I am pleased to announce that my newest book, Soul of My Voice, is now available at Lulu.com. Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. This text was written as a workbook/journal to accompany my first book, Soul of Voice published in 2016. However, Soul of My Voice is just as effective as a stand alone book, chuck full of essays, poems, quotes, photos, writing prompts and mandalas. Happy reading (and writing, and coloring, etc.)!!
I am not one to post anything political on either of my website blogs or Facebook accounts, but with all the anger and frustration bubbling up over this upcoming election, I cannot help but take a step back and look at how much has been accomplished in just the last ten years with regard to who can now realistically become President of this beautiful country. I consider myself and my children lucky to be living at a time when the best person for the job can actually have the job, should the popular and electoral vote prove them electable.
Perhaps for some people this is no big deal, but for me it is nothing short of miraculous. What a privilege to know that my cousins, nieces and nephews, should they desire a life of political service, achieve the highest office possible—and that in spite of their skin color or gender. And hopefully someday soon, their sexual identity. We all deserve to speak the truth of our voice! And especially if we are called to be President of the United States of America!!
The hot topic in the news (again) is that of domestic abuse. No matter how much attention this topic is given or how much it is discussed in the media, it still hovers over us like a dark cloud of cultural malaise. Although I realize it is not gender specific, more often than not it is our women and girls who are the victims of the physical violence we too often see.
As an expressive voice specialist, I am curious how that kind of abuse specifically affects the voice and its ability to express the truth of a person’s situation. What I have discovered is that domestic abuse is not only fear based but likewise saturated in shame. It has been my experience working with women who are or have been victims of domestic abuse that they tend to vocally express themselves either by clamming up, by defending their perpetrator, or by becoming a “Chatty Cathy”—talking about nothing and everything at the same time. Unfortunately, all of these choices are a silencing of the self.
When one silences themselves, they are denying the very truth of their personhood. Often they feel so diminished, that they can take on the blame of another person’s abuse because they feel somehow they deserve it. For these women a black eye often feels like an affirmation of the perpetrator’s love for them. “He wouldn’t hit me if he didn’t love me enough to set me straight” is in their thinking.
By creating a safe atmosphere for these women and by opening up their voices, the possibility of them becoming strong enough to deal truthfully with their abuse becomes more and more evident. They begin to courageously speak out, to see the abuse for what it truly is, and begin to find once again the truth of who they are—confident, strong and worthy women who do not deserve the abuse they are receiving.
We need to keep this topic in the news. As we speak openly about domestic abuse, we offer those who are or have been abused to take the appropriate steps to end their distress by likewise speaking openly. It is our birthright to have our vocal expression be a reflection of who we know ourselves to be and not be squelched or silenced by those who would reign terror over us.
A phenomenon that has reached epic proportions is that of the little girl voice. It is comprised of what the voice-over artist Lake Bell calls uptalking. According to her, uptalk (pronouncing statements as if they were questions) or the incessant use of “like” as a conversation filler is often chosen, sometimes subconsciously, to sound “less threatening or domineering” (see “In a World” by NPR Staff July 25, 2013). In other words, these women are talking like little girls and often give the impression, in the words of Carmen Fought, a professor of linguistics at Pitzer College, that they are “insecure, emotional or even stupid.
Elizabeth Wagele in her online article “When Women Sound Like Little Girls” (August 27, 2013) suggests that women choose this voice to somehow give the message that they are “harmless, so take care of me.” Interestingly, this vocal choice is most often used by women around men or around people in authority. And in the case of authority, men have been known to utilize it as well.
Obviously, some women do have small, girlish voice, and in that case it is not so much a matter of choice but of genetics. And many girls and women speak this way because it is what they have heard from their female role-model sisters—the thought being “if they speak this way and they are happy and successful, then I will speak this way, too.”
As an expressive voice coach I am most interested in where the decision to speak like this initiates. All too often it has been my experience that this voice is the result of childhood trauma. Dr. Drew Pinsky discovered this to be true for himself as well after working for many years in addiction medicine. It is his belief that an “incident of trauma freezes some portion of the brain’s development, resulting in the speech pattern remaining the same into adulthood” (Lovelines Wiki).
The good news is that no matter what the initiating reason (if any), women who undergo appropriate treatment usually lose this pattern and speak normally. My hope is that in the future more formal research will be done on this phenomenon so that we can help our girls and woman speak with confidence, intelligence, grace and beauty.