Brooklyn Boro

OPINION: When I’m hearing the voice of God, why does she sound like a man?

November 19, 2015 By Anna Langston For the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Anna Langston is a student at Pratt Institute. Photo courtesy of Anna Langston
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Im a 21-year-old woman and I have a mans voice in my head. I noticed it only recently. I was a writing a news-style article for a school assignment when I became aware that the voice in my head, with which I was composing, was that of a male news writer. I pictured him in a black and white photo, behind a desk piled with a papers and a crammed ashtray. As I thought about it, I realized that I frequently write with this mans voice in mind. 

I don’t know when it started or why it happens, but it seems to occur when Im writing something official-sounding, like professional emails or certain school assignments. 

This is weird, because my mother was a feminist and taught my sister and me the importance of never considering ourselves inferior to men. I dont believe that men are smarter than women, that they should have more influence than we do, that theyre better writers or are more authoritative. Im not deliberately trying to capture a mans voice or speech patterns to achieve a desired effect in my writing. In fact, a womans perspective is central to much of it. The male voice that Im thinking in is just there.

Has my mind been patriarchally colonized? Most of the talking heads of our cultures authoritatively pitched discourse are male. Thus, most of the seriousness that young people are exposed to looks and sounds like a man. Maybe my inner male voice is my way of countering my tendency to slip into vocal patterns associated with female speech, like phasing thoughts as questions, which signals uncertainty. As a young person with little experience and trying to insert myself into a professional space, it’s only natural that I should be inclined to imitate the sonic model of authority that I’ve been hearing publicly since birth. 

This mental colonization extends beyond timbre and inflection to vocabulary, too. In our culture, male serves as the neutral gender. Until recently, when speaking hypothetically, a person would refer to the unknown subject generically as he.” When speaking about a persons accomplishments, we normally refer to his or her position without a gender specification only if that person is a man. For instance, we might say a poet, or a female poet. A doctor, or a female doctor. If an unspecific child went to the park, we say he went to the park.” For this reason, maybe I read articles with a male bias. So, possibly, writing in a male voice is a kind of muscle memory we learn to write by reading. 

Of course, its possible that this voice is a genetic part of me, and not created by any cultural coercion. But I don’t think so. Is this what aspiring writers mean when they say they have discovered their voice? 

Anna Langston is a student in the Writing Program at Pratt Institute 


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