‘Annoying’ Upspeak, or Policing Women’s Voices?

Women in Radio

I got my first lesson in vocal inflection from my college theatre director: “Chris, your voice is going up at the end of each sentence. It makes you sound younger than the character you’re playing. Make your voice go down to sound older.”

I had never noticed that about my voice, but I soon realized I was indeed a devotee of what has now become known as upspeak, as exemplified  by Taylor Mali, as he calls out this quality among his high school students:

“In case you hadn’t realized,” Mali declares, “it has somehow become uncool to sound like you know what you’re talking about… Invisible question marks and parenthetical ya know’s?… have been attaching themselves to the end of our sentences, even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions.”

Having worked to shed this quality in my own voice, I had largely forgotten about the issue. But NPR’s Fresh Air brought me back to the topic this week – with the added realization that the only people who still seem to get called out on this feature are, like, ya know, women. Continue reading

Rating Instructors by Gender

Male and Female

School-culture-comparisons are one advantage of the BA -> MA -> PhD track of perpetual studenthood. And at every Higher Ed. institution I’ve attended, at some point, someone has made a common observation: In general, it seems that more students call their female professors by their first names, while referring to male professors as Dr. So-and-so. 

It’s a subtle difference, but it has been a fairly consistent trend. There can be many reasons for this difference—some say male professors come off as more distant, or that female professors are more approachable and more frequently ask their students to use their first names—but the point is that there’s a definite difference.

NPR recently did a story about the work of Bennjamin Schmidt, a professor at Northeastern University, who created a database of reviews from Ratemyprofessors.com, a popular site where students can (you guessed it) rate their professors. Schmidt’s database allows you to type in any word to see how often it’s used in reviews of male vs. female professors by subject area. For example, here’s the chart for the word “funny.” Continue reading

“Women’s Work”

The 250 page pre-reading for my first Ed course can be summed up in a Haiku:

 “Teaching is for girls”

They said in 1830

Felt infer’ior since.

If you’ll forgive the syllable-cheating, that’s a decent overview. Ellen Condliffe Lagemann’s, An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research was a fascinating read, obviously much deeper than my haiku attempt, and was also, well, troubling.

One major issue popped up—as I ineptly haiku-ed—around 1830 when ever-economical schoolmasters realized they could pay female teachers far less than men. Society also rationalized that women educating young ‘ins was a more “natural” state of things. Thus, education came to be viewed as “women’s work” and subsequently—as was the unfortunate perception of many things feminine at the time—of lesser value.

OregonOccupation_zps7066e6d7

Really Oregon Trail? NO special advantages?

Unfortunately (and perhaps unsurprisingly), times may not have not changed much. Last Sunday, the New York Times ran an article asking “Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?” which the author seemed to believe was a cyclical problem: Apparently men don’t go into teaching because men don’t go into teaching:

Continue reading