Women’s voices are judged more harshly than men’s

“IN A WORLD…”, a film from 2013, is about, of all things, the voice-over industry—specifically, the warm, masculine voices that lend a ponderous authority to film trailers and advertisements. Lake Bell, an actor, plays the daughter of a legendary voice-over man; she wants to break into the industry herself, but faces sexism at every turn. Ms Bell has a rich and deep voice of her own, but she is also a gifted mimic. A bubbly young woman with a squeaky high voice stops to ask her: “Do you know where I can get a smoothie around here?” Ms Bell expertly mimics her tone in reply.

The scene highlights two vocal features associated with young women: vocal fry and uptalk. Uptalk, as the name suggests, is the rising intonation that makes statements sound like questions? And vocal fry—often said to be typical of Kim Kardashian, an American celebrity—happens at the ends of words and phrases when a speaker’s vocal chords relax, giving the voice a kind of creaky quality (a bit like something frying in a pan).


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