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Logic & Scientific Philosophy

Busking Debate ~ Dylan


In Ottawa, a rule in the world of busking has banned street performers from being able to have amplification with them during their performances. A street variety performer who’s act involves talking, argues the fact that with this new rule, women street performers are not going to be able to work anymore by themselves as street performs as they do not have the volume to be able to be heard without the help of microphones. Her argument with the rules is as follows:

All streets performers are forced to speak loud

No women are able to speak loud

Therefore, no street performers are women

Her argument follows the form of:

All X are Z

No Y are Z

/No X are Y

This makes this argument a valid argument as the form is correct. To be a street performer who’s act requires you to be heard you must be able to speak loud enough over all the crowd and other ambient noises. But the factually correctness and soundness of the argument is a little more ambiguous. In the article, they bring in voice specialist Dr. Brian Hands.  Dr. Hands states that women actually have thinner vocal chords, which makes their voice less powerful. When I first read this it actually surprised me, but we’ll get to that a bit later. He also says that normally the learned processes in childhood make women voices typically quiet.

And while Dr. Hand does confirm all this to be true, he does also state that with proper vocal training women are still able to speak just as loud as men. So in a sense, this makes her argument not completely factually correct and sound. While it’s true that by the nature of biology women may have thinner vocal chords, it still does not mean that women are not able to speak at a loud enough volume to be heard on the street at all. In my own personal experiences in situation where you must be heard such as in the theatre, I’ve actually had more experiences where all the women are much louder than a lot of the men which is why I said I was so surprised that when I found out that women have thinner vocal chords then men, because I always thought women to have been louder in any performance situation I’ve ever been a part of. So because her argument is saying that women are not able to speak loud enough to be street performers is false, the argument is not factually correct or sound.

The effects of this have a lot to do with continuing debates of discrimination against the sexes. Is this discrimination? I mean some could argue it is, for it could be harder for some women to speak loud enough to be heard, making them unable to still work as a street performer. But some could also argue that its not, for proper and safe vocal training could enable them to be able to be heard. And some could argue too that voice has absolutely nothing to do with gender at all, and is a completely different thing to every individual. So it draws a very interesting line in the sand for us to examine. Where is line where we decide between actual discrimination and some things just being easier for some people to do, but with proper practice everyone being able to do? And how much do we separate the two sides? These are very interesting questions to examine and take a look at and to examine as a society at large.


4 thoughts on “Busking Debate ~ Dylan

  1. I don’t think that the goverment in ottawa in trying to be sexist but instead just didn’t think of everyone when they entacted the law because afterall they are people that have very low voice. They should probably reconsider the law because its preventing a large amount of the street preformers mainly woman, from doing thier jobs properly. Another great article dylan well done!

    Posted by imtiazpaiman99 | September 29, 2013, 6:40 am
    • Thanks Imtiaz. I agree with you on both topics. I don’t think the government was trying to be sexist, as you pointed out, but just some people aren’t able to speak loud enough. I forgot to mention in the post that I’m sure that there are also some male street performers that aren’t able to keep up with the law either. Thanks!

      Posted by dylanaraki | September 29, 2013, 7:50 pm
  2. I think this is a very interesting topic, since there are so many arguments that can be made from a bunch of sides. The decision to outlaw amplification equipment was obviously made for a reason, and one could even argue it ensures a higher “quality” of busking – that is, by weeding out those who aren’t as loud. This issue in busking could also be compared to many other media, like if for example professional lighting and makeup crews were outlawed for models. This bylaw, I suppose, discriminates against people with quieter voices, or people who have vocals as a large part of their street performance. I’m sure one could find other groups – divided by age, sex, race, or some other trait – being “discriminated against” in most laws being passed.
    I think that, as Imtiaz said, the government wasn’t being intentionally sexist. Also, as you mentioned, many women can be very loud – louder than men – making this a very individual issue. Some people just have naturally louder voices, or are trained to be louder. No matter what you or I or anyone decides on whether this is discrimination or not, the sexism debate will still go on for a long time.
    Anyways, very good post and interesting topic; I think you did an excellent job of presenting the subject and argument. I agree that the argument is valid, but I believe that both premises are questionable, as you pointed out. Nice work incorporating a current event!

    Posted by evandervelden | September 29, 2013, 7:31 am
    • Thanks for the comment Emily! You bring up a lot of interesting points that I hadn’t even thought of before. I agree with you totally. I think that there must have been a reason for the law, and like you said, with any law I’m sure we could find some amount of people who feel that they are not being treated fairly in the laws passing. And it seems pretty unlikely that this law was passed to as a way to consciously discriminate anyone. Thanks a lot Emily!

      Posted by dylanaraki | September 29, 2013, 7:59 pm

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