Christine Blasey Ford is being shamed for having vocal fry — here's what that is

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Professor Christine Blasey Ford delivered an emotional testimony accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. (Photo: Getty Images)
Professor Christine Blasey Ford delivered an emotional testimony accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. (Photo: Getty Images)

As Christine Blasey Ford choked up during her emotional testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday, admitting that she was “terrified” to publicly defend her sexual assault allegations, people on social media taunted her “vocal fry.”

“I am here today not because I want to be; I am terrified,” Ford said at the hearing, according to CNN. “I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.” Ford then described the night in 1982 in Bethesda, Md., when she said Kavanaugh tried to rip off her clothing and pinned her down with his hand over her mouth as his friend, Mark Judge, watched.

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense,” Ford said when Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked about her strongest memory of that night, the one she “cannot forget.”

Some people on social media were turned off by the sound of Ford’s voice, calling her a “Valley Girl,” and slamming her “vocal fry,” a low-pitched, creaky-like sound caused by the movement of vocal cords during speech. Ford’s voice was called “manipulative,” a distraction, and an indication that she was lying under oath by some commenters.

“Vocal fry can be the result of a pathology due to injury or a defect in the vocal tract, as it was studied in the 1940s and 50s, or it can be a stylized way of speaking, either consciously or unconsciously,” Casey Klofstad, an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Celebrities such as Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears have all been accused of using vocal fry to sound ditzy or feminine.

Pointing out that most of the public can’t recognize Ford’s typical voice, Klofstad says that emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness can cause the voice to deepen, due to tension in the vocal cords and increased respiration under stress. “People also speak lower when they’re feeling disgusted or trying to control their emotions,” says Klofstad. “Ford may also be lowering her voice to match the majority of voices in the room, which belong to men.”

Klofstad and his team studied vocal fry in 2014 and discovered that women are judged more harshly than men for using it. Not only is it more common among young women, it causes people to perceive them as less competent, educated, attractive, trustworthy, and hirable. The study concluded that women should avoid vocal fry in order to avoid facing workplace discrimination.

Men actually exhibit vocal fry more often than women, according to one study, although it may be less detectable due to their naturally deeper voice tones, reported Time. “Henry Kissinger and Ira Glass have heavy vocal fry, but you probably think of the Kardashians when you hear it,” observes Klofstad. “Vocal fry is sex-atypical — women are supposed to have higher voices due to lack of testosterone — so they’re penalized more for it.”

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