Gender and literature
Recently I had a conversation with someone who had come across my website. They asked if I was targeting a male audience in particular, as my writing seemed masculine in subject matter and style. As I pointed out in my blog, I’m not consciously targeting either male or female readers, although it has worked out that my “masculine” style has attracted a largely female audience!
But to complicate matters, there is the GenderAnalyzer, a software program that uses a text classifier, trained on blogs written by men and women, to determine whether a blog has been written by a man or a woman.
For both my writing blog and The Long Watch GenderAnalyzer correctly identified the author (me!) as male – but only just, declaring them both to be fairly gender neutral at 59% for my blog, and only 51% for The Long Watch (results reflect percentage certainty of gender based on text, results may vary as text changes over the life of the blogs).
Certain genres have traditionally been gender-biased, whether in readership or authorship. Mary Anne Evans had to write as George Elliot to be taken seriously, and there is anecdotal evidence that male romance writers sell better under a female pen-name. Earlier this month the Guardian newspaper wondered if the gender of an author makes us view the work of that author differently. As an experiment, think of well known authors and see if you would view their work differently if they were the other gender. Teri Pratchett, Stephanie King, Adrian Niffenegger, Simon Plath?
Would The Long Watch have more male readers if it were written by Pauline Anderson?