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Speculative Fiction Author Speaks On 'Fear Of The Female Voice'

Civilian Reader

Speculative fiction author Sarah Gailey traveled throughout Utah last week presenting a series of talks and readings aimed to empower female writers and activists. 

The title for Gailey’s lecture at Utah State University was “Fear of the Female Voice.” This encompassed not just the fear of reading female voices in literature, but the fear of actually hearing the voices.

“I’m talking about fear of female voices throughout history and historical and contemporary sociological context, drawing a direct line between ancient siren myth and contemporary harassment of women in online and broadcasting spaces,” Gailey said.

Gailey said because female voices have been considered dangerous throughout history and even called a mortal threat by some church organizations, it is difficult for women’s voices to be taken seriously.

“This carries directly through into broadcasting and in online spaces and literature, female voices are responded to the same way that people will respond to threats-- get rid of it, shut it down,” Gailey said.

When women do try to lower their voices to sound more authoritative in certain situations, such as speaking on the radio, Gailey said they often speak with vocal fry. This leads to complaints about the quality of their voices, which she says is part of the shutting down of the female voice.

“And that goes right on back to the idea that women could sing a song that would lure sailors to their deaths,” Gailey said.

Aside from negative responses when she speaks about politics, Gailey said she receives the most pushback when she does literary analysis of science fiction media.

Gailey believes the effort to shut down the female voice stems from a fear that if women do speak, what they say may actually change the world.