Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Sexy", "stupid", but never "normal"

Every now and then issues come up with my accent. I don't mean my usual bug bears like my Dark L, swallowed vowels or rolling rs - I'm always working on those. I mean how I get objectified, troped and dismissed by it.

New Zealand is a small country. There is only a tiny percentage of the world's population with my accent, and even amoungst us there are regional variations. Even though it bears many similarities to the Australian accent, we even get ridiculed by our supposed trans-tasman allies for it. Therefore, to some my accent is a freak show attraction, often to be dismissed or hidden.

I find this difficult to deal with. What makes me unique is dismissed in some very stereotypical, problematic ways. There are two main categories I'm dumped in: sexy and stupid.

Because I game frequently, I am often in voice chat. I can judge a person's or community's reaction to me as a woman gamer very quickly by how they react to my voice and my accent. Just recently I had a new acquaintance go into raptures over how "sexy" my voice was, so much so they just. wouldn't. stop. No surprise that they were male. No surprise I'm not comfortable talking in voice chat with that person any more. No surprise I was fed up it took my partner joining the voice chat after I left in disgust to simmer them down.

THIS is just one way in which women gamers are made to feel objectified, unwelcome and silenced in gaming. It's not a joke. It's not a compliment. It's creepy.

I have a deep professional voice. To some it may even sound genderqueer. I have been called "unnatural" to my face for it. It's no surprise that I have become cognisant in the last few years how I have always pitched my speaking voice upwards to make others feel comfortable, even though I feel it makes me sound shrill and whiny.

Combine this with my accent, and I've copped some severe flack from international ears over the years, from being told I'm "incomprehensible" and "stupid", to being passed over for work. Please, remind me again what is the "acceptable" accent for a world blessed with multi-faceted cultures and voices? Asserting a certain accent denotes lack of intelligence is some serious class, ethnic, gender, and disability warfare (look up how ebonics, the "redneck" accent, or the "valley girl" inflection is treated, for example; also, disability activists problems with "herp derp").

And please, remind me again why we have to change our voices to suit the dominant culture and class? This is not simplified Star Trek world, where everyone looks, dresses, thinks and sounds the same. I count myself privileged in aspects of my life, so if I'm copping it, can you imagine how much harder it is for other people with other intersections in their lives?

What is normal? Our beauty is in our diversity. It should be up to the listener to adjust their ears for all the glorious voices in this world. Ridicule and refusal to do so very much smacks of gender-, ethno-, and class-centrism. Get your bigotry off people's vocal chords.

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