Taking Advantage of Girl Power

This weekend, journalist Jessica Grose (you’ve read her on Slate/XX Factor, the New York Times,¬†and Fast Company’s Co.Create)¬†published a brief, sassy piece in the Times about her girly voice.

Without perhaps meaning to, her column captures one of the central dilemmas for women of her generation: How to be yourself, a woman, in an industry where womanly qualities are grounds for not taking you seriously.

She talks about how she talks. Like many young women, Jessica discovered that upspeak – that sometimes annoying way of turning a comment into a question – could turn debates into dialogues, inviting others to share their opinions even if they disagreed. It’s a very feminine way of engaging people in a media culture that typically asks commentators to stake out their ideological territory and defend it.

Jessica went to a speech coach to try to fix her problem, but in the end, she decided to keep the way of speaking that had worked for her so far, perhaps precisely because she was underestimated:

Though [upspeak] doesn’t sound authoritative, it may sound egalitarian and accepting. In an interview situation, that may cause a source to open up to me.

Many women in my binder have said the same thing. I think they, and Jessica Grose, have the right approach. Instead of going to coaches who teach us how to be more like men, we should walk through the doors that womanhood – and even being underestimated – open for us. Eventually, we will become the norm.