Lal-apalooza transcript

[gifted by Catherine Anderson]

[00:00:00] Carrie Gillon: Hi, and welcome to the Vocal Fries podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination.
Megan Figueroa: I’m Megan Figueroa.
Carrie Gillon: And I’m Carrie Gillon. Anniversary birthday, happy anniversary, . Is that, is that
what we wanna go with? Not birthday.
Megan Figueroa: I can’t, we’re not talking to the podcast. , .
[00:01:26] Carrie Gillon: It seems weird to call, have a, a non corporeal entity, have a actual
[00:01:32] Megan Figueroa: Um, but, you know, but you know, it, I feel like it has a mind of its
Sure, yeah, sure. But I guess if I’m saying it to you, it’s happy anniversary. Dos años. How
exciting. So exciting . And it’s um, like right on the dot, right? Because July 15th is kind of the
day we restarted after we accidentally put asshole in our description and had to restart
[00:02:03] Carrie Gillon: Yeah. So yeah, so like completely coincidentally, this is actually gonna
come out on our, our anniversary for the second, for the reboot
[00:02:11] Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Cuz the first time we tried it was my birthday, which is the
11th. Mm-hmm. . Um, but asshole was just an asshole and we had to ,
Carrie Gillon: I had to change it to jerk .
Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Yeah. So for anyone who wants to start their podcast, iTunes will not
allow you to have a curse word in your description.
[00:02:29] Carrie Gillon: Yes. No. Yeah,
[00:02:30] definitely. Keep that in mind.
Megan Figueroa: Every time I hear that, I just don’t think jerk has the same effect. .
[00:02:38] Carrie Gillon: No, it really doesn’t. Ah. It just seems like mi so mild.
[00:02:44] Megan Figueroa: It is so mild. and asshole’s pretty mild too, except. . I don’t know. I
feel like we’ve all just come to the same conclusion that you don’t wanna be an asshole, you
know? Yeah.
[00:02:55] Carrie Gillon: Yeah. I mean, my asshole is like milder than some other words that we
could have chosen.
Right. But it still gets to the heart of the thing that it’s not, it, you’re, you’re being a jerk, really.
Like really a lot. Mm-hmm. , not just a little bit .
[00:03:08] Megan Figueroa: There’s a pattern of jerkiness here. that is more widespread than we
can say. Coincidental . Yeah.
[00:03:17] Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Yeah. All right. I never knew that we were gonna do the lexical
semantics of the word asshole, but there it’s, it’s,
[00:03:24] Megan Figueroa: you never know what’s gonna happen on an anniversary.
Yeah, we got a. For, for our anniversary episode. But yeah, we have a, a few little things to talk
about before
[00:03:37] Carrie Gillon:. Yes. So first we have an email from Falen Martinez. “Hello. I’m a
Mexican green card holder living in Laredo, Texas. I currently work as an L P A C facilitator in an
alternative high school where I was also a TA.”
I don’t know what an L P A C facilitator is, do you?
[00:03:58] Megan Figueroa: Language proficiency? Nope.
[00:04:02] Carrie Gillon: Probably something to do with language. Yeah. . Um, “I’m originally
from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, just across the border. Back there. I worked as a therapist in
special ed and as a teacher in kindergarten. Kindergarten, elementary, and even master’s
program, always with a focus on E S L.
So I’m slowly working my way back to the classroom, which is actually the point of this message
I spent the week before last reviewing for the ESL supplemental TExES”
t e, capital T, capital E, small X, capital E, capital S. I guess, um, ,
“as I read the cards before the actual test, which was last Monday, I kept saying Got it. Don’t be
an asshole. Yeah. Just don’t be an asshole. So don’t be an asshole, asshole. You get it. I’m
positive. I said that to myself during the test . On Friday I found out I passed the test. Thanks for
your help, Felen .”
Thank you so much.
[00:04:54] Megan Figueroa: Oh, I love it. It really, it really is. It’s like, do I know the answer to.
It’s ultimately gonna be something like, don’t be an asshole in this situation. And I looked it up.
L P A C is um, language Proficiency Assessment Committee.
Carrie Gillon: Ah, okay. Cool.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Yeah. So I knew it was something like that, but that’s very cool. Um, so
hey, it fits perfectly with our little lexical semantics of asshole
Nice transition. So I really appreciate when people write us emails like that. So thank you. Yeah,
thank you so much. If anyone’s ever inclined, yes.
[00:05:32] Carrie Gillon: Anytime you wanna give us, uh, uh, a shout out to tell us that. Passed a
test or like some you have something that you wanna share with us. Yeah, we’d love it
[00:05:41] Megan Figueroa: Um, and then Patreon, is it Patreon time?
[00:05:45] Carrie Gillon: It is Patreon time. So we have a bunch of people to thank this month.
Uh, first I’m gonna mention Justin Gerald, who also wanted to give a shout out to, uh, his
professor, Dr. Maria Teresa Sanchez. Because apparently she suggested the podcast to him.
Oh, and yeah. So thank you so much Maria, the double shout out.
Um, we also wanna thank Carla, Jennifer Borgioli. I hope that’s right. Adriana Diaz and Anna
Maria Trester.
[00:06:21] Megan Figueroa: Thank you so much everyone. And every time you say names, I’m
like, yeah, I’m so glad I’m not doing it cuz I don’t wanna say anyone’s name Wrong
[00:06:29] Carrie Gillon:. I know. And I was like, I’m gonna get at least one of them wrong .
[00:06:33] Megan Figueroa: That was the hardest part about being a teacher because I really
took it seriously and I’m like, oh. Yeah. And then I started passing around the, the, um, like
sheets to sign in and then like having them say like, which name, um, should I call you? And is
there, um, a pronunciation that is not obvious to me from, you know, like asking these things or
what, how you would like it pronounced because. guessing can be . Yes. A very fraught , um,
[00:07:06] Carrie Gillon: Yes it is. Although, because, uh, it’s a linguistics, you can at least be like,
Hey, let’s learn a tiny bit of IPA so you can at least, uh, give me your name. So that I can read it.
[00:07:17] Megan Figueroa: Yeah, absolutely. Yes. Everything is a teaching moment as what I’m
hearing from you,
[00:07:22] Carrie Gillon: That’s true. What’s. So, um, just a reminder for people who don’t know
what Patreon is, it’s a site that you can support all kinds of creators like podcasters, but all kinds
of artists, poets. Yeah. Basically anything you can think of, you can support someone. Um, and
for us, if you support us at either the three or the $5 level, you get a shout out on the show and the five dollar level, you get an extra bonus episode every month.
[00:07:50] Megan Figueroa: Yes. Um, saltier.
[00:07:53] Carrie Gillon: Saltier, with even more swearing.
[00:08:00] Megan Figueroa: Yes, if possible. I was, uh, telling someone how I didn’t know if I was
like proud or embarrassed that there we, when we did that, uh, favorite turn of phrase thing that
because of our clip, the person had to put an explicit rating for the first time on their podcast.
Yep, yep. Yeah, yeah.
[00:08:18] Carrie Gillon: . And Chris was listening to it and he, he heard it before I did Uhhuh. .
And he was like, yeah, they said that they had to put an explicit rating, and I knew it was
because of you guys. And I was like, oh… definitely was, but I’m like, it was, they coulda
beeped it. They could have beeped it. But also it’s really hard to talk about Gong show without
also talking about shit show.
Oh yeah.
[00:08:43] Megan Figueroa: And it was like, cluster fuck. A lot. We might have said, fuck. Yeah.
Because that’s what I think of when I think of shit show as
[00:08:49] Carrie Gillon: cluster fuck. That’s right, you did say it. So we, we have some swearing
and was I gonna say cluster F?
[00:08:57] Megan Figueroa: No. No, now’s a poop show. No, no. Poop show . Show . Get your
poop in a group.
[00:09:09] Carrie Gillon: Oh yeah. Also apologies. But um, yes. Yeah, it, I dunno. It’s a good
episode still, regardless of our faux pas.
Yeah. And if you ask us to do this, just beware. We’re probably gonna end up swearing.
[00:09:25] Megan Figueroa: Yeah, but I would love for you to beat me. It’s fine.
[00:09:29] Carrie Gillon: You’re allowed to beat. Yeah. Feel free. Yeah. , you could do what the,
uh, The Good Place Podcast does they replace it with forking,
[00:09:40] Megan Figueroa: forking, or
[00:09:42] Carrie Gillon: bench or shirt, which is like so funny that then I’m, it’s like one of the few
times I really appreciate censoring like that.
I mean, it’s not true censorship, but you know what I mean.
[00:09:55] Megan Figueroa: Oh yeah, no . Cause it’s so cute . It is. I love the Good Place. And
that is one of the things I really love about The Good Place.
[00:10:02] Carrie Gillon: Oh my God, I love The Good Place and the podcast that goes with it is
so good too.
[00:10:07] Megan Figueroa: I just don’t know how they, uh, it would take me a while to be able
to like act and be on screen and being like, forking shirt or whatever, like be able to not.
Cringing in my eyes a little bit, like knowing that this is not the right way to, to cuss or
something. I dunno. ,
[00:10:23] Carrie Gillon: hey, it’s just like, you know, you take some acting lessons and you
would, maybe you’d get there. Which is also a hint for one of our future episodes. .
[00:10:31] Megan Figueroa: It’s true. . Oh, uh, speaking of, well, I don’t know.
Uh, I feel like it’s related cuz this is related to a lot of actors. There is this terrible article in
HuffPost. Yes. Um, here’s what makes a voice sexy or deeply unsexy. There are scientific reasons
you assume a sexy voice, stranger on the phone is physically attractive.
[00:10:57] Carrie Gillon: It’s like, because
[00:10:58] Megan Figueroa: immediately you should be like, your hackles should be raised, what
am I about to read?
[00:11:01] Carrie Gillon: Right, right. So like what are the metrics for this scientific sexiness? Like
how do we measure sexiness?
[00:11:11] Megan Figueroa: Well, yeah, so that, you know, that’s a good point because, and
then like there’s some lists of, um, let’s take this further in a subjective, but ultimately correct
examination of sexy voices , so like
[00:11:23] Carrie Gillon: subjective, but ultimately correct. Amazing.
[00:11:27] Megan Figueroa: I know, like, okay, so it’s like being, like trying to be cute, this, this
article, but it’s like ultimately like reifying some terrible things, but um, about how we like view,
how people speak. But So Jeff Goldblum’s voice, definitely Screwable, they say, um, I, I mean
subjectively true. I, um, Idris Elba. Reading anything.
Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Um, so Liz Hurley’s, deep British accent. Um, and so like, and then they say
John Hamm earlier. Um, so these are sexy accent. Uh, sexy voices.
[00:12:02] Carrie Gillon:. There’s only one woman and a bunch of men. Yeah. Uh, crew. Yep.
Yep, yep. And, and someone that people don’t think about anymore, like Liz Hurley. She I know
is a very attractive woman. I haven’t seen her in forever.
[00:12:17] Megan Figueroa: I know I had to Google that.. Yeah. Although it is a picture that they
use in like the main pick. So they have Tom Hardy, um, oh no, that’s Lauren Bacall . Oh, Lauren
Bacall. And then Barack Obama are all prime examples of sexy voices.,
[00:12:30] Carrie Gillon: Okay so there’s two women.
[00:12:31] Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Um, so yeah. And then an unsexy voice they give is Jared
And see, here’s the problem I have immediately. He is a horrible human person. So like, again,
like with like us, when we talk about language, everything is a proxy for something else. I am
never gonna think his voice is sexy, even if he sounded like John Hamm, like because of how
horrible I think he is.
[00:12:57] Carrie Gillon: It’s true.But he also does not sound anything like John Hamm. That’s
true. That’s also true. It’s really hard to actually tease it apart. So I agree with you that because
he is. , I don’t know. A very bad person. Yeah. Um, we, we can’t even like, conceive of his voice
being good , however, I don’t think it would be good. Even if you were a good person.
Yeah. So, I mean, it is, it’s, it’s extremely subjective. and yeah, it’s, it’s a poor choice because
like, how would you possibly say, you don’t wanna say anything good about him?
[00:13:32] Megan Figueroa: Right. Yeah, it’s true. So yeah, even if I did find his voice sexy, I
would be like, uh, I’m sorry, I have no comment. I dunno what you’re talking about.
[00:13:44] Carrie Gillon: Yeah. I would just keep my mouth shut. I wouldn’t say anything at all.
[00:13:46] Megan Figueroa: Ah, yeah. So when they get to the science part, it’s like, what exactly
makes a voice or a sexy voice sexy. Studies show that women tend to prefer men with deep
voices, so it’s very like cis hetero, like normative shit
[00:13:59] Carrie Gillon: Well, what I thought found interesting is that it also said like across the
board, deep voices were bad, were like more deemed more attractive. And I was surprised at
that claim because I was like, well, really Even for like hetero women
[00:14:13] Megan Figueroa:right, exactly. Yeah.
[00:14:14] Carrie Gillon: But then later they, they, they say for men only,
[00:14:19] Megan Figueroa: right?
Yeah. Okay. So they bring up a couple of more women. . Um, let’s see. So rather than a high
pitched girly voice, women drop their tones to a lower sexier register. Um, when they’re around
the person, they’re attracted to think Lauren Bacall Scarlett Johanssen, uh, . Okay. Yeah. Um,
yeah, so this is from a 2010 study. I don’t even wanna click to the 2010 study cuz it, I can already
tell. And it’s not good science.
[00:14:45] Carrie Gillon: It’s probably not. But to be fair, often studies get mangled. In the, like
translation’s true. So it could be the fa the case that the study itself is normal and fine. Yeah.
And the, uh, journalists have twisted. Yeah. Can’t say that’s the case in this case
[00:15:02] Megan Figueroa:. . Yeah. Jean Berko Gleason, who is a psycholinguist, who like I’ve
read a ton from
[00:15:09] Carrie Gillon: and invented the wug test, which we’ve talked about before, but just in
case you don’t know what the wug test is,
Megan Figueroa:. the fucking wug test.
Carrie Gillon: The the is a test where you show kids of a particular age. A picture of a thing
that’s not real.
So she called it a wug. Looks kind of like a bird. This is a, this is a wug. Now there are two. There
are two.
[00:15:27] Megan Figueroa: And then a child finishes it and you see if they have a certain, um,
Uh, linguistic Form. So if they have the pa uh, the plural s so they say two wugs, right? Um, so
anyway, it’s like really important for psycholinguistics.
[00:15:43] Carrie Gillon: It’s important for linguistics,
[00:15:44] Megan Figueroa: period. God, it’s so important. She says a sexy voice is warm and
inviting. It feels as if it is spoken from the chest rather than the head. It’s tones are pleasing and
not at all nasals.
[00:15:52] Carrie Gillon: Iwas so shocked that she said this. Why did you say that? Because, What
are you talking about?
You, this is something that you find sexy, which is totally fine, but weird. Yeah. It’s weird that
you’re admitting this, you gotta plead the fifth. And not even saying this is, this is subjective.
[00:16:09] Megan Figueroa: Subjective. Yeah.
[00:16:11] Carrie Gillon: Like you could’ve, she could’ve said something like, um, many people
find these things sexy, and maybe that’s true.
Yeah. I don’t know. I, I’ve never done the studies, but like to just say it as a blanket statement.
[00:16:24] Megan Figueroa: I know.
Carrie Gillon: I hope she was misquoted .
Megan Figueroa: I No. Well, uh, she says essentially, um, we consider a sexy voice. It’s partly
determined by bi biology, whatever, and partly determined by society’s exaggerated ideas
around voices.
Overall though, a sexy voice is warm, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, . So, I don’t know.
[00:16:42] Carrie Gillon: I mean, she’s probably right that there’s some biological component
because like all animals have
Megan Figueroa: mating calls,
Carrie Gillon: like ways of ways of like attracting, uh, mates, but like, , we don’t know. Mm-hmm.
what the biological part is. I don’t think for voices
[00:16:57] Megan Figueroa:. Right? Yeah. Especially since we’ve been so concentrated on doing
studies on cis hetero people.
[00:17:04] Carrie Gillon: Right, right. So, and, but we could even say this is only for cis hetero
people. but they don’t, I don’t even think they do that. And, and anyway, it’s never really been
done properly. We still don’t really know.
So to make that claim, The first half of the claim seems fine to me, but the second half, which is
the more detailed part, is just, wow, I’m so shocked.
[00:17:28] Megan Figueroa: My kind of, um, science communication advice to myself is like, if
anyone ever asked me a question like that, I, you gotta be like very clear that, uh, you don’t
have to be like, subjectively, this is what I think a voice, or this is what makes voice sexy.
But that’s not, you know, like, this is me speaking. I don’t even know if I would answer. I don’t
think I would answer.
[00:17:47] Carrie Gillon: I don’t think I would say what I find sexy cuz it’s nobody’s goddamn
business. Yeah. .
[00:17:54] Megan Figueroa: Yes. And they could twist it. They could twist it.
[00:17:56] Carrie Gillon: Like they could easily twist it. Yeah. And, but I would, I would say
something like we don’t really know yet.
Yeah. It’s probably a mix of biology and so social, um, conditioning because like almost literally
everything is. End of story. Like you can’t .
[00:18:13] Megan Figueroa: Yeah. But then you wouldn’t be quoted, they’d find some other
linguist. No, that’s not fine. That.
[00:18:17] Carrie Gillon: That’s fine. Go find someone else.
[00:18:18] Megan Figueroa: That’s fine with me. Like Jean Berko Gleason, come on.
[00:18:23] Carrie Gillon: God damn it. I was so shocked because Leah like, she’s very famous and
she’s like done like this hugely. I impact impactful study that like if you’re in linguistics you have
to learn it. Yeah. At some point in usually like in your first class. Yeah. Um,
[00:18:39] Megan Figueroa: ah.
[00:18:40] Carrie Gillon: Ah, . And I’m sure she’s a really nice person too. Like there’s, it’s just,
[00:18:47] Megan Figueroa: Yes absolutely. I mean, I’m not saying anything about her character,
uh, just as a scientist. Why’d you say that? Yeah.
[00:18:54] Carrie Gillon: Only her character as a scientist. Uh, cause this is problematic.
[00:18:55] Megan Figueroa:. Yeah. Well, we happen to talk about what voices sound like today.
[00:19:00] Carrie Gillon: Don’t worry. Yes. Weirdly, it’s so perfectly aligned.
[00:19:03] Megan Figueroa: It’s almost as if we planned. We
[00:19:05] Carrie Gillon: fucking didn’t. We don’t, we did not. No, we did not. No . No,
[00:19:10] Megan Figueroa: not at all. .
[00:19:12] Carrie Gillon: Um, so, yeah. Yeah. So we’re talking with Dr. Lal Zimman about trans
voices and also vocal fry.
[00:19:23] Megan Figueroa: Yes It’s everywhere. . It’s important. It’s beautiful . It is beautiful. Yes.
So it’s a great episode and we hope you enjoy.
I’m so excited to have Dr. Lal Zimman. He’s an Assistant Professor in the Department of
Llnguistics and affiliated faculty in the Department of Feminist Studies at UC Santa Barbara. His
research interests includes sociocultural linguistics, which we’ll get to in a second , and are
focused around two areas, uh, language, gender, and sexuality, and socio phonetics, and its
interface with discourse.
Thank you so much Lal for being here
[00:20:06] Lal Zimman:. Oh, my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
[00:20:08] Megan Figueroa: Yeah. You’ve been someone that I’ve wanted to, um, have on the
show for a while. Yeah. So this is very exciting. Um, yeah. And so please tell us before we get
into it, what is Sociocultural Linguistics?
[00:20:18] Lal Zimman: Yeah. Sociocultural Linguistics is, uh, usually defined as an
interdisciplinary area of study. Um, so the term came about in part because of the connections
and also differences between sociolinguistics on the one hand and linguistic anthropology on
the other. Um, so the idea is that sociocultural linguists draw on both of those areas as well as
others like, um, certain kinds of, uh, discourse analysis, for instance
[00:20:44] Megan Figueroa: And I, I like that because it’s always good to remember that
linguistics, language is bigger than the actual, just language. Like there’s language is political
language is um, good can be bad. Like our whole show is about how it affects people very
deeply, so. Mm-hmm.
Lal Zimman:. Mm-hmm. . Absolutely.
[00:21:06] Carrie Gillon: So you say that, um, it in intersects with discourse.Can you explain what
that is?
[00:21:11] Lal Zimman: Yeah. Um, I’m really interested in how, uh, kind of fine grain differences
in people’s voices are used to construct certain kinds of identities. Um, and a lot of people who
do research, uh, in that area, uh, focus primarily on phonetic analysis. Um, so they might bring
some social factors into it, um, but frequently there’s a reliance on either.
Um, interview types of speech or, um, even having people read passages or sentences or
words. Um, and for me, this is not a fully satisfying way to approach the voice because so much
of what we do with our voices is to do things like taking a stance on something, expressing how
we feel about it or what we think about it.
Um, and so if we wanna understand what people are doing with their voices, we also have to
think about what people are doing with their words, um, and thinking about different levels of
language. So what are they doing with their words? Well, one of the things that I’m really
interested in is creaky voice quality or vocal fry
Awesome. And yeah. Yay, . Um, and you know, as I’m sure you know very well, there’s been a lot
of research connecting that to gender and suggesting, especially that young American women
are using a lot of creak. And that does, you know, that that seems to be true, um, to at least, you
know, kind of a, in a broad way.
Um, but at the same time, when you think about what kinds of things people are doing when
they’re using a lot of creaky voice, uh, often they’re doing something that sort of expresses how
strongly they feel about the subject they’re talking about. Um, or how, um, or how emotional
they are about that subject.
Uh, so one thing I’m really, um, interested in is how people in really intense emotional
interactions use creak as a way of kind of managing their emotions. Um, and I, I think there are
certain things about creaky voice that really lend it to that sort of function.
Carrie Gillon: Like what?
Lal Zimman: Well, this is something that I first noticed, um, because I watch a lot of like true
crime tv,
[00:23:18] Megan Figueroa: Oh my god. We, we did too, right there with you. Yeah. .
[00:23:20] Lal Zimman: Um, so when the, when folks are being interviewed and they’re talking
about like, you know, really traumatic things that have happened to them or people they know,
um, I started noticing that there’s creaky voice everywhere. Um, and it really struck me as being
related to maybe holding back on emotional expression a bit.
Um, and even potentially, um, maybe holding back on crying or other kinds of, uh, sort of mm,
socially uh, stigmatized or socially uncomfortable kinds of emotional expressions.,
[00:23:54] Megan Figueroa: Wow that’s really interesting. Yeah. And you noticed that across.
Um, gender.
[00:23:58] Lal Zimman: Yeah, something really interesting. Um, so a lot of the folks that I’ve
worked with use a, a lot of creaky voice.
Um, one person, um, that I’m thinking of in particular used it like two thirds of the time. So
almost all of his speech sounds creaky. Um, but even. Looking at that very creaky speech, there
are patterns that come up in terms of when creak is used. Um, and there’s actually kind of an
interesting paradox involved in this.
So on the one hand, um, it tended to come up when the speaker was, um, sort of taking stances
that suggested he didn’t really care too much about what he was talking. Um, and this kind of
makes sense because creak is different from the ways that we usually express excitement or
emotional engagement.
Usually we’re kind of, you know, we’re using our pitch a lot to go up and down. Um, we might
be speaking louder or more quietly and just the way that creak is produced physiologically, it’s
really difficult to do those things while speaking with creaky voice. So it makes a lot of sense
that it’s kind of a way of showing I’m not really emotionally engaged with this subject.
I’m kind of laid back about it. I’m relaxed, I’m not experiencing strong feelings. But then it also
showed up in these contexts with really strong emotional expression, um, particularly when the
emotion was kind of an undesirable or negative one. Um, so there’s something kind of going on
there where you can take this resource for, um, conveying yourself as not having strong
emotions to sort of cover up a little bit the stronger emotions that a person might be
[00:25:34] Carrie Gillon: That makes total sense to me when I’m like trying not to show emotions.
I like tend to go kind of flat, right? And so, yeah, if creak, uh, is easier to do when you’re being
flat, like Yeah, 100%.
[00:25:49] Megan Figueroa: Makes sense. That is really exciting. Is this new research for you?
[00:25:51] Lal Zimman: Um, yeah, it’s pretty new. Um, it’s stuff that I’m still working on and I think
it gives a much better account of why people use creak, because people don’t usually do things
just to say, well, I’m a woman so I’m gonna use this linguistic feature. You know, they do really
different things in the moment. of, of actually using language.
[00:26:11] Carrie Gillon: Also like there are just so many men who use it that mm-hmm. . I just
don’t even get the gender. And I, I recognize that women use it slightly more than men, but this
idea that only women uses it, I don’t get it
[00:26:20] Megan Figueroa:. And have you looked into, um, um, whether non-binary folks use
creak in a certain way that is different or the same.
[00:26:35] Lal Zimman: Yeah. I’ve been working on a project with some colleagues at Reed
College thinking about this question. Um, and we had kind of a diverse gender sample to work
with. So we had cisgender women and men, and we had trans women and trans men.
Um, and we had non-binary people who were both assigned female at birth and assigned male
at birth. Um, and there wasn’t really like an easy to summarize pattern there. So in general, the
folks who had, um, higher pitched voices tended to use a lot of creak. And actually I think this
goes to the question of are men really using creak that much less than women?
Um, and I think it’s important that creak sounds really. Creak is sort of salient or stands out, um,
when it’s produced by somebody with a higher pitched voice, cuz you’re kind of going along at
a high pitch and then suddenly you drop away low to creak. But if you already have a really low
pitched voice, it’s a lot more subtle and can be, uh, more difficult.
Even just as researchers when we’re coding for creak, um, it can be difficult to decide for low
pitch speakers. So I wonder if maybe people are just noticing women’s creak in a way that isn’t
necessarily noticeable.
[00:27:44] Carrie Gillon: Yes. That’s what I’ve, that’s what I’ve been thinking for like the past
couple of years, is that it’s just that people are noticing it more for social and actual like, um,
pitch reasons
[00:27:55] Megan Figueroa:. Yeah. I was gonna say, I blame the patriarchy, like,
[00:27:59] Lal Zimman: oh absolutely.
[00:27:59] Megan Figueroa: Yeah. You told me to notice it in women! You all did . Yeah. Yeah.
But that’s re Of course, of course. There’s, there’s also something going on with, you know,
production too. Um, and our perception of that because, but you said how like, um, language
becomes action or action, you know, affects language.
It’s, um, how, like, I don’t know where it starts anymore with, with vocal fry and noticing it and,
and actually producing it too, because I think that I produce it too, because I’m like, well, yeah, I
am like a millennial woman, and I don’t know if I’m doing that consciously or subconsciously,
but I think that there is some of that happening because of what are people are telling me
about creak.
[00:28:42] Lal Zimman: Yeah. Some people, some people have suggested that Creak could be
kind of a reaction against Uptalk, uh, which is sort of the previous generation of maligned things
that women supposedly do with language more than men. Um, and Uptalk became something
that non linguists talk about and know about. Um, it’s something that people talk about really
disparagingly. Um, and so kind of instead of going upward with pitch going really down. might
be a way of sort of addressing that and, and pushing back against that stigma.
[00:29:14] Megan Figueroa:. Yeah. I, I definitely feel like sometimes I’m trying to like reclaim it
because people have stigmatized it so much. yeah, definitely.
[00:29:22] Carrie Gillon: I do wonder if that’s true though, because, um, if you listen to people,
my generation, many of them still do Creak, maybe not as much. And we were up talkers slash
maybe still are up talkers. Yeah. I don’t know.
[00:29:37] Megan Figueroa: Yeah, well it’s everywhere. That’s a, that’s a good point. Creak is
[00:29:40] Lal Zimman: Right. And even if you’re using both, I think they’d have to be sort of in
alternation with each other. Right. Because you can’t really do them at the same time. But I think
that’s a good point. The study that I’m thinking of was looking at mothers and daughters, um,
and found that mother, the mother’s generation of speakers who were kind of, you know,
young, young, uh, young-ish parents of teenagers. Um, used more uptalk and then the, the teen
daughters used more creak. Um, so, you know, there’s kind of that perspective. But yeah, I think
everybody uses Uptalk and everybody uses Creak to some degree or another. It’s just a matter
when we notice it and when we care.
[00:30:15] Megan Figueroa: Right. So I brought up a little bit about how I feel like I am using
Creak for my identity. Um, what are trans and queer communities doing with Creak?
[00:30:27] Lal Zimman: Good question. Yeah. So. One thing about the, the study I just
mentioned, the collaboration looking at trans and cis speakers was that some of the trans
speakers were using a lot of creak, um, and some of them were using not so much Creak. Um,
so one way that creak might be useful to trans speakers is because it does provide access to a
different pitch range that people are typically not producing in their non creaky speech. So, um,
one of the groups that had the highest levels of creak in the study I mentioned, um, were trans
men who were not on testosterone, so trans men with higher pitched voices. Um, and so we
were thinking that for them creak could function to provide access to a lower pitch range.
I don’t think that it’s intentional or conscious in any way, um, but it’s sort of an effect that’s
maybe useful to speakers. Um, and this also came up with the, the really creaky speaker I
mentioned who creaks like two thirds of the time. Um, he was non-binary and his, um, kind of,
um, In addition to having this really laid back sort of quality to his voice, he’s also mostly sort of
opting out of this binary pitch range thing because regardless of what your pitch is in your sort
of unmarked speech, your creaky speech is always gonna be, um, kind of in a particular range.
The, and that range doesn’t seem to be determined by things like how big your larynx are. Um,
so it’s possible, I don’t, again, I don’t know that this is like a primary motivator, but it’s certainly
an effect of using a lot of creak that people can sort of get out of this really strong binary
difference in pitch range that we typically hear.
[00:32:11] Carrie Gillon: So this is sort of slightly off topic, but related. Elizabeth Holmes, who
we’ve talked about one once or twice, she has a really, she’s really lowered her voice. At least
that’s what people are, are saying that it’s not, it’s not her natural voice, but it doesn’t seem like
she’s using a lot of creak. So do you have an any like explanation for what she’s doing to lower
her voice if she is indeed lowering her voice?
[00:32:33] Lal Zimman: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the, kind of, the first thing to point
out is that all of us use, um, only part of the pitch range that we have access to. Um, and so, you
know, we might want to say that Elizabeth Holmes is lowering her voice, but then we should
also say that other people are raising their voices or that men are lowering their voices. Um, so
she happens to be making use of a pitch range that’s not typical for women. Um, but a lot of
women could produce that pitch range if they had perhaps the social motivations to do so. Uh, I
do think there’s also something particular going on with Elizabeth Holmes’ voice, where it’s not
just low frequency in terms of pitch, but also something with her resonance,
Um, so this is to, to me actually her voice just sounds like a female nerd. I feel like I’ve known a
ton of women who have this kind of low voice quality, and they tend to be people who spend a
lot of time with men who may be operate within male dominated social or professional circles,
um, and who, who also might to a certain extent reject some of the expectations for how
women are supposed to express themselves. Um, so I think that she has this low, uh, resonance
in her voice that could really just be kind of a stylistic thing rather than being about, you know,
trying to sound masculine, which I think is sort of the implicit, uh, message that goes along with
this idea that she’s lowering her voice below some sort of supposedly natural or default or, um,
unmodified range.
[00:34:09] Megan Figueroa: It’s really important. To think about how we talk about it and how
we’re saying she’s lowering her voice. But I, I never thought about it in that way that, I mean, it is
kind of reinforcing this patriarchal idea that. that women should speak higher than she is, but
really she is utilizing just something that she has within her.
[00:34:32] Carrie Gillon: So, yes, thank you. Uh, because I was primed to think about in a
particular way. I really can’t disentangle that from my feeling about it, but it sounds. Somewhat
painful, like as if she’s hurting herself. And that’s probably not the case at all. Uh, and then my
sister also pointed out that she sounds kind of like someone’s masking the voice, so it sounds
really artificial.
And again, I mean, well, for her, I don’t know like what’s, um, what’s all like impacting her
impression of it, but. It’s interesting. Yeah.
[00:35:07] Megan Figueroa: Well, it’s also, well just like a quick point that when I was teaching
and lecturing and had like three different classes, um, a someone told me, you must hurt
because you are projecting vocal fry when you’re lecturing.
Um, so I was like, no, it doesn’t hurt at all. So, I mean, people have this perception of, of things,
I mean, whatever that person’s perception, how that was, how that person’s perception was.
You know how, how they got to that point, I don’t know. But they definitely thought I was
hurting myself and I’m not. It doesn’t hurt at all.
So, yeah. Right. But yes, back, back to identity and how trans and queer folks are using Creak,
[00:35:47] Lal Zimman: There’s actually a connection there that’s kind of interesting, which is,
um, the way that people talk about trans voices in the literature by peech pathologists and
therapists. Um, and there’s often a lot of concern that trans people will hurt themselves by using
a particular part of their pitch range, um, by having their larynxes, um, enlarged by testosterone
or just learning to produce language in a different way.
Um, and there’s this kind of sense that, you know, if you’re, if you’re gonna change your voice,
you need to have a speech pathologist to help you not hurt yourself. Um, and this really ignores
the fact that it’s very clear that people. Uh, learn to speak in gendered ways with, with their
pitch and their vocal resonance before puberty, before there are any physiological differences
in the vocal anatomy.
And so we are all engaged in this process of, you know, not necessarily as consciously or with
the kind of awareness that a trans person might have, but we’re all doing things with our voices,
um, learning to occupy particular ranges of our voices. Uh, and I think the idea that it would be
harmful for trans people to do that, but not for cis people to do that is just a manifestation of
the general idea that, you know, there’s something, uh, unnatural about being trans, essentially.
[00:37:04] Carrie Gillon: Yeah, that’s really interesting. So a couple of years before that, the big
study on how women were using vocal fry. Young. Young, which was like 2011. So even just two
years before that, I read something about, about vocal fry and trans. And how at the time
speech pathologists were tr trying to train trans women not to use vocal fry because men were
using it.
So you didn’t wanna sound like a man . And only two years later it was like, no women are doing
it. It’s a woman’s thing.
[00:37:35] Lal Zimman: I think that might be because of the, one of the early papers looking at,
um, gender and Greek and American English. Um, was uh, suggesting that. Women are using
creak in order to sound like men because creak is sort of inherently masculine.
Um, which just seems like really tortured logic to me. Like, oh, women are doing this. Yes, it
must be because it’s masculine and women wanna be masculine. What? Um, or it’s not
masculine. Right? Uh, that’s seems like they’re a simpler explanation. ,
[00:38:04] Megan Figueroa: oh my gosh. That goes exactly to Elizabeth Holmes. The same
Yeah. Like, is she really torturing herself cuz of how much she wants to be a man? I mean, it’s
just, you know, like we’re, we’re, you know, I am definitely buying into this, I’m part of the
society that, you know, the society built me. Um, but it, it is tortured logic and it’s. It’s, I think
that when we talk about vocal fry, we joke about it a lot cuz it’s in our name and I mean, we
obviously, I mean, I love it.
I, I don’t know if it’s like something, I never thought of it as something you could love, but I’m
like, no, I’m trying to reclaim it. I don’t want people to think it’s just for women. Um, and even if
it was something that was just women, but it’s not, that’s okay because what’s wrong with
women? Nothing. Um, yeah, exactly.
Um, and so all of. It all, like, um, I love the word tortured. I just, it’s such, um, I’m so tortured by
vocal fry and I’m a cis woman. Like, I can’t even, like, there must be so much more going on
when it comes to the trans, non-binary folks and how they’re using it. And I wonder if that shows
up in discourse, if you’ve noticed. Um, anything interesting there.
[00:39:09] Lal Zimman:, um, people talking about the presence of, of creak or vocal fry?.
[00:39:14] Megan Figueroa: Yeah Like, like how Carrie said that that speech pathologists are
were, or back then were, were saying like, let’s not use it. Um, Is there still talk around that when
people are talking about how they want to identify or how um, they use language
[00:39:29] Lal Zimman:.Um, it’s interesting, there’s a real split in my experience between, um,
trans men and other trans-masculine people who are on testosterone and experience that
change in vocal pitch as a result, um, and kind of everyone else, um, but maybe especially trans
women and. Feminine people who are, um, probably more attuned to the ways that their
gender is being policed and, um, surveilled by people.
And so there might be a need for a little bit more awareness there. But a lot of the folks that I
work with who are on testosterone really don’t talk much about other aspects of their voices. It’s
just sort of, you know, you get. A male pitch range from testosterone, and then people are a lot
less concerned about the details of, you know, um, for instance whether they might be
perceived as gay men as a result of having some not so typically masculine characteristics of
their speech, along with a low pitched voice.
On the other hand, um, trans women that I talk to tend to have a huge amount of awareness of
all of these things. Um, and I have heard a couple of people kind of talk about that conflict of,
you know, creak is, um, associated with femininity. But it might also sort of depend on an ability
to contrast your creak with a high pitch when you’re not using Creak.
Um, so I can see how, you know, this is sort of a, another kind of paradox, um, where the thing
that, uh, could potentially. Um, lead people to perceive a voice as female could under, you
know, slightly different circumstances, undermine that perception. Um, and so there’s sort of a
choice to make about whether you’re gonna aim for, you know, high pitch, um, and going as
high as is comfortable, um, or whether.
You know, focusing on other things, um, and, um, creaking as well. Um, and of course there is
sort of a generational difference and I think there’s also a difference perhaps between folks who
I think there might be a difference between trans folks who have maybe always had, uh, a similar
gender presentation to the one that they have after transitioning.
Um, a lot of folks who are, you know, maybe assigned male, but have always been quite
feminine. Um, tend to acquire a lot of the vocal characteristics that are normatively associated
with women, um, early in life. And so pitch might actually not be that important, um, because
we know that people can have pitch that’s not super typical for their gender.
But if other characteristics are typical for their gender, that can potentially be more important in
terms of how people are gonna perceive that voice.
[00:42:05] Megan Figueroa: Mm-hmm. It makes sense. Yeah. And do you think it’s meaningful
that the, the trans men and trans-masculine folks that are on testosterone are the ones that
don’t really think much about their voices?
[00:42:21] Lal Zimman: Yeah, I think there are a couple of things going on there. Um, one is the
very real, um, nature of pitch and, and the fact that a dramatic change in pitch does often
change the gender that a voice will be perceived as. Um, so I think there’s something very real
and legitimate there, and a lot of the trans folks that I’ve talked to about this, um, point out that
early in their transitions, they might have put more thought and effort into masculinizing their
But as their pitch gets lower, they don’t feel like that’s really necessary. Um, and often,
specifically mentioning that, you know, transitioning is about authenticity. It’s about comfort in
who you are and not having to hide or cover up things about yourself. And so constantly paying
attention to your voice for some folks feels like, um, not fully realizing that potential of of of
being one’s true self.
On the other hand, I think there’s also this idea that masculinity is sort of the absence of
femininity. That it’s very natural, that it, that masculine people are, um, totally un artificial, don’t
have to do anything to be masculine. And in fact, if you’re doing things to seem masculine,
that’s kind of a problem. Right. That raises questions about the legitimacy of your claim on
masculinity. So I think there’s also kind of the social stigma factor of, um, you know, feeling like
mas, masculinity should come about naturally versus the idea that femininity is a product of
effort and you know, the use of certain kinds of technologies and cultivating one’s body in
particular ways.
Um, and that’s not really seen as a problem. In fact, I think women are kind of expected to put
effort into their femininity, and if they’re not, then that’s a problem.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:44:09] Megan Figueroa: Yeah. These like gender normative expectations are hurting
everyone. Like I can’t, that is so obvious. it. It cannot be set said enough though, until everyone
realizes how obvious it is, I think.
[00:44:23] Carrie Gillon: But it’s interesting that in this case, that as long as you seem masculine
enough, you’re like, good. Whereas when I think about it, normally I think about how men do
have to perform masculinity quite a bit in certain, at least in certain arenas.
[00:44:39] Lal Zimman:. I think that varies across communities too. I mean, the folks that I’ve
worked with have been mostly in the Bay Area and other kind of metropolitan areas in the
western US on the west coast. Um, and so there’s a, there’s a little bit of research on trans folks
from, um, more rural areas and kind of non-queer centers. Um, and it seems like there, folks
might have more gender normative voices, whether that’s a matter of, um, intention or effort or
cultivation or if it’s maybe just a reflection of the communities that those folks are growing up in.
Um, but you know, I don’t, I wouldn’t wanna suggest that the people that I’ve worked with are
totally unaware of these issues. Either , I didn’t mean to suggest that either. Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Um, cuz I think, you know, for instance, a lot of people. Um, talk to me about, um, being
perceived as gay cis men after transitioning, even if they don’t identify as gay or queer.
Um, and how even for straight identified trans men, men, the priority is so much on being
categorized as male that, you know, whether people are getting your sexual orientation right
seems less significant overall.
[00:45:50] Carrie Gillon: Oh, yeah, that makes sense too. Yeah, so this reminds me, um, there’s
the new, uh, voice assistant, Q, which is non-binary. Uh, I hear it as female and many other
people hear it as a gay man. And it’s, so, I, I’m wondering if it’s just like, I don’t have enough
non-binary people in my life and that’s why I’m categorizing it the way that I am, and that’s true
for other people. Or if there’s something else going on.
So what, what, what do you think about Q? How do you interpret it. Et cetera.
[00:46:22] Lal Zimman: I haven’t really done, um, a whole lot of, uh, exploration of that in
particular. Um, but I think it’s an interesting question. Um, the way gender categorization works,
it does seem for a lot of people to be really, uh, , it’s not a scale.
It’s like you’re either in one category or another, and you might be perceived as not very typical
for that category. But I think for most listeners, there isn’t an ambiguous voice category because
we’ve been socialized into a system that only recognizes two. Um, And so I think particularly
with no social context whatsoever, this is just this disembodied voice that is, you know, not
saying things that a person would say.
Um, it’s really hard to find that category unless maybe you have a really robust category in your
mind. Um, I’ve found that. Getting to know voices has a big impact on how I perceive them. So I
can kind of have this initial categorization that I make. You know, maybe I call somebody on the
phone and they say hello and I have an immediate sense of what gender I think they might be.
Once I get to know somebody, even just a little bit, it becomes really hard to access those
perceptions. Uh, sometimes folks who I interview will say at the end of an interview, so what do
you think about my voice? How does it sound to you? Does it sound male, female? And I’ll say,
Oh, um, I don’t know. You identify as X and I know that, so now that’s how you sound.
To me, there is something to the idea of exposure, both in general to non-binary people and to
individual voices, but it’s not clear to me. I mean, non-binary is a really big category, right? It’s
everyone who isn’t strictly female, strictly male. Um, and so I think that there’s a lot of variability
within that category, probably more than the other gender categories that, um, that we’re
talking about.
And so I think it’s really hard to say like, what does a non-binary voice sound like? Cuz it can
sound like anything from a really typically masculine male voice to a really typically feminine
female voice. Um, and that might connect with gender in any number of ways or the.
Assignment of the individual in any number of ways.
Um, but it’s really hard to say. There are some voices that I perceive as non-binary sounding.
Um, but I know that that itself is also somewhat limited since, um, it, the non-binary community
and identity tend to be sort of weighted toward people who were assigned female at birth. Um,
and so I sort of have a category of a voice that to me sounds like a female assigned non-binary
You know, nebulous, whatever that means. Um, that, that’s something that happens in my brain.
Uh, and I would imagine that perhaps, um, folks who are in non-binary communities that are
more fully populated by people who are assigned male at, at birth, um, that that could be, um,
a category that people have access to as well.
Although that said, my last several partners were all male assigned non-binary people. So I do
have a. Exposure and for some reason don’t have quite the same kind of category, um, which is
something someone should look into. That’s interesting. .
[00:49:35] Megan Figueroa: Yeah. . Wow. No, I, I feel like I’m learning a lot Yeah. About myself
Me too. And how I perceive voices. And I hope that our listeners will think about this as well. It’s
so important to stop and investigate why ? Yeah. Mm-hmm. , um, I mean, it’s the, it’s the, it’s
the, for a lot of people, it’s the most you can do and it’s a good thing to do, right? It’s to stop
and think about why you’re doing these things, um, and why you’re thinking about these things,
why you have these perceptions, because, um, yeah, I mean, I, my mind is blown right now.
I’m sorry, Carrie, do you have anything? I’m just like, I’m just like so in my feelings right now, .
[00:50:13] Carrie Gillon: No. Yeah, it’s really great. I mean, I, this is something that I know I have
to think about more, so I’m, yeah. I’m really glad that we’re ta talking about this. Uh, I guess
maybe now we can switch to, uh, trans-inclusive language, if that’s okay.
Lal Zimman: Sounds good.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah, because, um, I think it’s important, uh, we, we talked with, um, Kirby
Conrod and they, the episode that they were on is very important. Everyone was talking about
how they learned so much, um, and there was a little bit of talk about like, singular they, um,
and how to get the fuck over it. It’s singular , like, you know.
Um, so I think that it’s, it was really important that we talk to you about this because so many
people were like, Oh my God, yes. Singular they. I learned so much. Thank you. Um, to Kirby.
So, um, I really wanted to make sure to talk about this. Yeah. This is very important.
[00:50:58] Carrie Gillon: So, um, what are some ways that, uh, language is transphobic?
[00:51:02] Lal Zimman: Oh gosh. There are so many ways that language can be transphobic.
Sometimes I like to distinguish different kinds of transphobia. Um, I think that’s useful. Um, I
think when people think transphobia, they tend to think of more overt forms of, um, hatred or
negativity, judgment, othering that’s directed at trans people.
Um, and certainly there are a lot of ways, um, that language can do that, uh, simply.
Misgendering someone using a word that is generally reserved for one gender when they don’t
identify with that gender. Um, but there are also subtler things that happen. Um, and I think that
one concept that’s really interest, interesting and useful if we’re thinking about that, um, is cis
So Cissexism is kind of a type of transphobia, you could say, um, that treats cis people’s
identities and bodies and experiences as normal, default, natural, um, and trans people’s as, uh,
abnormal, unnatural, um, and needing a explanation in some sort of way. Um, so for instance,
just something as simple as using the word women, um, can have a really, um, big impact on
trans people.
Because it often involves defining women implicitly around something like what kind of body
parts a person has. Um, so for instance, talking about something like women’s health, um, which
is itself, uh, you know, basically a euphemism in order to avoid talking about certain body parts.
That implies that anyone who has those body parts as a woman and anyone who doesn’t have
those body parts is not a woman.
Uh, and obviously this is not what the folks. Um, you know, women’s health centers are thinking
about. Um, but there is this really important, uh, message kind of underlying this language use
that trans people certainly notice immediately.
[00:52:56] Megan Figueroa: It might be hard for cis people to start thinking about this, but it’s
[00:53:03] Lal Zimman: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s something that just sort of takes practice, you
know, once you acquire a different vocabulary for talking about these things, like talking about
people being assigned female or male at birth instead of being born female or born male. Um,
once you kind of get that into your vocabulary, I think it becomes a lot easier to conceptually
distinguish, you know, who exactly am I talking about?
And it has the added benefit of just being a more accurate statement. Right. I mean, If we care
about making accurate statements, then, um, not making sweeping generalizations about what
all women supposedly have in common or all men supposedly have in common seems like a
good thing.
[00:53:40] Carrie Gillon: Yes. Although you’re also assuming a lot of some people, but
[00:53:45] Lal Zimman: it’s an important if
[00:53:46] Carrie Gillon: but, but our listeners, yes, absolutely. Mm-hmm. , yes. Yes. I’m sure that
they do wanna be more accurate.
[00:53:53] Megan Figueroa: So, oh, definitely. And that flies in the face of any argument where
someone will say, mm, trans-inclusive language is making language more muddy and difficult.
No, the opposite.
Carrie Gillon: You’re being clearer!
[00:54:07] Carrie Gillon: And I, I’m a fan of precision and language whenever possible. So yes, .
[00:54:12] Megan Figueroa: Yeah. And so I wonder if this, so trans, um, trans-inclusive language,
would that also be something as um, I think as simple as, instead of saying fireman, you say
[00:54:22] Lal Zimman: Yeah, that would definitely be a kind of trans-inclusive language.
It’s interesting, sometimes there’s, we sort of have our history of feminist language inclusion
efforts and then we have trans language inclusion and sometimes they really coalesce well, and
then other times they kind of take us in different directions. Right? So, um, for instance, if. The
alternative was to say firemen and fire women.
That would be good as far as, uh, feminist language reform, but not so helpful for non-binary
people. Yeah, right. Um, so there’s sort of different strategies of dealing with the same
problem. Yeah.
[00:54:53] Megan Figueroa: I mean, we have to make sure to update our feminism too, because
I’m also like, do you really wanna keep. . Like, it’s the question of do we wanna keep pointing
out that yes, you’re a firefighter, but you’re a woman.
Like, so that’s unnatural. Mm-hmm. , you know? Mm-hmm. Like, you know, I just think like saying
firefighter is like, okay, it’s getting the job done and it’s, it’s like we, we all deserve to be here
kind of thing.
[00:55:14] Lal Zimman: Yeah. One kind of tricky thing about that is that sometimes there’ll be a
shift so that, for instance, a word like chairperson that was originally introduced to be a nongendered
option comes to be the one used for women.
So men are chairmen and women are chair people. That’s, that’s the really hard thing, right?
Like we can. We can introduce language, but then people are free to use it however they want
to use it. And as long as there are still problematic ideas in people’s heads, um, there’s always
the possibility that they’ll use language to express or reinforce those ideas.
[00:55:50] Carrie Gillon: Yeah, I’ve definitely noticed things like that, just not that particular
example, which sounds ridiculous. .
[00:55:56] Megan Figueroa: It’s like we have to keep up with all this sexism and transphobia and
all this stuff. We gotta be like on top of it and keep thinking about it. Yes. Because language
changes, which is fantastic and fine and natural.
Um. because, and uh, as people, we have to keep up with it. And if we wanna be thoughtful and
kind to each other.
[00:56:15] Carrie Gillon: Do you have like a final a final thing for our listeners?
[00:56:18] Lal Zimman: Yeah. So I think there are probably three key principles for trans-inclusive
language. Um, one is to talk to people about how they wanna be referred to.
um, and that includes pronouns, but it can also include other kinds of language, um, particularly
if somebody uses non-binary pronouns. You might then wanna ask questions like, what would
you like me to do? If somebody refers to you with a different pronoun, would you like me to
correct them? Would you like me to ignore it? Correct them in private later, et cetera.
What kind of terminology do you like to have used in reference to yourself? Are you say a
sibling versus a brother or a sister? Um, and just having those conversations is so important and
it also takes a lot of the anxiety out of these things. I think that you don’t have to know
everything yourself.
Um, it’s really just about finding out what feels good to people and how you can. That.
Um, the other two principles I would say are closely related. Um, one is to use gender neutral
language when gender doesn’t actually matter for what you’re talking about. And it’s very
common for people to say, oh yeah, you know, the woman at the bank told me blah, blah, blah.
And the fact. That the person who told you at the bank was somebody you perceived as a
woman is really not relevant at all to what you’re talking about. Um, and so using gender neutral
language, like the person or the clerk or bank teller, um, is a way to avoid misgendering people.
And then finally, the last strategy is kind of related to this issue of being more precise in our
language. So when gender is relevant, making sure that we’re using language that reflects what
our meaning actually is, rather than having kind of implicit suggested meanings, um, that we
might not actually even agree with. ..
[00:57:49] Megan Figueroa: Yes That’s great. Thank you. I’m just so happy to virtually meet you.
And this is,
Lal Zimman: yeah, likewise.
I, yeah, and I, I think this is a really important. thing to talk about and you should come back and
tell us more about that research that’s ongoing. Um, cuz I’m happy to hear about Creak and
that all the time
[00:58:07] Lal Zimman: That’s great
[00:58:09] Megan Figueroa: All day. Every day,
[00:58:11] Carrie Gillon: all day.
[00:58:12] Megan Figueroa: I’ll talk about it. Let’s do it. Someone, someone someone pay us just
to co be commentators on creak.
commentators anyway. Well, we like to leave our listeners with. One final message. Do not be
an asshole. Don’t be an asshole. ,
[00:58:29] Lal Zimman: that’s great advice.
[00:58:30] Megan Figueroa: Right? Thank you.
[00:58:32] Lal Zimman: Thank you. Thank you so much. Great talking to you.
[00:58:37] Carrie Gillon: The Vocal Fries podcast is produced by me, Carrie Gillon for half Tone
Audio Theme Music by Nick Granum.
You can find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at vocal fries pod. You can email us
at vocal fries pod at and our website is vocal fries pod dot com


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