5279093739_6dd849c299In the 1950s, female speaks.  Male unimpressed. (Image from Flickr via)

When I was growing up, the public voice of authority was invariably male. The preacher, the principal, the politician, the police officer, the radio announcer, the TV anchor—some might be mere tenors, rather than basses, but none was ever a soprano. (Exception, at least in school: the teacher.)  That’s why I’m still taken by surprise whenever I hear a high, light, girlish voice issuing from a person who is introduced as an expert.

Mary Beard, professor of classics at the University of Cambridge, recently gave a sold-out lecture at the British Museum highlighting the long, long history of the exhortation “Woman, be silent!”  She traces the notion from the age of Homer to the age of Twitter. “Women’s interventions were often described as “strident” or “whining,” she notes in an interview in The Guardian. Those words matter “because they underpin an idiom that acts to remove the authority, the force, even the humour from what women have to say. . . . Contrast that with the ‘deep-voiced’ man, and its connotations of profundity. It is still the case, I’d argue, that when as listeners we hear a female voice, we don’t hear a voice that connotes authority; or rather we haven’t learned how to hear authority in it.”

That’s true for me. How about you? READ MORE.