We were at the checkout counter at our local Walgreens, my eight-year-old daughter and I, surrounded by rows and rows of various candies, gums and treats. As we waited, she grabbed my hand, looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said in the sweetest, softest voice she could muster, “Mommy, will you buy me some candy?” I think she may even have fluttered her eyelashes not unlike a screen vixen.
Her tone took me by surprise. Why was my second-grader already utilizing a sexy baby voice to get her way? As a mom trying to raise a strong and confident girl this vocal tone totally freaked me out and I’m not alone. Jessica Lahey has been battling the baby talk used by girls in both the classroom and in her recent article for The Atlantic.
“When I hear my female students adopting a high-pitched, cutesy baby voice or turning their statements into questions with “upspeak,” I take the time to teach them how to find their voices of authority,” Lahey writes in her piece Why Middle-School Girls Sometimes Talk Like Babies. Amen, sister! In her piece Lahey, an author and former educator, focuses on girls in middle school taking on the sexy baby voice but this tone of voice makes an appearance at a far younger age, like with my 8-year-old daughter and her peers.
I do not want my daughter, or really anyone’s daughter, to feel the need to use a baby voice or seductive tone in everyday situations. It comes off as weak and demeaning. I want my daughters all our daughters to be strong and confident with the voice to match.
In Lahey’s article she references Lake Bell who wrote, directed, and starred in a film called In a World about the voice-over industry. This reminded me of a great interview that Bell did with NPR where she takes on the SBV curse saying:
“I had been personally ruptured and unsettled by the trend, the vocal trend that I call ‘sexy baby vocal virus’ talking … Not only is it pitch, so really high up, but it’s also a dialect, it’s like a speech pattern that includes uptalking and fry, so it’s this amalgamation of really unsavory sounds that many young women have adopted. It’s a pandemic, in my opinion.”
A pandemic may be a strong word to use for the phenomenon, but it is indeed spreading. And while there is no vaccine to guard our daughters from catching it, we as parents must be mindful of our girls’ usage of the baby voice. When your daughter begins to address you or others with this high-pitched tone, remind them to use their strong voice, not their weak voice. Like when we say to them, “use your indoor voice,” but it’s not about volume they need — it’s about how they present themselves. As parents we must raise daughters who will not feel the need to give into the sexy baby voice, who sound wise and intelligent, to have their ideas and words send the message not dressing up their vocal style ala Betty Boop. If we all work together we can stop the spread of this vile vocal infection. Who’s with me?
Have you noticed young girls using the sexy baby voice and does it bug you as much as it bugs me?
Photo Source: thinkstock