top of page

Vox Politica, vocis feminarum

Vox Politica, vocis feminarum

Tonitruant. In Treccani Italian Dictionary "that thunders, that makes the noise of thunder ... referring to a person who makes a lot of noise or speaks with a thunderous voice". From Pericle to Guareschi's Peppone the vox politica was (is ?????) a male voice, projected, often thundering, in fact.

But, especially for a century now, the heirs of Cleopatra, Maria de’ Medici and the Great Catherine, female voices have been heard more and more often in politics.

How are “vocis feminarum in rei publicae” ?

Political communication has now become one of the ways of entertainment: a little theatrical, a little commercial, between advertising and sports news; the didactic, professorial tones, often pleasing, increasingly rarely vulgar, have been surpassed - by now it should have come to us nausea the latter-. There are assonances and dissonances. But above all communication strategies.

The model of the deep, masculinized voice has always been a temptation in women at work in general. A greater risk for the woman who naturally has a contralto voice rather than a light soprano. Nilde Jotti, Golda Meir, among others, managed to evolve into a warm, burnished, but distinctly feminine timbre. Voices with less direct experience in international politics, albeit with great experience of face-to-face cultural and political debate as they used then, such as Adele Faccio or Tina Anselmi, maintained a colour common to many high school and university professors, a kind of voice still very present in today's politics as far as I've heard lately. (I refer to elected politicians, not to non-pundits, “talk show dwellers” or journalists)

In PEVOC 2019 in Copenhagen, Elizabeth Ebbink held a very interesting workshop on Vocal Power, comparing the voices of male models with the voices of women such as Merkel, Tatcher, but also Winfrey.

(To be noted that, in this PEVOC in Tallinn, Ebbink had her new workshop scheduled just after the opening talk of Johan Sundberg ...)

It was beautiful to note the evolution of Tatcher, and partly of Merkel, to a “fuller but never dark” shade, always very feminine and well highlightning the prosodic nuances, even in moments of the most heated debate, but avoiding under emotional pressure involuntary slipping in shrill - a risk also common to some male voices with aging - : shrill that inevitably gives the listener the impression of insecurity, loss of control of the speaker and distracts from what actually said.

A masterful example in this, returning to my auditory memories? Indira Gandhi: a feminine voice, clear, authoritative but not arrogant, confident but not unfriendly, ... strangely very similar to that of Meryl Streep, in my opinion.

Even younger voices in our politics are showing personal evolutions: from those who are abandoning those high-pitched tones, which only Rosa Russo Jervolino could afford, to the many who are starting to correct the dialectal accent - the blocked lists that candidate you 1000 km from yours “original fiefdom” can penalize marked accents - and as a Milanese I appreciate this. I love the birth accent and all the dialects we can learn, but I believe that a public function, a public voice, must be able to express itself with moments of “neutral Italian voice" when appropriate or necessary.

The fundamental characteristic of the political voice, of all the political women I have mentioned? The clear articulation of speech. Therefore, support of the breath, projection, relaxation of the vocal tract and total tonicity of the body and facial posture, meticulous preparation of even the most "improvised" of speeches, so as to guarantee naturalness, mastery of vocabulary and accents - here I mean tonics and phonics-. There is always room to "speak like ordinary people": but it is essential that this is not the only way of speaking you know, if you want to compare yourself with others who may have completely different ways of "speaking in common" and will not understand you, at best of cases. In the siege of mobile phones, there is no forgiveness for "they misunderstood me". Even if the tones can be excited, each word must be understandable and understood, even in different environmental acoustic conditions.

Even now, even in this aping of American Conventions - did we need it? -, speaking in politics is different from speaking on the radio or on TV, from reels on Instagram and clips on Tik Tok. Rather, the vox politica must adapt to use even those channels while maintaining its own identity. Even candidates with long experience in voices of entertainment, journalism, classrooms can no longer use them; voices that are too consumed by smoke or a little "over the top", slobbering, spluttering, words’ finals always high-pitched or swallowed to disappear… all these must adequate in today's political communication, which gives minimal space for maximum concepts.

Otherwise the risk of appearing as the candidate for Miss Universe is always latent.

A great suggestion for the effectiveness of the political voice comes from the eternal Franca Valeri: "I fight for irony in women, which seems to me an important achievement".

Beyond the voice there must be more.


bottom of page