Last week, people started getting very excited about an article alleging that women’s tendency to use “just” makes them sound weak. An old university friend and I on Facebook found ourselves both somehow annoyed, and had a good time exchanging examples of “weak” speech like “just fuck off!” The whole thing reminded me of old criticisms of women’s use of tag questions, now debunked. So I was thrilled to read this lovely blog post.
A small sample:
This endless policing of women’s language—their voices, their intonation patterns, the words they use, their syntax—is uncomfortably similar to the way our culture polices women’s bodily appearance. Just as the media and the beauty industry continually invent new reasons for women to be self-conscious about their bodies, so magazine articles and radio programmes like the ones I’ve mentioned encourage a similar self-consciousness about our speech. The effect on our behaviour is also similar. Instead of focusing on what we’re saying, we’re distracted by anxieties about the way we sound to others. ‘Am I being too apologetic?’ and ‘Is my voice too high?’ are linguistic analogues of ‘is my nail polish chipped?’ and ‘do I look fat in this?’