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Why are we so critical of the way women speak?

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.