Hillary Clinton, who has been criticized by male politicians and pundits as “too much,” or “shrill,” when she raises her voice during speeches, is the latest in a long history of women to be told by men that they’re being too loud. In ancient Greece, public female vocality was associated with prostitution, madness, witchcraft, and androgyny, and in late medieval England, an outspoken women would often be called a “scold,” someone who “could not keep her negative, or worse, insubordinate, words to herself.” Women assuming the job of telephone operators in the late 19th century were forced to take mandatory lessons on how to speak in soft deferential tones. And a 1926 survey about talk radio revealed that a ratio of 100 to 1 respondents preferred male hosts to female ones — the female hosts, respondents complained, sounded “shrill” and conveyed “too much” personality. It’s one thing not to like Hillary Clinton, or even her voice. But it’s another to pretend that gendered terms, such as “shrill,” aren’t a time-honored method of silencing women who dared to speak up.
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