April 19, 2012

Write Like a Man

Have you ever wondered whether you write like a man or write like a woman?

Well, now you can analyze your text and find out, with the Gender Genie.  Here’s a description on the site:

Inspired by an article and a test in The New York Times Magazine, the Gender Genie uses a simplified version of an algorithm developed by Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology, to predict the gender of an author. Read more at BookBlog, The New York Times, and The Guardian.

I analyzed a number of different things.  In my historical novel that’s at my agent, there are two points a view, one female and one male.  When I put the female in the Gender Genie, it comes out female, and when I put the male in I get male.  Well, that’s great!  When I put in most of the rest of my fiction, though, it comes up male.  This blog comes up female.

It’s a really interesting exercise on so many levels, though I haven’t dug into the whys and wherefores.  There are reams of really interesting and valuable research about gender and legitimacy and art and creativity.

The reason I come up mostly male, I think, is that when I was a kid, I tried to be a man.  By that I mean, male was the only gender with legitimacy, and so I was like a covert operative in a foreign and hostile territory ~ I studied the natives intimately and ruthlessly and, through books, from the inside out.  I inculcated the male perspective, most often at the expense of the female.  Then I grew up and took my first women’s studies class and boy did that open my eyes.  Now I accept and celebrate that I am a woman.

So, should I find it troubling that the Gender Genie finds most of my fiction to be male?  Or should I take comfort because “white male writer” is the normative subjectivity (i.e., thought of as neutral, and all other subjectivities are additive/hyphenated ~ woman writer, African-American writer, African-American woman writer, and so on) and hence my work might be more acceptable and perhaps publishable?  That little girl in me who so wanted to be a boy feels a prick of satisfaction (pun intended) but the grown woman feels a bit disturbed, as she always does at these things. 

There’s an intense ongoing dialog about this right now (and probably always) because of the Republican War on Women and Franzenfreude. Some particularly insightful writers on the subject are Roxane Gay, Meg Wolitzer, VIDA, Ayelet Waldman, and many more ~ just as Gloria Steinem and Adrienne Rich and others wrote in the 70s and 80s till now. Websites like the Art of Manliness talk a lot about the ideals of masculinity.

A thorny subject.  What do you think about all this?


Brent Stratford said...

I tried this with my writing and found that my male and female scores never differed by more than 2%. Depending on which passages I submitted they were alternately male and female. I guess that makes my writing asexual. I think I should be scared.

Tamara said...

Not at all! :-)

I have deep questions about the whole thing - the algorithm, the validity, etc. But I think that's great! Maybe it means that you feel comfortable with all parts of your personality.

~ Tamara