We are obsessed with how women talk. Uptalk, saying “um” or “like,” and vocal fry are the focus of endless essays at serious publications. Women are admonished for “talking like a woman” but then they are also judged for talking or acting “like a man.”
This creates an impossible circumstance for women: If you talk too much like a stereotypical girl, you are often taken less seriously. And if you talk too much like a stereotypical man, you can be considered a bitch, aggressive, or difficult.
This week’s Divided States of Women digs into this double bind women face and explores the possibility that talking like a woman isn’t all that bad. We sit down with Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, to talk about how using filler words isn’t necessarily a sign of weakness, but instead a sign of collaboration.