Human rights cases involving female discrimination and voice projection?
September 29, 2013 1:10 PM   Subscribe

There is currently a bylaw in Ottawa that prevents street performers from amplifying their voices. A street performer has taken the city to a human rights tribunal, claiming that as women find it harder to project their voices than men, this bylaw is unfairly discriminating against female street performers. I run an advocacy group for buskers, and am very keen to see her claim upheld. So, I'm looking for studies or previous cases that may lend support for her argument. And any advice on where I might look for more.
posted by omnigut to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mod note: Removed links - you can put them in your profile if they're necessary.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Ah, thanks restless_nomad [although, one of the links was to the article about the performer, I thought that was relevant].
posted by omnigut at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2013


No studies, but you might want to consider looking at Guinness and Japanese shouting contests. I think it will not be supportive, though: women (and girls) are not rare record holders/competitors there; and Annalisa Flanagan was a record holder for about a decade.
posted by rr at 2:20 PM on September 29, 2013


Your question contains some questionable assumptions. People, regardless of gender, can project their voices; after all, female opera singers and theater actors project no less well than their male counterparts.

It is a learned skill. It is possibly true that some women are socially conditioned not to project their voice, but there is a world of difference between social conditioning and physiological differences between men and women.
posted by dfriedman at 2:30 PM on September 29, 2013 [16 favorites]


If the affected performer has a condition that renders her unable to project her voice at normal levels, perhaps this should be approached from the disability angle, rather than gender.
posted by nobejen at 5:28 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Best answer: It is a learned skill. It is possibly true that some women are socially conditioned not to project their voice, but there is a world of difference between social conditioning and physiological differences between men and women.

But the vocal cords lengthen and thicken under effects of testosterone - women speak with higher pitched voices, and we're a bit hardwired to regard lower pitched voices as 'the voice of authority'. (The larynxes may get bigger too.)

cites:
http://womensissues.about.com/od/fewerwomencontrolmedia/a/Voice-Pitch-Women-Authority_2.htm
http://rationalist.org.uk/1858/speak-up
(and there's presumably lots of scientific journals accessible via google scholar, etc.)

And singers/actors aren't competing with the same kind of crowd noise and road noise.

To look at one cherrypicked and cursorily read journal article:
...
"the gender of speakers (the voices of male speakers generally were more intelligible than the female ones (Ed: on Metro trains with random other speakers in the background)"
...


Journal: ACTA ACUSTICA UNITED WITH AUSTICA
Vol. 98 (2012) 577–587
DOI 10.3813/AAA.918539
The Speech Intelligibility Aboard Metros inDifferent Running Conditions
Luigi Maffei et. al.
http://www.academia.edu/3068927/The_Speech_Intelligibility_Aboard_Metros_in_Different_Running_Conditions


Presumably women are going to attract fewer passers-by then men, which is an economic disparity, and also have to work their voices harder, which is also a medical issue:

... I got an amplifier after I nearly developed nodules on my vocal chords. A wide range of street performers use SOME amplification to be heard above the level of ambient street noise, from Escapologists, jugglers and magicians who need to project their voices to an audience on a busy street.

On a bustling street the decibel level can be anywhere up to 83 dB. An amplifier makes it possible to heard over that ambient noise and is therefore a very valuable tool. ...


from a comment to a news article about this subject:
"Exclusive: City (Liverpool)faces legal action over busking rules
Law firm serves papers seeking judicial review over 'unreasonable, overbearing and unfair' decision"

http://www.liverpoolconfidential.co.uk/News-and-Comment/Exclusive-City-council-faces-legal-action-over-busking-rules

ominigut, you may want to follow up on the news articles, legal filings, and people associated with that Liverpool stuff.

And I'm only 90% convinced about the vocal pitch vs intelligibility vs noise vs authority stuff, since I was mostly skimming - you may want to do some proper research and critical reading there.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:02 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older Best software or websites to manage my small...   |   What do I need to know about teaching in Sydney... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.