," she said.

After interviewing the women and their families, Couric helped them explore a visual representation of their timelines, which showcased the paths each woman sees her life going in contrast with what her relatives envision.

SK-II

"For each young woman, two timelines were created. One represents the expectations. The other, their aspirations," Couric explained. "There's often a disconnect between dreams and expectations. But could seeing the difference lead to greater understanding?"

The women all explored their timelines, which included milestones like having "cute babies," going back to school, not being limited by age, and pursuing dreams.

By seeing their differences side-by-side, the women and their families were able to partake in more open dialogue regarding the expectations they each held.

One of the women's mom's realized her daughter was lucky to be born during a time when she has the freedom to make non-traditional choices.

SK-II

"It looks like she was born in the right time to be free and confident in what she wants to do," she said.

"There's a new generation of women writing their own rules, saying, 'we want to do things our way,' and that can be hard," Couric explained.

The video ends with the tagline: "Forge your own path and choose the life you want; Draw your own timeline."

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