The Like Talk
by Nicole Yukiko
A few years ago during university I found myself being stopped abruptly in the middle of a casual conversation with a director to have the “like talk”. I’d had this talk before. A lifetime of television and film had educated me about the content of this conversation: people think my (and frankly, most girls of my generation) use of the word “like” is annoying. And uptalk. And vocal fry. It’s basically like we're committing a war crime.
She wasn’t the first person to take the time to “educate” me about how my speech patterns made me sound dumb, weak and uneducated, which will make being respected in my career hell. And it made me angry. I retaliated by saying that I basically didn’t care about the opinions of people who are annoyed by my speech patterns (read: her) and a few months later when she was casting what happens to be my favourite play of all time, I knew I’d blown any chance of getting cast. Like, ugh.
Is that fair though? To be policing the speech patterns of a sector of a generation raised by Cher Horowitz? No.
In the past few years feminism has taken new form thanks to people like Emma Watson, Beyoncé, Anita Sarkeesian, and a bevy of female creators like Fey, Poehler, Shumer, Dunham, Kaling…the list goes on. Young women are being told to speak up. Report abuse. Be heard in the lecture halls. Give your two cents in the board room. But it comes with a price: Speak your mind and say your peace, but don’t you fucking dare sound annoying. In my experience, that has made me cautious about speaking. I remember being in a meeting with three male faculty members feeling paranoid to speak for fear of annoying them. And what the fuck is that? Sure, I can manipulate my voice when I want to and avoid some of those speech patterns but does that change the CONTENT of my message? No. There’s a lot of things that annoy me. But if we just start policing everything that’s annoying, what are we doing? Be yourself, but not if it might bother other people? How is anyone supposed to live an authentic life that way?
I made a decision after that conversation: I decided to be proud of my speech patterns. They tie me to a generation. Maya Rhodan, like so many others, likes to make their points about these “habits” by reminding us that people like the Kardashians are part of the generational trend (because lest we forget that they’re the 21st century’s greatest “enemy"). However, this is also the same generation as people like Emma Sulkowicz (Don’t know who she is? Google her you lazy fuck) and a lot of other women I respect and admire. She and I share many of these vocal traits. Is she dumb? Fuck no! Is her message lost on me? No way
I say like, I use uptalk, I have vocal fry, and I lean on glottalization a bit too much. I also curse (as I’m sure you’ve gathered from this post). I sneeze like a baby kitty. Sometimes I blow my nose like a foghorn in the dark, dark night. My hair clogs the shower drain. I don’t like unloading the dishwasher. Sometimes I’m an aggressive pedestrian. I have bitchy resting face. I screen phone calls. I do things that bother people. But so do you. And if my gendered, generational speech patterns annoy you, I’m sorry but I refuse to help you. If you think I’m dumb or not worth hiring, thank you for doing both of us a favour. I don’t want to work with you. I have a long road ahead of me. I don’t know where my career will take me. But if you think that I’m going to let a few “likes” or elevated sentence endings stop me from achieving my potential, you are like, so wrong.
FOR MORE ON THE SUBJECT, PRO AND CON:
All Things Lingustic: http://allthingslinguistic.com/post/88611198212/vocal-fry-can-we-just-stop-telling-young-women
Naomi Wolf for The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/24/vocal-fry-strong-female-voice?CMP=share_btn_fb
Mary Rhodan for Time: http://time.com/2820087/3-speech-habits-that-are-worse-than-vocal-fry-in-job-interviews/