Listening to a recent Lexicon Valley podcast, triggered a memory about how, as a kid, I was chastised for swearing. I was probably around 13 or 14 years old and had used, as teenagers often do, a word that some adult authority figure in my life thought was inappropriate.
Their response was that swear words were for uncreative and lazy people who couldn’t find a better way to express their emotions. And that my grandfather never had to say a swear word in his life to express how he felt.
I remember, even in my teenage brain, thinking this was one) untrue and two) ridiculous. So, I asked, “Well what did he say?”
To which there wasn’t an answer.
I am aware that one can thoroughly insult people without dropping a curse word. I’m also aware that one can do so with curse words. Or just not insult anyone at all but who wants that?
There are lots of great words in the English language. Some of them have been arbitrarily deemed “inappropriate.” Many of them because the Victorians were uncomfortable with bodily functions (shit, piss). Or because sexism (pussy, cunt, twat). Or because of shaming about sex (fuck, cocksucker*).
I don’t abide by this. Words aren’t inherently bad. It’s a social construct. Like race. And whether long hair is for men or women. And whatever goes into a pumpkin spice latte (maybe that’s a chemical construct?)
*Why do men use cocksucker as a swearword? Isn’t that like calling someone you don’t like “Hey delicious steak” or “Fuck off, excellent massage?”
Anyone who complains about the sound of a woman’s voice is to be subjected to listening to whatever bullshit the North and South Koreans are currently blaring across the DMZ.
Upspeak, vocal fry, whatever the new fad is in making women (especially young women) feel bad about themselves has been in the news lately as people (read: men) discover that things that they do are often extolled while things that women do are criticized. As the popularity of podcasting increases, I’ve been hearing more and more complaints of differing varieties about why this or that woman is just impossible to listen to.
Of course, similar complaints are never lodged against men. Less you think I’m exaggerating, check out the text of the autoreply from 99% Invisible specifically about the complaints the podcasts gets about the female voices on the show.
Look, I’m happy to live in an era where I get to fight in favor of not policing the sound of a women’s voices rather than for, say, the right to vote or own property. But that doesn’t make these battles any less important.
A few days ago at a work BBQ, someone mentioned to me that they had spoken to one of my employees on the phone and she “sounded really young.”
“Hmm,” I replied, not thinking much of it. “She’s not that young. Around my age.”
“Well she sounds really young, it’s unprofessional.”
Wait, wait? You’re accusing her voice of being unprofessional.
“Being young isn’t unprofessional.” I said. “Being judgmental sexist is though.”
And then I excused myself and got another drink.