Having someone criticize you for the way you speak rather than listening to the content of what you're saying is one of the most frustrating and belittling things a person can go through.
Unfortunately, it happens quite often.
People make judgments about one another based on the way they sound all the time. We do it with foreign accents, stutters, voices that "don't match" the body they come out of, people who speak more quietly/loudly than we'd like, etc.
We make assumptions about their capabilities, their backgrounds, their intelligence ...
Most people have hit a point where they're becoming a little more aware of their biases and doing the self-check when it comes to foreign accents, stutters, etc. - but that doesn't seem to be the case when it comes to "home-grown" accents.
Unsure what we mean?
Here's a perfect example.
TikTok user @kateao4 - we'll just call her Kate - is a student at Penn State University studying biobehavioral health. She uses her account to educate people about topics like "how evolution makes hookup culture make sense" and human sexual selection in a way that's easy to grasp.
Because let's be real "biobehavioral health" sounds complicated.
Kate's videos are incredibly informative and have garnered her millions of followers - but the way she sounds continues to be an issue, both as a content creator and as a student at Penn State.
See, Kate describes herself as the "Elle Woods of Science" - and she sounds exactly like you'd expect the Elle Woods of science to sound. Her voice is bright in tone, light, higher pitched, and decidedly feminine. She also makes decent use of filler words such as "like" and sometimes ends her sentences with an upward intonation.
In other words: Kate, like, totally sounds like a "Valley Girl."
Regardless of how brilliant she is, or the informative content of whatever she posts or writes, she always gets comments from older men who feel some type of way about the way she sounds. It's so bad that Kate once had a male professor accuse her of plagiarism because he assumed she just wasn't capable of writing at that level.
But he didn't just accuse her - he doubled down on the accusation even after he ran her paper through a software designed to check for plagiarism. And after another professor vouched for her ability to write that well since she was that professors research student. And after being reprimanded by a supervisor for the baseless accusation.
It was her first paper for his class, so he had never read her writing before - so it's not like there was a suspicious improvement from previous work to clue him in or anything. He was very honest that his only evidence was because "there's just no way" and that was all it took for him to deny that paper and open a plagiarism claim against her.
He never apologized and stood on his refusal to accept the paper - forcing Kate to write an entire new research assignment ... which was equally as advanced because that's just the level Kate writes at.
That accusation is what started the "Elle Woods of Science" nickname in the first place
Amazingly, even after that post, the comments about her voice just kept coming.
So she pinned that post to the top of her TikTok figuring people would see it and maybe get the point.
The comments from older men about her "Valley Girl" voice continued to pour in after every new post. Kate finally had enough, so she decided it was time for a new video post!
This time, Kate responded directly to one of those comments, using it as a teaching tool to drop some micdrop lessons. She talked about speech patterns, socio-linguistics, and how young women (many of whom sound just like her and are just as brilliant) are becoming the new face of professionalism.
In Other Words: She's brilliant and the only reason old men think she sounds "like an airhead" is because they're dinosaurs and they can die mad about it.
Several mics were dropped.
The comments section is here for all of this.
So yeah, thanks for coming to today's KateTalk about the impact of changing sociolinguistic norms on the fragile egos of the aging male.
Wasn't it, like, literally the most informative thing ever?
Loved it! 😍