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Are We Now Becoming ‘Voice-ist?’

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

We have acknowledged for ages that we often subconsciously discriminate based on people’s looks, age, color, perceived wealth, nationality, and religion.  But do we also judge someone by their voice?

You have undoubtedly heard the statement, “Well, he doesn’t look gay,” but you have probably heard the statement “He doesn’t sound gay,” just as much.

In a 2012 article in Psychology Today writer Leonard Mlodinow asserts that men and women are judged by the quality of their voices not only on the dating scene but also in the workplace.

But do we also judge a person’s character by their voice in ways that are even more significant?  We thought we had have coined the word “voiceism” but have since found a couple of references to it online.  On WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning we are adopting the word and are taking it upon ourselves to popularize it (since those other folks who made reference to it have literally not gotten the word out).

In the aftermath of the Donald Sterling racism scandal it is being said that the Los Angeles Clippers’ owner would not be judged as harshly by the public if presentation of both the voice on the tapes, and his apology since their release, were different.  He is eighty years old and his voice does not, perhaps, sound as commanding as it may have twenty years ago.  He is now asking for forgiveness from the public, and the NBA – which has banned him for life and said to be forcing him to sell his stake in the team.  Would Sterling be treated differently if he looked and sounded different?

Do people “sound” a particular way?  Do you judge a person’s character by the quality of their voice?  It is one thing to be attracted to someone because of his or her voice, but perhaps another to judge someone based primarily on that?  Do we think we can “hear” if someone is intelligent, gay, innocent, racist, etc. by his voice?

The practice has been in play for centuries – the emphasis on wanting to “sound” educated has long been placed on students.  Is it now time to officially acknowledge this new -ism?





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