Transcript 3: Southern Fried

CARRIE: Hi, welcome to the Vocal Fries Podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination. I’m Carrie Gillon.

MEGAN: I’m Megan Figueroa

CARRIE: Today we have our very first guest!

BETH: Hi!

CARRIE: Hi! Today we have Beth Troutman, a former congressional candidate and TV host, and a real live Southerner.

BETH: Yes, very real live Southerner.

CARRIE: Because today we’re gonna be talking about Southern American English. Neither I, nor Megan, is a Southerner.

MEGAN: Nope

CARRIE: I’m Canadian.

MEGAN: And I’ve just lived in Arizona in my entire life, so: not helpful.

BETH: Well, I will try to help you guys out, although I’ve lived all over the country. I was born and raised in the south, and I currently live in the south, so my accent has gotten a lot deeper in the last two years since I’ve been back in North Carolina.

CARRIE: Awesome. One of the reasons why we wanted to talk about Southern English – first it was because my mother-in-law asked us to talk about it, who is also a Southerner.

BETH: Oh awesome, I love her.

CARRIE: But also because it’s one of the forms of language that’s denigrated. And that’s our meat and potatoes. We are gonna fight against discrimination.

MEGAN: This is our first time we’ve talked about the way a geographic location speaks. We’ve done vocal fry, which could be anyone, and then we’ve done swearing, which could be anyone. Now we’re concentrating on something that’s a geographic way of speaking.

CARRIE: Yeah, regional.

MEGAN: Regional!

CARRIE: I guess this is the first time that this has really been something that’s not universal – or closer to universal -because you know vocal fry – everybody does that or almost everybody.

MEGAN: This is why we’re bringing in a guest host, because it is not universal. Also we don’t want to fuck things up for Southern English in any way.

BETH: Well, fire away. I’ll try to answer any questions possible and try to guide you through the Southern accent and I certainly can relate to the discrimination that that comes with someone hearing a Southern accent. Especially if you’re a blonde female, which I am – there is a double whammy there.

MEGAN: Oh, the intersectional linguistic discrimination that being female being yeah, I get it.

CARRIE: Speaking of that, we just wanted to mention that we’re really only talking about the white variety of Southern American English. There are other Southern dialects, and we will hopefully get to them, but we’re setting those other dialects aside for now.

MEGAN: Because they’re gonna be disparaged differently, right? There’s going to be other intersectional things that play.

BETH: Absolutely.

MEGAN: Okay cool!

CARRIE: Let’s talk about how you feel. So for example, you were in the television world, and I’m certain that there’s some interesting stories you could tell us about having a Southern accent in that world.

BETH: It has been a strange experience. I was told when I first started in television – the first thing that I ever did was a morning show here in Charlotte, North Carolina, so having a Southern accent in a Southern city was not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact, most people were so used to hearing that non-regional dialect on television, that suddenly when I was a local girl on local television, people were super excited about it, because I sounded like everybody around here sounds. But shortly after that, as I was trying to move my career forward, the next position that I held was a morning show for the Lifetime network. That’s a national show, so you’re talking about a show that the entire country gets to see. People said to me that I needed to really work on my accent, that I needed to have that non-regional dialect. That’s what they were telling me, at first. But I’m not very good at being someone who I’m not. I’m not good at being anyone but myself. So, trying to completely get rid of an accent was something completely foreign to me, and something I couldn’t really do. Living in a different part of the country – I lived in Arizona, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve lived and worked in South Florida – I lose my accent a little bit. I think that’s just because I hear people talking. I start mimicking other people’s accents, so mine is much thicker again, now that I’m back in the south. But being told that you won’t be successful in a particular field because of your accent, there’s something really heartbreaking about that, in the beginning, because you’re shutting out an entire section of the population. You’re telling me that I’m not – I heard that I wasn’t going to be successful, just because of that. It wasn’t the tone of my voice, it wasn’t my look, it wasn’t my personality. It was literally that people – and I’ve heard this more times than I would like to admit, that people will underestimate you, if you have a Southern accent. That people will think you are kind and trustworthy, but they won’t necessarily think that you are an intelligent person, and that is a big slap in the face.

MEGAN: There’s actually a study on that. They looked not only at adults but kids, and they found that even nine to ten year old kids are already internalizing these negative stereotypes about the way that they speak. These Southern kids are saying that Northern speech is more respected, that people that speak non-Southern English are more in charge. They do have also the stereotype that Southerners are kinder. So when you hear a Southern accent, someone’s kind, but they’re not necessarily smart. And it’s so sad to me! That’s so sad!

BETH: I think that has a lot to do with the industry that I work in. Because, if you see people in charge, like news anchors on television, or you see people in films, whose characters are high-powered, or who are funny, or who are lead roles, you very rarely hear a Southern accent. You very rarely hear someone have that Southern drawl saying the “I”, and the “my”, the “light”, and the “night” – all the words that we tend to draw out. Our accent is kind of singsong-y. There’s something melodic about it. There’s something that is – well people have described it certainly to me: lazy. They say it’s a lazy way of speaking. Maybe that’s why people think that you’re friendly, because you’re just tired, I don’t know. But if you think about it, since I was born in 1977, in my lifetime, we had Jimmy Carter as a president, we had Bill Clinton as a president, we had George W. Bush as a president. We had these people who were the leaders of the free world, who had Southern accents. They were men, which is in and of itself its own thing, but that tells you something about trustworthiness. I think that people thought that these guys you know could be trusted as leaders.

CARRIE: I absolutely agree with that, that’s part of the reason why people wanted them. I just wanted to mention that the University of Chicago psychologist Katherine Kinsler and Jasmine DeJesus, who did that study.

BETH: I read that study. What was really remarkable, that the southern kids didn’t have as much of a problem with the Southern accent, as the kids from Chicago, because they never hear a Southern accent, unless it’s a rerun of Gomer pile or Andy Griffith or something.

CARRIE: Or Cletus, the slackjaw yokel.

SINGING: Some folk’ll never eat a skunk, but then again some folk’ll. Like Cletus, the slackjaw yokel.

BETH: Or Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama. “You’ve got a baby! In a bar!”

MEGAN: Yes. That is an iconic line.

MELANIE LYNSKEY: You look fancy, like you just stepped out of a magazine!

REESE WITHERSPOON: Oh, well, thank you. Look at you! You have a baby! In a bar!

MELANIE LYNSKEY: Well, I’ve got three more at home! This one’s still on the tit, so I can cart him anywhere.

MEGAN: Those same kids were completely okay with the Northern accent, the Chicago accent, because they hear it on TV all the time, and it’s in movies.

BETH: Hear it all the time.

MEGAN: I wonder about that, because you were talking about it, what we see portrayed in movies and by stand-up comedians is oftentimes all people like me, West Coast people, know about the south. I wonder what you think about that.

BETH: You mean the portrayal of the dumb Southerner?

MEGAN: I guess there’s two things there. People on the West Coast, we have our preconceived notions about Southerners, and that’s not fair. Especially since for most things, what we know about them are from movies or these kind of media. Also I see a lot of times that it is the dumb Southerner stereotype that is portrayed in movies.

BETH: I think I probably speak for people, especially the people who like to pride themselves on being educated, even having advanced degrees – it is a tough thing to swallow. A few years ago – I guess it’s been maybe ten years or so since you know Kellie Pickler was on American Idol, and she really played up the Southern accent and played up the sweet – everybody just wanted to hug her – but she also was on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? and thought that Paris was the capital of Europe, the country. And didn’t know that Turkey was a country.

KELLIE PICKLER: This might be a stupid question.

JEFF FOXWORTHY: I’m guessing it’s probably gonna be.

KELLIE PICKLER: Ok. I thought Europe was a country. Budapest? I never even heard of that. Like, I know they French there. Don’t they? Like I want to say, is France a country? I don’t know what I’m doing.

BETH: There are those things that certainly the media has played up when it comes to Southerners, and that’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes. Especially if you are trying really hard to be a successful person, or if you’re in any kind of business where you are dealing with people all over the country, and having conversations with people all over the country. You don’t want to be taken less seriously because of how you speak. However, there is one thing that I have noticed that’s happened and in my professional life, oftentimes, off the camera, is that, because I have a Southern accent, the bar is set lower for me. And so it’s not hard to impress, because people haven’t expected me to be impressive. And I say that with a lot of humor. I say that that happens – it’s happened more times than I would like to admit. That I wasn’t expected to be particularly intelligent or articulate.

MEGAN: Do you think in your industry too, the bar’s set low, just being a female as well? Or is that is not as true in the TV industry.

BETH: I think the TV industry is more – it’s hard to articulate this well – but the TV industry is so focused on physical appearance first, when it comes to women. There can be there are men who are in their 60s and 70s who are still sitting on an anchor desk, or who have been that old and sitting on an anchor desk, and you very rarely see women in those positions, who are of that age. And if they are, if they’re heading to that age, there’s tons of plastic surgery, and all kinds of makeup, and the lips get blown up. Then that whole, “women don’t age as well as men” kind of thing. So there’s kind of a double whammy when it comes to television, because you’re dealing with not only whatever regional accent that you have, but then you’re also dealing with the physical aspects that go along with a visual medium, such as television, and the standards aren’t the same for men and for women. I would imagine that that’s probably true with an accent as well. However it might go the opposite way with a man with a Southern accent. A woman with a Southern accent might find success a little more easily with a Southern accent than possibly a man. Again, I think that’s a level of discrimination and certainly can be considered sexism.

CARRIE: Yeah, I was gonna say, it sounds kind of like the Southern accent plus being a woman. It’s like, well, those two things sort of go together. Where women aren’t considered to be as smart as men, which is obviously false.

BETH: Or as powerful.

CARRIE: Right. And so it’s okay. We want women to be kind and nice, so a Southern woman, that’s okay, but a Southern man is going against that? Maybe that’s why.

BETH: Yeah, it is, and it’s an interesting thing to think about. Because the Southern accent has such a history. It’s kind of a combination of British English and the language that – and what a terrible history we have here – but the language that that slaves brought over from their own African cultures. I think that that’s where a lot of people say that this Southern drawl came from, was this mix of these two cultures colliding, for generations. And we do have a really, really dark past, here in the South. I think that that probably lends itself to – after the Civil War and during Reconstruction, when the South here, we were having so many financial problems, most people lived in rural areas and people were dealing with poverty. I think that that probably played into that initial stereotype that Southerners weren’t quite as smart as other folks in the country. Again, it ties to a very dark, dark past that we have here.

CARRIE: There’s another study – probably not as well done as the one from the University of Chicago – but there’s another study done by Cupid.com, where people apparently considered the Southern American accent to be a sign of sexism. BETH: To be a SIGN of sexism? CARRIE: Yeah, which I know is dumb. MEGAN: That doesn’t – that works not. That not work. I can’t even speak. I mean, I don’t have a –

CARRIE: You just can’t even.

MEGAN: I can’t even, even though it’s not my accent. That doesn’t make any sense.

BETH: Yeah, what does that even mean? Having a Southern accent means that you’re sexist?

CARRIE: I think what’s going on is people think that Southerners are more sexist than Northerners, which again, probably not true.

BETH: Well, it could go to – I guess people thinking that we’re generationally behind the times here. That we’re not as progressive in the south. I live in a major city and it’s the number three financial hub in the country. I live in a major metropolitan area. Raleigh, North Carolina, also, is incredibly progressive. So there are certainly really progressive parts of the south, that are more similar to – in thought – a New York or a Chicago or a Boston or a Los Angeles even a San Francisco. But I will say: I ran for Congress when I was 27 years old here. I was the first woman to ever run in my district, which was District 8. 2004! First woman to ever run. I was a single female. My degrees are in political science and Women’s Studies, with a focus on feminist theory, which is quite progressive for this particular area. But when I got into rural North Carolina – my district was about ten counties, and I had part of Charlotte, which is the wealthiest city in our state, and then I had a part of Mecklenburg County, which is the wealthiest county in our state, and then I had all of Hoke County, which is one of the most rural counties in our state. Whenever I would campaign in the more rural areas, I – almost on a daily basis – got the question, “why are you running for Congress and not looking for a husband?” Or, “how are you going to, if you get elected, how are you gonna get anything done in Washington, if you don’t have a man to run your ideas by?” I got that more than once and quite often, as a matter of fact, and the folks who asked me that weren’t bad people. They just really still believed that it was more important for me, as a female, to be looking for a husband than anything else. That that was the thing that was going to provide me security, or that that was what success meant for a woman. I can understand, if that’s what that Cupid study means. Because there is a level of that, but I don’t know that that doesn’t exist in other parts of the country. I haven’t run for office in other parts of the country. I’ve only done it here in in North Carolina. But I do know that that was real, and that that existed. I’m still since then – no other woman has run in that district again, still. Which is a really interesting thing. You want to have more women in power, but they’re not necessarily a lot of women stepping up, here in North Carolina. Although we did have a female governor, we had Beverly Perdue, let’s see, we had a few years ago. When did she first get elected? I think 2004, was she running? I think that was that year, that same year.

MEGAN: So you’ve only had one female governor in North Carolina?

BETH: Yeah, so far. Our Secretary of State is a woman, Elaine Marshall. She is a female, and a pretty amazing speaker, and a very powerful, very smart, smart woman. But, it has traditionally been a very male – and that’s true in a lot of parts of the country – it’s a very male-dominated field. Being a being a Southern single woman was an interesting thing, when running for office here.

CARRIE: I bet. One of the things that has come up a lot in this conversation is drawl, and I just wanted to talk about what that actually means, because I never really understood. I knew it sort of described the speech pattern, but I wasn’t really sure what it meant. To simplify it a lot – what it really means is the way that the vowels are pronounced. So what would be a plain simple vowel in a Northern dialect becomes what is called a diphthong, or two vowels put together. Or even a triphthong, or three vowels put together. So for example, “meal” becomes “me-yal”. “ay-ye” instead of just “eh”. That’s what it is: it’s creating a longer vowel with multiple pieces in them, which I found kind of interesting and kind of fun. I hadn’t really thought about it before.

BETH: I love it! I was helping a friend of mine as an actor in Los Angeles, and he got a part on American Crime Story, that show that was on ABC. His character was supposed to be from North Carolina, so he would send me all of his scripts, and I would read them into my voice memo on my phone and mail him the track, so that he could listen to a real Southern accent saying some of the words. Because a lot of people think that – and there are certain parts of here in North Carolina, especially the mountains, where they do draw out the syllables, that we all do the “I”, instead of “I”, we say “ah”. “I want a piece of pah” or “My ah’s itching” [eye], or those kinds of things. But we also oddly say “light” and “night” and “right” and “fight”. In the mountains of North Carolina, you hear more “raht” and “naht” and “faht” and “laht”. Even in this state, there’s a regional accent. But I’s and A’s and O’s get changed up quite a bit. I don’t even if I can say “phone” the way that those people say “phone”. We say “phone” or “home” instead of “home”. I don’t know. “Home” is the way that I say it. I’ve had to, especially on television, try to correct some of those some of those vowels. But you get so used to it, and it does feel really good in your mouth. It almost feels like you’re eating the words in a fun way. I had this book of poetry when I was in college called “The Language They Speak Is Things To Eat”, and I didn’t understand that title until really recently, when I really started thinking about the way that you speak, the way that your accent comes out of your mouth. It almost feels delicious to say “I want a piece of pie”. It’s almost onomatopoetic, that “pie” to me sounds like what “pie” is.

CARRIE: I was reading “The GRITS Guide To Life”/“The Girls Raised In The South Guide To Life”, and the way that they describe the drawl is 1) take your own sweet time, 2) bat your eyelashes slowly and speak at the same tempo, and 3) add syllables wherever possible.

BETH: That’s about right. And you can as a female with a southern accent and a smile on your face, you can say some pretty nasty things to somebody and they won’t realize that you’ve been mean to them until about ten minutes after you walk away.

CARRIE: “Oh bless your heart.”

BETH: “Oh bless your heart.” Yeah you could just look at somebody and say, “You’re a goober!”, and have a big smile on your face and somebody will think that you just gave them the biggest compliment in the world. It’s not a compliment.

CARRIE: There are other features that I thought it would be interesting to talk about. For example, double negatives. “I don’t know nothing.”

BETH: “I don’t know nothing.”

CARRIE: It’s really bizarre that this is associated with Southern English, because it’s just – well not everywhere – but a lot of people all over the place use double negatives. BETH: Yeah, just poor grammar.

CARRIE: Well, it’s not though. Here’s the thing. Back in Old English, so England was kind of split into two dialect regions – I mean I’m simplifying, but – in the south, they used double negatives, and in the north they didn’t. At the time, the southern dialect was actually the more “proper” dialect, and so it’s funny that somehow that got flipped. Lots of languages have double negatives standardly, so for example: French. Je ne sais pas, the ne and the pas are both negative. So there’s two negatives there. Or “personne n’a rein dis”. Personne is “no one” and the n part is “not” and rien is “nothing”. There’s lots of extra negatives in sentences, and it’s funny that in English we decided at some point – while “we” – some old white dude decided: “that’s bad logic”. Because he decided that you were multiplying negatives and so if you multiply negatives, you should get a positive. But if you add two negatives, you get a negative. So equally logical. This is just a really dumb rule that we all follow because all of our English teachers told us not to do it.

MEGAN: Yeah, and it marginalizes other groups of people – so not only the Southerners, but people who speak Chicano English or African American English, all of these types of speaking do double negatives.

CARRIE: I think even just rural English and the other parts of the country in Canada too – so it’s just everywhere.

BETH: Yeah, “I ain’t got no iced tea”. We have a lot of double negatives. But now that I know the history of it, I’m gonna start using it more and more.

CARRIE: Good!

MEGAN: Yeah.

CARRIE: Oh yeah, “ain’t” is a good one, I love “ain’t”.

BETH: “Ain’t”. You remember when we were kids, when you would say “ain’t ain’t a word”, cuz “ain’t” ain’t in the dictionary. But now it is, so you can’t say that anymore. It’s an official word, so you might as well use it, right? CARRIE: Exactly! That is a silly argument – just because it’s not in the dictionary, doesn’t mean it won’t be. Dictionaries are constantly updating.

BETH: Languages evolve.

CARRIE: Yes.

BETH: Or devolve.

CARRIE: They just change. They don’t actually get better, and they don’t actually get worse: they just change. The other feature that’s associated – or I think this is not even actually a real feature, it’s just what we think – that Southerners speak more slowly. But apparently that’s not even true. Some people do, but it’s completely variable. What do you think?

BETH: I think that probably comes with the fact that we do draw some words out. It might take me longer to say certain syllables, but, as you can hear in this interview, I actually speak pretty quickly. But my dad, for example, my dad has a really thick Southern accent and he speaks so quickly that I sometimes can’t understand him. He sounds like he’s honking, he sounds like a goose or something – his nickname, ironically, is goose. I think that both of those things exist. There’s the Southern person who speaks really, really quickly, and then there’s the really sweet, slow accent. It takes them a while to say “hello” but once they do, you know you’re gonna be in a conversation with them, and it’s gonna be a really fun conversation, and it might take longer than it would, but you get used to it here. I’m guessing in other parts of the country as well, there are probably people who speak really slowly and also really quickly at the same time. But I think the fact that we draw so many of our words out a little longer makes the stereotype exist probably more prominently in the south, because some words do take us longer to say.

CARRIE: Yeah. My all-time favorite Southern feature is “fixing to”

BETH: “I’m fixing to go to work!” I got made fun for that. When I was young I sang a lot, and did some public speaking even when I was a young preteen, even nine and ten and into my early teens. I was in a rehearsal once, and I think I was in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the sound guy said something to me and I said, “well, I’m fixing to do my soundcheck. I’m fixing to do it”, and he was like, “what? You’re fixin to?” I had never even thought about that word, cuz obviously everybody around me used it, and people still use it. I had to start really thinking about not using that one as much as I did at the time, and it’s one that I don’t use as much as I used to. But I love it though, because you’re like, “I’m fixing to do it”. What does that mean? I’m about ready to go and go to work. I’m about ready to go make dinner. I’m fixin to do it. Fixing myself, I’m getting myself ready.

CARRIE: That sort of leads into what I was reading about it, because I’m really fascinated with the semantics of it. Because it’s similar to “I’m about to do something”, but it’s not quite the same. According to Marvin Ching and Jay Myers, who separately worked on this, they say that you need some kind of delay. So if you’re saying, “I’m fixin to make dinner”, there’s got to be something in between you saying it and then you actually preparing it. They call it a preparatory activity, which is linguist-speak.

BETH: So basically I can’t say “I’m fixin to make dinner” when I’m already making dinner. I think that makes perfect sense. That’s exactly how we use it. So he’s exactly right. It’s funny that he studied that. I could have told him that and he wouldn’t even had to have done any work at all. I could have just told him that.

MEGAN: Oh my god, that is like the linguist problem. Every time I read something I’m like, we spend so much time looking at this, but we could have just asked someone who speaks it. Everyone else knows, but science needs a citation.

BETH: Yeah, that’s true. You can’t really just cite the random Southern lady you talked to.

CARRIE: Usually you need a few more people.

MEGAN: Yes. This is why it’s good to have someone who speaks Southern English on our Southern English episode.

BETH: I wish I had my dad on here now, so that you could hear a really thick southern Southern drawl.

CARRIE: That would be awesome. So there’s lots and lots of features, but it looks like we already done a lot of talking. I think we should just move on to the “why we judge it”. Part of it it, we’ve already talked about. Maybe the dark history, maybe the fact that many people were very poor for a long time – and we love to judge poor people.

BETH: I know.

CARRIE: And this reminds me also – I’ve been watching iZombie, which I mostly love. But they have this problem where they conflate Southernness with being working-class. Whenever they have somebody who’s rough-and-tumble on an episode, they almost always have a Southern accent. It’s very strange. It’s supposed to take place in Seattle, so they shouldn’t be surrounded by Southern accents.

BETH: At all.

CARRIE: It could be someone, or two, but you shouldn’t expect going into a biker bar and having them all have Southern accents.

BETH: I think that’s probably the stereotype that all of the south is rural, that you’re gonna have just working-class, rough-and-tumble types of people and nothing else. That probably has something to do with political stereotypes now, as well, because the South tends to go red and Republican. I think that there is a stereotype just because of that, as well.

CARRIE: Yeah, agreed.

MEGAN: For a long time, I also associated blue collar – just the term blue collar – with the South too, because anytime you hear about this stuff on the news or anything, they’re talking about something like that. Those two things are always put together.

BETH: Yeah, because most the time when you hear stories about the South, you’re hearing about manufacturing jobs that don’t exist anymore, or about agriculture, which all of those things certainly are very true, but it’s like any other place in in the world. Both sides exist, both things exist, but it is easier to, when you’re in a visual medium like television, or you’re in a medium where you’re dealing with time constraints, it’s easier to function based on stereotypes, than to try to explain the complexity of an issue in a 1 minute 30 story on something, or even in a 30 minute sitcom. You operate based on stereotypes, because it’s easier than actually trying to write better.

CARRIE: Oh my god, lazy writing bugs me. Another example of this is Amy Schumer. She uses Southern accents to mock poor people. There’s this episode where she’s making meth, and she’s so stupid, and she keeps blowing herself up. It’s SO offensive.

SKEET: No, Becky Lee! No! [explosion]

SKEET: Oh jeez. Beck, where are ya? Beck!

AMY SCHUMER: Skeet!

SKEET: Holy Moses!

AMY SCHUMER: I can’t seem to feel my legs, Skeet!

SKEET: That’s cuz you ain’t got none, Beck.

AMY: Oh, makes sense.

CARRIE: There’s these messages constantly in the media, that we’re supposed to judge the Southern accent. I think that’s why most people do, because we’re told to. You have to interrogate your own biases.

MEGAN: Right. I think this is really problematic too, because just like talking about the study earlier out of University of Chicago, these children at nine years old are already internalizing these terrible messages, like that they may not be a smart, or that the people around them are racist, or whatever. I think this is why it’s so shitty – one of the reasons why you shouldn’t judge accents, because what does this mean for their self-esteem and for their sense of self? I think that it’s really sad. Discrimination based on accent is not illegal in the US. These internalized stereotypes are not inconsequential. It’s not protected.

CARRIE: That’s a really good point.

BETH: Yeah, and one that people probably don’t consider and don’t think about. I think it’s one thing to consider too, for people who have Southern accents, who do who have jobs that end up in the spotlight. I ended up in television, or people like Jessica Simpson. When she had her reality show, and she has a Southern accent, and she had that whole moment where she couldn’t decide if “chicken of the sea” was tuna or chicken.

JESSICA SIMPSON: Is this chicken that I have, or is this fish? I know it’s tuna, but it says “chicken, by the sea”. So stupid.

BETH: I think that there is something that we as Southerners can do to counteract those stereotypes. If we end up in powerful positions, or positions that have influence, then we should buck the stereotype, and not play into it. I think we’ve seen too many people play into it, because it’s more likeable, or they feel that it’s more likeable, because it’s less intimidating, or it doesn’t challenge. So people feel more comfortable, because no one wants to be insulted. No one wants to have negative energy coming in at them at all times. The first thing that a lot of people do is they try to stay likeable, before they do anything else, because they just want to feel okay. I get it. I understand that. But at the same time, it doesn’t help when there are people who have these positions of power, who have Southern accents, who utilize them to play into the stereotype more than anything else. I don’t know if it’s for self-protection, or if it’s because they make more money that way, or what that is. That was one of my problems with that show that Jessica Simpson was on, and with Southern people who have ended up on shows like American Idol, playing into the stereotype, because it seemed likeable and funny, and it got votes for them, or got viewers, or whatever. I think that there’s a responsibility, you have to you have to get out there and fight for yourself, but also fight for the people who might end up having might end up watching you, and saying, “wait a minute, if that person has a Southern accent, and they can end up being in these really great powerful roles, then I can”. I also think that’s why we shouldn’t have non-regional dialects on television and nothing else, and why we shouldn’t just have Southern people playing the dumb blonde, or playing the rough-and-tumble guy, or the biker bar dude. We need to have a more complex representation of the human experience, no matter what the regional dialect is, or what the race is, or what the gender is. We’ve really done a bad job in media especially, across all of those areas, we stereotype everything from race to gender to religion to socioeconomic conditions. We stereotype across the board.

CARRIE: Yes. Everybody does but I think it does tend to be a little bit worse on TV.

BETH: Oh the media – oh it’s terrible. That’s the industry – it promotes such bad stereotypes across the board. Working in news, I certainly saw it more than I would ever like to admit. There’s a real problem here in our country with systemic racism, and I don’t think the news media helps in any way, because you know we’re promoting certain kinds of imagery. It breaks my heart. I cried on air several times, actually.

CARRIE: Well, unless there’s anything else that anyone wants to add to the conversation?

MEGAN: I don’t know. Anything you think, Carrie?

CARRIE: I think we covered it all. I think.

MEGAN: The main point is not to be an asshole.

BETH: Yeah! Right? Just be nice! Just be nice to each other. Hug and talk and laugh.

MEGAN: And when you do talk, don’t fucking judge the way the other person’s talking.

BETH: Exactly!

CARRIE: Focus on what they’re actually saying, not how they say it.

BETH: Exactly. Listen to the words, not how the words are being said. Listen to the actual words.

CARRIE: Thanks again, to Beth Troutman, for joining us today. MEGAN: Yes, thank you so much.

BETH: Thank you guys, this was awesome. MEGANL: This was a good first guest experience.

BETH: I’m glad to hear it.

MEGAN: Now we’re spoiled.

CARRIE: Thanks everybody for listening, and don’t be an asshole!

MEGAN: Do not be an asshole!

CARRIE: The Vocal Fries Podcast is produced by Chris Ayers for Halftone Audio. Music by Nick Granum. You can find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @vocalfriespod. You can email us at vocalfriespod@gmail.com.

Author: vocalfriespod

The podcast about linguistic discrimination. Carrie and Megan teach you how not to be an accidental asshole.

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