My big voice was frowned upon when I was a girl in the 70s. Now, celebrities from Beyoncé to Michelle Obama are helping to tear up the idea of what a woman should sound like
No one wants to sit next to a loud woman. I know this because someone recently moved the placement card on a dinner table to get away from me. That label – “loud woman” – has never been a compliment, even though some of us may wear it as a badge of honour. Picture a loud woman and she is in Technicolor, with the sound turned up past 11, looking like she is stuck in the 80s: big hair, massive gob, voice like a foghorn, part witch, part harridan, part pub landlady. You definitely don’t want to sit next to her when she has a drink inside her.
So, what are we supposed to do with the idea of loud women in our postfeminist age? Where have they all gone? Theresa May seems to maintain her fragile power by being the opposite of loud. Angela Merkel built a 30-year career on being as unnoticeable as possible. The response to Germaine Greer in recent years can be summed up as: “Shut up.” Is it no longer acceptable to be a woman and a noisy, loquacious pain in the arse? After all, the women we now think of as loud usually communicate through performance as larger-than-life versions of themselves: Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lady Gaga.
In everyday life, there is still something uncomfortable for a woman about being called loud, because the implication is that
a) you don’t care about the people around you (otherwise, why are you making them feel uncomfortable?) and
b) you don’t care what other people think about you.
To allow yourself to be loud as a woman is to be borderline psychopathic – to switch off your empathy and your emotional intelligence – to love the sound of your own voice, to take up too much space. That is the theory, at least. (“Who do you think you are? Beyoncé?”)
The reality, of course, is that the expression: “He is a loud man,” does not exist. Certainly, I have never heard anyone say it. A man may occasionally speak loudly. Traditionally, though, loud is a thing that certain women are, rather than something they do. continue reading on the guardian