Vocal Fry: Another Unfair Criticism

One of the topics covered in class was of vocal fry.  As a reminder, vocal fry is a low, vibratory sound in some voices.  Still not exactly sure what vocal fry is?  Here’s a quick video that has a few examples of it: https://youtu.be/YEqVgtLQ7qM.

A great example of vocal fry as seen in the video is the way the Kardashians speak.  Because the Kardashians are so popular and a part of mainstream media, tons of teenage and young adult women tend to speak with vocal fry.  Because of this speech, they are often identified as unintelligent and ditzy.  Vocal fry also makes women seem less admirable for job opportunities. 

Although vocal fry is associated with the female gender, it is seen in all genders.  For some people, that is just the way they speak.  However, men do not get criticized half as much as women do if they speak with vocal fry.  In fact, men do not get criticized at all for speaking with vocal fry.  Men do not lose job opportunities and they are not assumed to be less intelligent people because of the way they speak.  For an example of gendered criticism, a podcast called 99% Invisible has received tons of emails complaining about how stupid the women podcasters are that they have an automatic email that they have created in reply.  There has never been a complaint about men in media speaking with vocal fry.

Here’s an interesting discussion.  I was thinking about why vocal fry is used so often amongst women, especially in social or class settings.  I think that many times they often use it unknowingly, because I sometimes myself doing it without consciously doing so.  Another reason that I think women use this is that if they seem nervous or they’re unsure of themselves they will use vocal fry to pass off as cool, pretending that they are sure and confident in what they are saying.  As an opposing opinion, one of my friends thinks that vocal fry is used in confident times.  Her reasoning was that when she is positive of herself when she speaks, she feels more relaxed and comfortable so she feels like she can speak in a lower kind of voice, whereas when she is uncomfortable and unsure she tends to speak louder to make her seem more confident.

Why are we so focused on the way others’ words are delivered instead of focusing on the words that are being spoken? What do you think of vocal fry?  Why do you think that women get criticized for it but men don’t?  Do you think there is anything wrong with vocal fry?  Do you notice if you speak with vocal fry when you are confident or unsure, neither or both? 

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/what-is-vocal-fry-and-why-doesnt-anyone-care-when-men-talk-like-that


Author: SK

Wheaton College '19

One thought on “Vocal Fry: Another Unfair Criticism”

  1. This is interesting. I don’t usually think of men speaking with vocal fry when I hear the term, and if I do, to be fully honestly, I associate it with homosexuality. Not to say that I believe that association to be true, or that really there’s anything wrong with anything here- just noticing that that’s where my head naturally goes. I do also naturally associate vocal fry with a somewhat unintelligent person, though I am of course open to the possibility that this is not the case.
    Vocal Fry, to me, has never indicated confidence or a lack thereof, it just seems like an unnatural way to speak. I suppose this is my own stereotyping that causes these thoughts.
    I am interested to see if those that regularly speak with a fry are doing so by choice and whether or not they can speak without it. This information would influence my opinion on the matter.


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