This may not be news to you, but I’m shocked. Still, I’d have to look back carefully to decide how much his vile opinions went beyond voice. And it is very likely that they did, though there’s some controversy.
The quote is from a wonderful article by Mary Beard, an open access article in the LRB. It’s raising a question that this blog, among many others, has been vigorously pursuing.
but in his essays James makes it clear where he stood; for he wrote about the polluting, and socially destructive effect of women’s voices, in words that could easily have come from the pen of some second-century AD Roman (and were almost certainly in part derived from classical sources). Under American women’s influence, he insisted, language risks becoming a ‘generalised mumble or jumble, a tongueless slobber or snarl or whine’; it will sound like ‘the moo of the cow, the bray of the ass, and the bark of the dog’. (Note the echo of the tongueless Philomela, the moo of Io, and the barking of the female orator in the Roman Forum.) James was one among many. In what amounted to a crusade at the time for proper standards in American speech, other prominent contemporaries praised the sweet domestic singing of the female voice, while entirely opposing its use in the wider world. And there was plenty of thundering about the ‘thin nasal tones’ of women’s public speech, about their ‘twangs, whiffles, snuffles, whines and whinnies’. ‘In the names of our homes, our children, of our future, our national honour,’ James said again, ‘don’t let us have women like that!’
This is a really interesting article by Chitra Nagarajan.
There was interesting research done a couple of years ago asking communities in eastern Congo about the causes of sexual violence. One of the points people raised was the impact of pornography, especially given community methods of sex education had fractured due to the conflict. Porn – a lot of it produced in America – was the primary way young people learned about sex. We need to look beyond where we live and see the impact that this Euro-American capitalist exploitative industry has in other countries…
…I was invited to come and speak today because the voices of black women are not often in the debate on pornography so I want to end with talking about why. I wonder whether it is because we do not believe pornography is as important as white feminists do. That is not to say that we do not think that pornography is not important – we do – but the realities of our lives are different.
We have so much that we need to fight against – the sexist, racist, heteronormative immigration and asylum system, negotiating that line between not playing into racist assumptions of black communities and violence while speaking out about violence against women and girls in our communities, police brutality, the racism and sexism our children experience and trying to find ways to build their sense of possibility while reflecting the reality of British society, the hyper visibility of black women in the public sphere as objects for discussion and debate – by black men, by white men, by white women but not by black women and of course the poverty that black women continue to disproportionately experience.