Guyside: Girls deserve more than one way to wear a bow.

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Guyside, voice | 0 comments

Robin Hood by Rich Becker.

Robin Hood by Rich Becker.

With the abundance of bow savvy heroines making a mark on the silver screen, it wasn’t any surprise for me to see my daughter don a hood and fill a quiver for Halloween. What was a surprise, however, was how almost every neighbor narrowed their errant guesses to the confines of gender.

“Who are you … Katniss?”




“Tauriel from the Hobbit or Susan from the The Chronicles Of Narnia?”

“No and no,” she said. “I’m Robin Hood.”

She said it with enough conviction to corral the conversation. She was Robin Hood and the only person who questioned her about being a girl was a 5-year-old boy. Once she reassured him that a girl could be Robin Hood, he turned his attention to her bow and arrows. Next year, he said in wide-eyed wonder, he would be Robin Hood.

Next year, she said, she would like to be a princess like she was two years ago too. The only bow she sported back then was a yellow one to tie her hair back. But the year before that she was a pirate. And the year before that, she was a wood fairy in the vein of Tinkerbell. There are no limits to her imagination, especially those related to gender.

It’s part of a trait I hope she retains all her adult life too — the art of being gender ambidextrous, whereby every decision she makes is made based on passion and aptitude over the societal shakedowns over being feminine and a feminist. Life is complicated enough without trying to conform to a stereotype or work even harder to avoid one.

It seems to me that there is something inherently wrong when our daughters think that they have to ask permission whether or not they can dress up like Han Solo for Halloween. And while the girl who asked was very fortunate to have Tom Burns (who dressed up as Princess Leia) as a dad, it still haunts me that any 7-year-old girl would be so cognizant of gender-flipping costumes.

It’s almost worrisome as the growing number of parents who think the princess syndrome needs to be cured in seconds. It doesn’t.

Kids aren’t really part of the good role model/bad role model debate unless they are indoctrinated by the people who invented it. Sure, some stories might carry moral messages but none of the princesses really auditioned for the role model moniker (and neither did their princely counterparts, who suffer all sorts of severe character flaws).

The far greater danger is to perpetuate the myth that feminine and feminism have to somehow exist as polar opposites. They don’t. If the operative word is choice, then let girls make their own.

My daughter feels equally comfortable in a sundress or her fast-pitch softball uniform, which is usually covered in dirt five minutes before the warmups are over. She has an appreciation for art and music as much as for engineering and science. She is just as likely to play with Hot Wheels as Barbies, but is no more inclined to wish for wheels instead of feet than she is for that impossible waistline. She enjoys dodgeball as much as Girl Scouts and, on any given day, can show off a pirouette or hold a plank position.

It’s a freedom that I hope she preserves all her life, not as someone who is gender ambiguous but rather gender ambidextrous. Women should never feel forced to give up a stitch of gender identity to achieve equality. On the contrary, it will be my daughter’s ability to embrace her gender without being made a slave to it that will eventually empower her generation to move beyond the idiocy exhibited at companies like Zillow or Uber.

Robin Hood, after all, didn’t ask the poor to fix the inequality of his era. He wanted the rich to change their behavior.

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Giving voice

Posted by on Aug 14, 2009 in HRT, voice | 0 comments


Did you know that the female larynx is sensitive to sex hormone changes? Evidently, along with some of the better known symptoms — sleep disturbances, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, etc — vocal quality may also change in some women.

Experts say that fluctuating sex hormones, i.e. estrogen, progesterone and androgen, can result in a thinning and dryness in the vocal folds (or vocal cords). Because it takes greater effort to make sounds, voice changes can occur. Notably, studies have shown that not all women are affected by these changes nor are they affected in the same ways. However, when women are affected, their voices may get rougher/huskier, lose stability, lose their top notes and vocal range, and change their timbre. Professional singers or actors, or even consultants on the lecture circuit, all of whom rely on their voices to earn a living, are especially affected.

Researchers acknowledge that further study is needed to distinguish between vocal changes that occur as a result of menopause versus those that occur as a direct result of aging. Yet, regardless of the cause and degree that each factor contributes, voice changes can affect almost half of postmenopausal women.

Treatment options include:

  • Hormone replacement therapy. Study results have been mixed, with some findings showing improvements in voice complaints and voice function/vocal quality and others, demonstrating none. Further research is needed that evaluates the effect of HRT on the larynx as well as its ability to prevent voice changes if instituted early. Of course, HRT is wrought with other dangers that might make its use, prohibitive or not worth the risk/benefit ratio.
  • Voice therapy. Although many questions remain unanswered, vocal coaches  and speech pathologists say that voice therapy can help relieve vocal fatigue. There are exercises that work well to address aging vocal cords, rebuild muscle tone and help women learn how to use their voice more efficiently.The American Speech-Language Hearing Association has a great resource for finding a local professional in your area that specializes in vocal deficiencies.
  • Vitamin therapy. Research has shown that multivitamin therapy that includes magnesium, mineral salts, vitamins B5, B6 and E may improve vocal quality and help keep the vocal folds moist. Although experts say that there is not enough evidence for the role of vitamins in voice, vitamins, minerals and anxioxidants play an important role in health regardless of whether voice changes occur.

A quick search on PubMed turned up numerous articles on voice changes during the menopause and the article I sourced for this post (cited below), specifically references nine of these.

I am wondering how many women who are in the menopausal transition are experiencing these problems and are seeing clinicians who might not be aware of the potential link.

What about you? How is your voice quality? Have you noticed any changes?

[Source: D’haseleer E et al. The menopause and the female larynx, clinical aspects and therapeutic options: a literature review. Maturitas (2009) In press.)

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