Just for fun, I tried out this Gender Analyzer and it says that both of my blogs – this one and my cooking blog were written by a woman. Funny… All this time I thought I was a man. Just for kicks I tried a few of my friend’s blogs – apparently we’re all women (or we write like women?) despite our actual genders.
So this got me to thinking: is there actually a difference between men’s and women’s writing? I’m not sure I believe that there is.
People have argued that women’s and men’s speech is different. In addition to claims that men use humor more often than women and that men interrupt women more frequently than women interrupt men I found a lot of people who asserted that women use more qualifiers like “sort of” and “I think” when making assertions, more polite phrases like “would you please,” more emphasis words like “very” and “really,” and more tag questions in their speech. Several people asserted that men’s language is more clear and assertive than women’s language, which is more passive and “implicit.” The broad theme here is that men’s language is supposedly linked to competition and dominance, while women’s language is linked to submission and attempting to create a community of relationships.
I’m willing to believe that this is true sometimes. I’m not willing to believe that this is universally true, since to me it seems offensive and stereotyped. I don’t think men are all competitive jerks constantly interrupting people, and I don’t think women are unclear and submissive in their speech. I’m sure there are people who fit these stereotypes, but I’m equally sure that there are lots of people who don’t (since apparently I’m one of them).
Ok, so assuming I buy into the idea that men and women have different speech patterns. It seems plausible (though it’s not nearly as extreme and pervasive a difference as the theories I read seem to think it is, but whatever). Would this difference actually translate into people’s writing? Well here’s where it gets tricky. I’m ignoring poetry in this argument since I think it’s such a completely different genre that it would need its own argument. In a work of fiction I’d have to say no – you can’t tell the author’s gender by their writing (at least not if the writer has any skill). Whether the writing is feminine or masculine would depend on the narrator of the story. You wouldn’t write a story with a five year old first person narrator the same as you would a story with an omniscient narrator. Gender is similar – you wouldn’t write a story with a male narrator exactly the same as you would a story with a female narrator. Ok, so what about other sorts of prose? I don’t think essays are particularly gendered, since the nature of the genre doesn’t allow for many of the supposedly gendered speech patterns. Scientific writing certainly isn’t. This brings us to blogs, which is what started the topic. If a person’s gender was to influence their writing anywhere this would be the genre for it, since the narrator and writer are the same person. I’m willing to believe that a person’s gender could be visible through their writing style. Clearly mine isn’t – or maybe those detectors just aren’t strong enough to tease apart female and gay male?
What do you think?