WHAT??? Now It’s Sexist Not To Like Hillary’s Speaking Style?

mad hillary

Washington Post Democratic-shill-masquerading-as-a-journalist Dana Milbank is trying a new tact: if you think Hillary is a lousy campaigner, you’re a sexist. In fact, he came this close to saying that there’s “a special place in hell” for anyone who doesn’t find Hillary Clinton a treat for the eyes and ears.

Of course, he began his column–it is called “The sexist double standards hurting Hillary Clinton”— with a statement designed to make me break some teeth: “Much of Hillary Clinton’s difficulty in this campaign stems from a single, unalterable fact: She is a woman.” No, almost all of of Hillary Clinton’s difficulty in this campaign stems from a single, unalterable fact: She is an untrustworthy liar who can’t stop lying.

Never mind quibbling over that. Here is Dana’s argument in brief:

“The criticism is the same as in 2008: She doesn’t connect. She isn’t likeable. She doesn’t inspire. She seems shrill. “She shouts,” Bob Woodward said on MSNBC this month, also suggesting she “get off this screaming stuff.” Joe Scarborough, the host, agreed: “Has nobody told her that the microphone works?”…That’s not about Clinton; it’s about us. “It is a subtle kind of sexism that exists that we don’t recognize,” said Newton-Small, who literally wrote the book on the matter… “When women raise their voices, people tend to get their hackles up. People I talk to at Clinton events put her in a maternal role: Why is she screaming at me? Am I in trouble?”

Wrong. In fact, laughably wrong. In fact, political-correctness mongering in the First Degree. Clinton is engaged in  fields, advocacy, politics and leadership, where effective communication skills and tools are essential, and her job, indeed, is to communicate in ways that her intended audience finds persuasive and easy to listen to. She can’t say, as Milbank tries to on her behalf, “Enjoy or you’re oppressing me!”

It’s not, as Milbank claims, a double standard, but a single standard of the kinds of voices and speaking styles that communicate effectively. Unfortunately, female voices did not evolve to facilitate mass communication. Traditionally it was men who shouted orders in battle and commanded attention and authority. Lower registers are better for that. Sorry. It’s not sexist, it’s true. Typical men’s voices sound better on the radio, over microphones and in auditoria; they also sound better, project better and communicate emotion and nuances better at high volumes. If a female speaker can’t manage to overcome some of the built-in disadvantages of her gender, that’s her problem, and her failing. If a woman is determined to be a firefighter but isn’t strong enough to pass the strength tests, then the solution is for her to hit the weights, bulk up, and get stronger, not to cry sexism when she is told that she can’t lift enough gear. (Not that crying sexism isn’t exactly how unqualified women get to be firefighters—and Marines– now, but I digress.)

Milbank, in failing to make even a wisp of a rational argument, claims a double standard “that condemns her but not Sanders, who bellows at the top of his lungs.” Who needs to condemn Sanders? He’s an awful speaker, unlistenable…unless you already like him and what he has to say. In Bernie’s case, his horrible speaking style isn’t an issue (yet—wait until the general election) because 1) he’s winning, and 2) people like him anyway. Is there anyone who denies that Bernie’s volume, cadence and accent is enough to cause migraines under extended exposure? The man is portrayed on SNL by Larry David, for heaven’s sakes, and many, many people have noted, as if it wasn’t obvious, that listening to Bernie is like having Jackie Mason yelling in your ear. I don’t recall Sanders supporters arguing that if you don’t like Bernie’s voice, you’re anti-Semitic. Bernie, however, comes from an earlier, more hardy generation that didn’t use minority status or gender to stifle legitimate criticism.

Lots of politicians have serious speaking weaknesses, and it hurts them too. Mario Rubio is handicapped by that lisp. Ben Carson’s mumbling, semi-comatose style may be the worst I’ve ever seen from a politician, even an amateur one like him, and it will continue to undermine him. Would Obama or Reagan have reached the White House if they spoke like the Bushes, or Jimmy Carter, or LBJ? Never. And those Presidents would have been far more successful and persuasive if they had learned how to speak in public to please and persuade.

Absolutely: campaigning is more difficult for women not gifted with an unusually good voice for public speaking. The solution, as with other weaknesses that impede ambition and success, is to 1) acknowledge the weakness (and not accuse someone of sexism for pointing it out),  2) get some training, and 3) get some training, you lazy fool.  If Hillary wants to improve her speaking style—it’s never too late—I could refer her to some female teachers right here in Washington, D.C. that could have her sounding like Glenn Close, Greer Garson or Christine Baranski in a few sessions.

Women across occupations and professions sabotage themselves by not correcting speech pathologies that are especially common to their gender. Too many women affect high-pitched, cuddly, baby-doll voices in their teens—boys like it!—and then can’t, don’t or won’t shake the habit later. Vocal fry is a current fad, and it makes smart women sound like Valley Girls. I’ve heard TV reporters use it, and if they don’t stop, they will be stuck doing on-the-scene weather reports until their voices drop an octave. I tell young women whenever I can to get some vocal coaching. It will help them in every facet of their career and lives. Almost none of them do.

Here is what Jackie Kennedy sounded like, and she was beloved. You wouldn’t win a lot of debates talking like that, though: it’s debutante-speak. You’ll get the idea quickly:

Jackie’s  voice had no support; she  placed it in her head rather than her chest. It’s breathy–Jack liked breathy (“Happy birthday…Mister President…). That’s still not how anyone wants their leaders to sound, and shouting wouldn’t help. Jackie could have learned an effective speaking style and method, though, if she had decided to enter politics.

Hillary’s main problem, however, is exactly the reverse of what Milbank ludicrously claims. If more people liked and trusted Hillary Clinton, her speaking style wouldn’t be as important. NPR’s Diane Rehm finally retired last year after forcing her listeners to endure her ruined voice for more than a decade. She had vocal cord spasms, and no one could ever enter broadcasting with a shaky, annoying voice like that. Rehm, however, already was an established PBS star when her voice went bad, and most of the listeners who already loved her didn’t care. (I, however, couldn’t stand listening for more than a few minutes.) Not enough people love Hillary ,though, for her speaking style not to matter. The only way she can persuade them to like and trust her is through her speaking skills, and the sad fact is that they are inadequate for the task.

It isn’t that people who don’t like Hillary are unfairly criticizing her speaking, it is that Hillary’s speaking deficiencies make it more difficult for those who already have doubts about her to change their minds—and sexism has nothing to do with it.


27 thoughts on “WHAT??? Now It’s Sexist Not To Like Hillary’s Speaking Style?

  1. The Clintons know all. They are experts. They don’t hire experts or coaches, they hire sycophants and enablers. James Carville has probably pulled all his hair out rather than shaved it while saying “It’s the arrogance, stupid.”

    And thanks for shedding some light on Jackie O’s voice. I’ve always thought is was the best kept secret of the late Twentieth Century. She had a squeaky, mousy voice that sounded like David Beckham’s. How the media kept it under wraps is beyond me. She looked so elegant and you figured she’d sound like Lauren Bacall, but she sounded like a squeaky hinge. All part of the Camelot myth building industry.

    • Milbank is unreadable. I assume the only reason the Post publishes his pieces is he works for free since he’s paid by the Clinton Foundation or the campaign.

  2. Yes, women’s voices are different. I’ve worked with my voice for over 25 years and it takes a great deal of practice to learn to monitor tone & volume. Mrs. Clinton should have learned to do this a long time ago. Regular public speaking requires it.

    • Good for you, smart and responsible. I once read about how Mariel Hemingway worked so hard to fix her high, squeaky voice, and did, finally—age helped to. Meanwhile, a bad voice and a speech impediment ruined her sister’s acting prospects.

  3. Her public speaking skills can’t be that bad. Goldman Sachs paid her $100,000s, presumably based solely on the merits of her speech and delivery…

  4. This comes as absolutely no surprise; Dana Milbank is and always has been a political hack, a shill, a morally bankrupt person, a corrupted journalist, a soul-less “ends justify the means” thinker; just another wing-nut extremist like Debbie Wasserman Schultz without the physical attributes.

    How many do you think will jump on this unethical band wagon and spread it to the ends of the Earth; the answer is every single Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party supporter?

    It’s been said; it can’t be unsaid; therefore in the minds of the political left, it’s fact and it will be repeated ad nauseam.

    • The problem is, you can’t make people like the way Hillary talks. It’s like someone saying that if you object to the fact that a female singer is shrill and off-key, you’re sexist. She is still shrill and off-key, and no accusation makes her easier to listen to.

      • I find Hillary terribly boring and completely uninspiring, to the Dana Milbanks and wing-nut lefties of the world that makes me a sexist; the problem they have is that I don’t think most women to be boring and uninspiring, hell I don’t even think Debbie Wasserman Schultz boring or uninspiring.

        I also think Ben Carson is terribly boring and completely uninspiring just as I did Jimmy Carter; does that make me a racist and an anti peanut farmer bigot?

        The political left is completely f’ed up and they won’t stop until they’ve destroyed everything decent in our civil society and turned it into an uncivil brawling in the streets free-for-all!

      • “The problem is, you can’t make people like the way Hillary talks.”

        Every 77 votes she receives, it should count equally to every 100 votes her opponent receives…

  5. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/01/05/371964053/how-a-position-of-power-can-change-your-voice

    I thought I’d refresh my memory on some influential women’s voices*: Golda, Indira, and Margaret. All three voices were as remembered, accents aside, strong and clear. As with their male counterparts, they spoke unafraid of silences (no extraneous sounds when pausing for thought or effect), which I think is a sign of self-confidence as well as training. Over time, their speech lowered in pitch (Indira’s too for English; her Hindi remained naturally high and faster), increased in resonance, added more subtle emphases to convey key ideas, and acquired inflection and rhythm better designed to hold the interest of the listener.

    It should come as no surprise that Hillary Clinton’s robotic voice never changed from 2013 to today. She still marches words along like wounded toy soldiers she’s tired of playing with. The harshness comes partially from wrong emphases – especially when she’s forgotten what comes next – and phonics not used in normal discourse such as the “long” A (ā as in Ape or unAble) when she says things like “ā man and ā woman.” Only the delivery improved somewhat … she learned to read off the TelePrompter.

  6. I think a lot of men back then would be interested in listening to Jackie, not that they would consider her a presidential candidate. No wonder Onassis snatched her up! As far as Hillary’s voice, I’d quickly run for cover.

  7. HIllary also says “you know” ad naseum. A real indicator or speaking problems. My mother forbid us from saying “you know” as soon as my brother and I were able to say it. Simple common sense, not professional rhetoric instruction.

  8. “Too many women affect high-pitched, cuddly, baby-doll voices in their teens—boys like it!—”

    I was embarrassed in my younger years by my low, resonant voice (it’s not Lauren Bacall low but it’s down there) until I realized that 1) it belied my age over the phone and I was therefore taken more seriously and 2) it had power behind it which worked to my advantage. But jeepers; by the time I’m 80 I’ll sound like Morgan Freeman. At any rate, yes, I wish more women – and some men too – were more cognizant of the way their voice comes across. It’s such a fixable thing.

    • If he didn’t make movies, you wouldn’t know whether Morgan’s narrations were really by an 80-year-old woman. Just make sure you don’t end up sounding like late career Lucille Ball….

  9. This is too stupid to justify a post, but this letter was just published in the Boston Globe, opining that Hillary’s problem was that she was too competent:

    ” HILLARY CLINTON is an accomplished and devoted public servant who cares passionately about her country. Her policy positions are in line with Democratic thinking and with the American people. Why is she losing?… Clinton is a toiler and a doer. She wants to work for all of us —women, men, children, the unemployed and underemployed, the disabled, blacks, Latinos, veterans, the homeless, the addicted. I do not doubt her sincere desire to fight for the American people and her competence to do so. Surprisingly, this desire to get things done for the people is the problem.
    …The American people want to be asked to join in a cause bigger than themselves, and to contribute to that effort. Sanders has tapped into that deep current in the American psyche. People are with him because he needs their help to wage this fight together.”

    KABOOM. There is scant evidence in any of her roles that Hillary is competent, and about 1600 classified and top secret e-mails that argue to the contrary. The letter is what’s fascinating. WHY does anyone think this is true? I’d love to ask the writer to give specific examples of Hillary’s “competence.”

    • I can never understand what they’re referring to when they say things like “accomplished” or “doer” or “get things done”. I can’t think of a single thing she’s done that counts as doing something by any reasonable metric, so I’m left with scratching my head and pondering whether these terms are newspeak for something completely different. I’ve noted previously a desperate reinventing of terms in order to confuse the population in general, including so many criterion into terms that were never historically used that way, when they don’t just make up gobbledygook from whole cloth. (And as always, than you squiggly red line for reminding me that while gobbledygook is in fact an English word, microagression still is not.)

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