This Blog Was Written By a Woman?!

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?

Published in: on May 7, 2009 at 9:00 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Do you think they’re actually analyzing types of speech or blog content? Because apparently (I read about this recently), there are “boy blogs” and “girl blogs” based on content. And, OF COURSE, cooking falls into “girly content” — though I know plenty male food bloggers. I wonder if writing is considered “womanly” or “manly”. Maybe if you know how to write, you’re a girl! Everyone know boys only know how to drive trucks, right?

    I saw a play (or “theatrical conference”) recently that was about gender roles, and one of the questions they asked was do gender assumptions condition brain development? For example do boys play ball because they’re “better at spatial relations” or are they better at spatial relations because when their brains are developing, their parents are always sending them out to play ball. And idem for girls and “community-based” communication. Is that because they’re often offered cooperating games? I could believe that language may develop also based on gender assumptions, but I totally agree with you — a good author is universal.

    • I’m pretty sure you’re right that blog content plays a part in their analysis. As far as how womanly my blogs are – the cooking blog was 98% and this one was only 66%. My writing style is pretty much the same in both so it must be a content difference.

      I think writing is considered a “womanly” pursuit – which is stupid since for a long time men were the only ones who were allowed to write!

      I think that gender assumptions definitely condition brain development. There have been lots of studies done that prove that people react differently to an infant they perceive as male than to an infant they perceive as female (in most of these studies it’s the same infant being dressed differently and getting completely different reactions depending on their gendered presentation). I think there are lots of gendered assumptions that go along with language – that’s why there are ideas about how men speak vs. how women speak. I’m sure those differences are a function of socialization. Like I said, I’m willing to believe those things translate into written language as well (maybe that’s why lots of people think romantic era writers are “girly”?) but I think a good writer can convey whatever gender speaker they want.

  2. Hey A/E,

    It’s Tara from NYC. I just tried this analyzer on the blog I write for my Finnegans Wake reading group, and apparently I’m a man (67%). Oh well. Also, I’ve considered this question (whether a recognizably male or female style of writing exists) before, because I’ve been accused of (or rather, described as) writing too masculine-y. And I don’t know how to feel about that. But, all your thoughts and questions are good ones and w/r/t this particular site—which claims its motive is “fun and curiosity”—I don’t think we’ll be getting any answers soon.

    Hope you’re well … 🙂

    • Hi Tara! I didn’t know you read my blog. It’s pretty funny that they think you’re a man and they think I’m a woman. I wonder if there is a link between masculinity/femininity and writing style. I’m certainly not the most manly man out there and you’re not the most girly woman so if there is a correlation between gender expression and writing style I’d be willing to bet my writing style is more feminine than yours 😛

      I actually have the flu so I’ve been in bed all week only venturing out on trips to the kitchen, the bathroom, and the computer. I’m feeling a little more peppy today, though. How are you?

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