Thu
Dec 20 2012 4:45pm
Did A Man or A Woman Write This?

Author Teresa Frohock is doing an interesting experiment on her blog for the sake of gender politics: she has asked several SFF authors who you might know to contribute writing samples to her website under pseudonyms. Then she is asking people to vote on whether they think the segment was written by a man or a woman.

But it's also a contest! If you guess right, you're entered to win awesome books! And though it's not quite scientific, it is an interesting step in trying to understand or subconscious assumptions where gender is concerned. Check out the first sample here and cast a vote!


Stubby the Rocket is deeply curious to know whether you think a man or a woman wrote this post.

8 comments
Paul Weimer
1. PrinceJvstin
I heartily recommend this experiment. Should be interesting.
Fredrik Coulter
2. fcoulter
This reminds me of that great quote from a couple decades back. I can't remember who said it, but an SF great was asked about the current crop of SF writers, and he said something like "Other than James Tiptree, Jr., all the new great writers are women."

(I'm sure the quote will be corrected by someone else; I'm doing this from failing memory."

For those too young to remember, James Tiptree, Jr., was one of the pen names of Alice B. Sheldon.
Jenny Thrash
3. Sihaya
I suspect most of us will wind up answering with some unacknowledged model of *who* the story sounds like in our heads- Bradbury or Bear (Gregory or Elizabeth), Bujold or Aasimov . We've all been reading so long that our idea of 'gender' isn't sounds or language; it's the previous examples of the authors who already write. I was amazed at the number of authors who captured the spirit of Bradbury in the tribute collection "Shadow Show." If I didn't know the purpose of the work, I would have guessed that the authors were men only because they all sounded like some aspect of him, not because I identify some subject matter or tone as 'masculine.' They'd all become Bradbury for a few pages. So it won't just be interesting to find out which stories seem to come from masculine or feminine hands; it will be interesting to know why.
Alan Brown
4. AlanBrown
To answer the question Stubby put at the end of the post, my answer is, "yes."
Jenny Thrash
5. Sihaya
We're all going to be so embarrassed when we find out that it was neither.
Alan Brown
6. AlanBrown
Did the authors who contributed to this know that their writing samples were going to be judged on the 'gender clues' they contained? That would influence how I wrote a sample. The best way to do this is to draw samples written by someone not yet knowing their work would be judged on some criteria.
Douglas Freer
7. Futurewriter1120
I took a guess on the first story. If the other stories are enjoyable, I would love for the authors to continue them. This is a great contest and will be surprising with the answers.
Indy606
8. Indy606
Without meaning to be too negative, I think this is both pointless and embarrassing. Every artist stands alone on their own merit - a result of their own talent, ambition and experience. Discovering that gender might impact experience or approach is as illuminating as learning water is wet. Trying to define which is better is as pointless as any such discussion about art... We all have our own favorite flavor of ice cream... and no one is going to convince someone else that vanilla really is better than chocolate. Gender is just one of the difference that mark each author... not something that can impact superiority. It's time that we all forget these issues when assessing art - and focus on the impact and the quality of the work itself.

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