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A Century of “Shrill”: How Bias in Technology Has Hurt Women’s Voices

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Interesting article, talks about how radio decisions (AM and FM) were made regarding the limitations of frequency range transmitted, that basically truncated the upper range of womens voices when they spoke or sung on the radio.
 

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/a-century-of-shrill-how-bias-in-technology-has-hurt-womens-voices

 

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Needed a woman to write that article so I could understand what that writer was trying to say....overly dense for my ears!

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When I was young I wondered why there were so few women in broadcasting and why it was said that the audience preferred male voices - I didn't understand this because I couldn't see how they could get that preference when there weren't many female voices broadcast to compare to male voices.  I suspected it was to do with the patriarchy in the culture at the time.

 

I thought the last paragraph in the article was interesting, still something relevant with today's technology:

 

But technological bias is about more than audio quality—it’s about the forces that influence whose stories are told and how. In the end, the word “shrill” is not about the off-putting volume, pitch, or timbre of a woman’s voice—it’s an attempt to silence a voice. Whether as engineers, politicians, journalists, or artists, we must examine our own biases and work toward ensuring that everyone has an equal voice in our democracy.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

About 40 years ago. I listened to a female announcer explain that her success was partially due to having a relatively deep voice for a woman. She said when a female announcer with a high pitched voice became excited, her voice became shrill.

 

On ABC Canberra there is a female announcer - Anna Vidot with a high pitched voice. When she becomes excited, her voice becomes girlish. I find this sound to be unpleasant and lacking in authority.

 

Over the last year, ABC Canberra has replaced older announcers with younger announcers (male and female) with high pitched voices. Apparently this was done to attract a younger demographic . This plan has not worked as the ABC radio ratings have fallen.

 

Edited by El Saif

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4 hours ago, El Saif said:

Anna Vidot with a high pitched voice. When she becomes excited, her voice becomes girlish. I find this sound to be unpleasant and lacking in authority.

 

 

On 10/02/2020 at 3:09 PM, audiofeline said:

In the end, the word “shrill” is not about the off-putting volume, pitch, or timbre of a woman’s voice—it’s an attempt to silence a voice.

 

replace the word "shrill" with the word "girlish"

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April 1st early?

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6 hours ago, El Saif said:

About 40 years ago. I listened to a female announcer explain that her success was partially due to having a relatively deep voice for a woman. She said when a female announcer with a high pitched voice became excited, her voice became shrill.

 

On ABC Canberra there is a female announcer - Anna Vidot with a high pitched voice. When she becomes excited, her voice becomes girlish. I find this sound to be unpleasant and lacking in authority.

 

Over the last year, ABC Canberra has replaced older announcers with younger announcers (male and female) with high pitched voices. Apparently this was done to attract a younger demographic . This plan has not worked as the ABC radio ratings have fallen.

 

I must totally agree with you.

 

I left Canberra 20 years ago.  At the time I listened to the local ABC radio almost exclusively.

Having been forced back recently I found the presentation to be inane pointless chatter possibly trying to be more 'commercial'. I don't listen at all now.

Nothing to do with being female, it's how they're doing it.

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13 hours ago, metal beat said:

April 1st early?

Agree.... ignore,  never the less indicates how far back, the push by industry to limit, by educating a limitation of frequency, goes back.  Regular readers will already know we perceive frequencies well above what we directly hear, to then properly and correctly hear what we do hear.

 

What is annoying proving the article as lacking any editorial substance  is that no mention is made, of Major Edwin Howard Armstrong, who  demonstrated a superior system FM   http://www.njarc.org/books/man-of-high-fidelity.pdf

 

"The final tuning and testing of the Runyon transmitter was completed only half an hour before the I.R.E. meeting in November. Armstrong stood at the lectern, delivering his paper, giving no hint of the coming demonstration. George Burghard sat in a wing, behind which the receiver was hidden, with Paul Godley at the controls. Just as the paper was leading up to the vital point, Burghard stepped up to the lectern with a note: "Keep talking. Runyon has burned out generator." Mrs. Armstrong and Mrs. Burghard, who were in the audience, tensed. Without batting an eye, the Major blandly continued until he finally received a signal that all was ready again. "Now, suppose we have a little demonstration," he drawled.

 

For a moment the receiver groped through the soughing regions of empty space, roaring in the loudspeaker like surf on a desolate beach, until the new station was tuned in with a dead, unearthly silence, as if the whole apparatus had been abruptly turned off. Suddenly out of the silence came Runyon's supernaturally clear voice: "This is amateur station W2AG at Yonkers, New York, operating on frequency modulation at two and a half meters." A hush fell over the large audience. Waves of two and a half meters (110 megacycles) were waves so short that up until then they had been regarded as too weak to carry a message across a street. Moreover, W2AG's announced transmitter power was barely enough to light one good-sized electric bulb. Yet these shortwaves and weak power were not only carrying a message over the seventeen miles from Yonkers, but carrying it by a method of modulation which the textbooks still held to be of no value. And doing it with a life-like clarity never heard on even the best clear-channel stations in the regular broadcasting band.

 

The demonstration that ensued became a part of the Major's standard repertoire in showing off the remarkable properties of his new broadcasting system. A glass of water was poured before the microphone in Yonkers; it sounded like a glass of water being poured and not, as in the "sound effects" on ordinary radio, like a waterfall. A paper was crumpled and torn; it sounded like paper and not like a crackling forest fire. An oriental gong was softly struck and its overtones hung shimmering in the meeting hall's arrested air. Sousa marches were played from records and a piano solo and guitar number were performed by local talent in the Runyon living-room. The music was projected with a "liveness" rarely if ever heard before from a radio "music box." The absence of background noise and the lack of distortion in FM circuits made music stand out against the velvety silence with a presence that was something new in auditory experiences. The secret lay in the achievement of a signal-to-noise ratio of 100-to-l or better, as against 30-to-l on the best AM stations. "

 

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