Back in June, I wrote about writers and stuttering, and how many writers feel that their stutters make them better writers. In the past few weeks, there have been two notable essays written by journalists who stutter:
1. In his essay “Stammer Time, Barry Yeoman and how he and other stutterers are starting to feel that fluent speech is not only overrated, but that stuttering can be a gift, both to those who stutter and the people around them.
I’m most interested by the idea that stuttering messes with our notions of mechanical time and efficiency:
“There’s something interesting about stuttering in a world that moves at increasingly breakneck speed,” says [Joshua] St. Pierre, the Alberta professor. For most of human history, we measured time in lunar cycles, menstrual cycles, agricultural cycles. Today we rely on “clock time,” standardized and designed for industrial production. Clock time values efficiency; it has no patience for silences and repeated syllables. “Stuttering highlights that fact: that clock time runs roughshod over all these other ways of creating time, but that they still persist and are still important,” he says.
Elsewhere, Yeoman has written about how he thinks his stuttering makes him better at his job. One, it helps him empathize with marginalized people, and two, he knows how to “shut up and listen.”
2. In The Atlantic, John Hendrickson wrote about “Joe Biden’s Stutter, and Mine:”
Yet even when sharing these old, hard stories, Biden regularly characterizes stuttering as “the best thing that ever happened” to him. “Stuttering gave me an insight I don’t think I ever would have had into other people’s pain,” he says. I admire his empathy, even if I disagree with his strict adherence to a tidy redemption narrative.
One of the frustrations Hendrickson writes about in the piece is how Biden speaks about stuttering as something that’s behind him, something he’s overcome. (“I don’t say I was ‘cured,’” says another stutterer, James Earl Jones. “I just work with it.”) “The underlying message,” Hendrickson writes, “beat it or bust—is out of sync with the normalization movement.”
“I don’t want to hear Biden say ‘I still stutter’ to prove some grand point; I want to hear him say it because doing so as a presidential candidate would mean that stuttering truly doesn’t matter—for him, for me, or for our 10-year-old selves.”
Yesterday, Yeoman tweeted, “With today’s attention on Biden’s stutter, here’s a contrast: @KatarMoreira, a politician in Portugal who embraces how she speaks. ‘I stutter when I speak, not when I think. The danger in parliament is individuals who stutter when they think.’”
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