When I was in kindergarden my parents bought one of those new fangled answering machines. After tinkering with the controls my parents handed me a script and went over it with me a few time. So it was that my cherubic 6 year old voice was the outgoing message on that answering machine until I was a teenager and my mom signed us up for voice mail.
In fifth grade one day I got sick at school and the school secretary called my house to let my parents know I needed to be picked up. No one answered the phone and she reported back to me that she recognized my voice on the answering machine. I was indignantly mortified that as an 11 year old (practically an adult!) I still sounded like a five year old.
A few years ago I was woken from a nap by the phone. I was super tired (hence the nap) because it was only a few months after my second child was born. When I picked up the phone and said hello the voice on the other end said “Is your mom there?” I paused for a few moments wondering why this woman was asking about my mom (remember I just woke up from a nap) before I realized that she thought I was a kid and was wanting to speak to an adult. I put on my business voice and said “I’m 24, my mom doesn’t live here.”
While my 11 year old self’s consternation at sounding like a 5 year old may have been slightly premature it wasn’t out of place. My voice never got much deeper and I still have a rather child like voice.
Some women use a soft, high-pitched voice as affectation; not me, that is what I actually sound like. When people gripe about Primary Voice, or Relief Society Voice I feel conflicted. Yes, extreme performances of femininity to meet cultural expectation of how women are allowed to be is bad, and annoying and doesn’t do much to help anyone take women’s words more seriously. However automatically taking women who sound like that less seriously smacks of giving more credit to masculine things simply because ‘adult’ or ‘serious’ or ‘credible’ is defined as ‘more masculine.’ The trouble appears when trying to determine when that high pitched voice is put on for show and when it is the real voice of an adult woman. Women shouldn’t have to try to speak more like men to be given credit as adults- and the pitch of a voice shouldn’t determine if it is worth listening to or not.
If Primary Voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard to you that’s fine. I prefer cellos to violins for similar reasons. I think though, we should make sure to read those talks afterwards before deciding that that person’s words aren’t worth listening to.