WOMEN
11/24/2015 10:50 am ET Updated Nov 24, 2015

This ‘Jeopardy’ Contestant’s Voice Has The Internet Freaking Out

It’s time to stop policing the way women sound.

Last night, the Internet decided to focus on the sound of a Jeopardy contestant's voice, instead of her intelligence.

Laura Ashby, a Vanderbilt and Yale educated law associate, had social media in an uproar last night over her "upspeak." 

Upspeak/uptalk, not to be confused with vocal fry, is when the speaker inflects up at the end of his/her sentences. It's not a particularly new way of speech, nor is it uncommon. However, despite this, some reactions to Ashby's voice included:

Someone even went as far as to make a Twitter account dedicated to just Ashby's voice.

What's the deal, interwebz? Haven't we gone over this before? It's not cool to police people (read: women) on how they talk.

The intonation is widely seen as purely feminine -- when women uptalk, they're perceived as unsure or unconfident. But uptalk actually happens organically on "Jeopardy" for both men and women, quite frequently.

After analyzing hours of episodes of "Jeopardy," the Smithsonian found that uptalk was used by female contestants in uncertain situations "a whopping 76% of the time" while male contestants "uptalk frequency more than doubled if they were correcting a woman’s answer."

This lends directly into a Slate piece from 2014, "Young Women Shouldn’t Have to Talk Like Men to Be Taken Seriously," where Marybeth Seitz-Brown wrote:

"Women shouldn’t have to wear pantsuits to be treated like human beings, and we shouldn’t have to contort our voices to sound masculine (but not too masculine!) to make people hear us."

Seitz-Brown had given an interview on NPR, and received several comments suggesting that if she changed her voice, she'd be taken more seriously. "The notion that my uptalk means I was unsure of what I said is not only wrong, it’s misogynistic. It implies that if women just spoke like men, our ideas would be valuable," she wrote. 

The use of upspeak on "Jeopardy" makes perfect sense, considering contestants are answering questions to win money, something that's sure to make anyone uneasy. 

As the study says, "uptalk might be a way for speakers finishing a thought to check in with their listeners, a tool to help people connect."

So, lay off Ashby and let her live! 

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