A Look at Presidential Style

By David Michael Newstead.

From powdered wigs to present day, here’s a look at presidential style throughout American history.

Masculinity Isn’t Misogyny

By David Michael Newstead.

This was originally posted on Fem2pt0. Learn More.

Somewhere along the way American politics got very confused about manhood. And if you didn’t know any better, you might think that rabid misogyny is one of the pillars of being a man.

It’s not.

On one level, the phenomenon that we’re watching take place is about Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton and all the social tensions that are exposed by that kind of match-up. But this is also larger than just Election 2016. With growing intensity over the years, women have basically become scapegoats in America. And it seems no course of action they take is free from intense political criticism at the national level: when they seek public office, when they collect welfare checks for their family, when they try advancing in the business world, when they star in movie remakes, when they want sex, and when they don’t want sex. From Welfare Reform in the 1990s to Sandra Fluke’s views on contraception and beyond, it’s possible to see just how much progress we have not made when we’re talking about women.

That’s not to say that men have to agree with women on every issue, but you can disagree without being disagreeable and that’s probably manlier than being a chauvinist. Fortunately for all of us, this involves guys getting back to basics rather than them doing something totally new. Years ago, Frank Sinatra put it this way:

I may sound old-fashioned, but I want to think all women should be treated like I want my wife, daughters, and granddaughters to be treated. I notice today that good manners – like standing up when a woman enters the room, helping a woman on with her coat, letting her enter an elevator first, taking her arm to cross the street – are sometimes considered unnecessary or a throwback. These are habits I could never break, nor would I want to. I realize today a lot more women are taking care of themselves than in the past. But no woman is offended by politeness.

The fact is being a man has a lot of positive traits and includes substantive contributions to society like fatherhood, friendship, and being a mentor. But collective hostility towards women is not on that list. Meaning that men who act that way are deviations from and not the epitome of manhood. In their bizarro version of being a man, women are to be scrutinized and ridiculed at every turn for their private lives and their professional decisions. But far from making someone a standard-bearer of strength and masculinity, this reveals so much lack of character it’s insane! It’s also worth pointing out that these can’t possibly be the most secure among us if they harass women online or eagerly wait for them to fail. It just doesn’t sound like someone who’s brimming with confidence.

The trouble is men as a group are being defined by a vocal and hotheaded minority that’s stuck in the worst parts of the past. In modern America, I think we need the chivalry that Frank Sinatra was talking about as well as the clear understanding that we’re not that different from each other. And if guys are all trying to be this strong, confident pinnacle of manliness that starts with not tearing other people down.

Is Bashing Clinton’s Voice Sparked By Nature Or Nurture?

BlueHillary.jpg

By Diane Rubino. 

Hillary Clinton’s voice is a magnet for criticism. Every characteristic—accent, authenticity, pacing, pitch, tone, and volume—has been examined and found wanting. The pejorative “nagging” has dogged Ms. Clinton for years.

Although Donald Trump’s yuugge voice is often parodied, critiques seem to be more often a reaction to content rather than traits.

One obvious response to negative opinions of Clinton’s voice is that the evaluations—and evaluators—are sexist.

But I’ve noted mysterious trends in my own speech. My voice automatically gets higher when I speak to children and pets. It also drops involuntarily when I’m angry. I’ve heard a similar range in men and noticed the squeaky bark of a tiny dog morph into a deep growl.

NATURE. When it comes to pitch, i.e. whether a voice is considered “high” or  “low/deep,” there are unseen forces at work.

Studies of men and women show that, like me, people across continents and languages use a higher pitch for babies and pets without consciousness. (Burnham et al, 2002)

Politics aside, then, Hillary’s relatively higher pitch is playing against type when she discusses policy and diplomacy rather than time out and kibbles.

Hormones also play a key role in relation to pitch and the perception of it. Saliva tests show that the deeper a man’s voice, the more testosterone he has. Similar studies in women show they’re more likely to prefer deeper voices when they’re at the most fertile stage of their menstrual cycle. (Pisansky et al, 2014)

NUTURE. So part of the criticism of Clinton’s voice is rooted in biology. But humans are rarely content to leave nature alone. We need to add our own spin, and this begins early in life.

Baby Hillary, for example, probably got less attention when she cried than Baby Donald. Though the pitch of an infant’s wail is gender-neutral, study participants projected masculinity and femininity onto crying 3-month-olds. Men in the study labeled lower-pitched cries “masculine” and assumed that these sobs were more likely to be a sign of discomfort than “feminine” crying. (Reby et al, 2016)

Finally, in an increasingly violent world, it’s notable that perceptions of trustworthiness and dominance are associated with masculine vocal features, such as low pitch. The higher, feminine pitch, however, is perceived to be friendly and non-threatening. (Knowles and Little, 2016) This interpretation could make a difference to fearful “Let’s make America safe again” voters.

MASH UP. So the answer to the title’s query is that nature and nurture impact the pitch we use and our perceptions of this vocal trait. It’s the mash up between the two that fuels Hillary voice bashing.

So what’s the enlightened Philosophy of Shaving reader to do? Be controlled by unconscious forces? As if.

I’ve listed a few ideas as a springboard for thinking differently.

  • Become aware of your own vocal variety, without judging and trying to change it.
  • Note the pitch of the voices around you and the ensuing reactions.
  • With awareness raised, be hopeful. Each of us has been “trained” to override some of our instincts.

Though sexist ideas about pitch are deeply and hormonally rooted, you can break away from the pack.

What are your thoughts?

Diane Rubino is an activist, New York University instructor, and applied communications professional who seeks to make the world more healthy and humane. Learn More.