(I typed this a while back, and then didn’t post it. Given recent blog topics, it seems more relevant now, so here it is.)
I write ‘like a girl’… and I’m totally okay with that.
Hypothetically, I can take today off from blogging; the A-Z Challenge is over. But yesterday I happened upon a link that led to another link — you know how that goes — and I ended up finding another program that’s supposed to analyze one’s writing and, in this case, determine whether it is male or female in style. (This, of course, is based on the assumption that male and female brains are wired so differently that we don’t even use the same words or string them together into sentences in the same way. Bullshit, I say, but what do I know? I’m a guy — of course I’d say that. And yes, friends, that’s me starting to catch up on my sarcasm quota, because I’ve fallen behind.)
Of course I had to test this program. How could I not? Look at all the work I did in debunking the idea that the ‘you write like such-and-such famous author because you use the same adjective once’ program is anything more than a thing to try for laughs. (It’s not the fault of the person who created that program, since it is only meant to be for fun. It’s the fault of the people who take it seriously.)
The program in question this time is called Gender Guesser.
First, I fed it the opening scene of a science fiction novel I love. Female author, male viewpoint character. Program says… female writing style, but barely, and only for informal writing. For formal, writing style is male by a slightly higher margin.
Next, I tested a favorite scene from Sign of the Unicorn. (C’mon, it’s still in my brain from yesterday.) Male author. Male viewpoint character, in a conversation with another male character. From a story that shows, overall, a lack of female characters. And the program says… writing style is female. What, because it’s an emotional scene (in a very sparse, understated sort of way)?
So… “Finder’s Fee.” Y’know, my short story that causes me so much trouble (and was the story I used in that other experiment way back when). Not one but two male authors (because my clone helped me revise it a little bit). Female viewpoint character. Writing style is slightly female. (So there!)
“Moon Hawk” — a short story written by a 16-year-old teenage female, apparently has a “male” writing style…
The first scene in “Ice Is Also Great” gets “female.” The opening for “A Dangerous Thing to Bear” (my sequel to “Ice”) gets “weak male” as its result — I wrote like a guy for this story, but only barely. Maybe I’m European and don’t realize it. *shakes head*
The “Midsummer” scene for Changing Magic gets “male” despite the female viewpoint character; a follow-up scene gets “female.”
“A Metaphor of Hounds” is “weak male.” *shakes head*
“Raven’s Story” got “male” (even though most readers are so damn certain the protagonist is female because of his name).
“Hunter’s Moon” (an Alandra Kade story like “Finder’s Fee”) got “weak male.” Given how many readers have told me that Alandra doesn’t sound at all like a woman (’cause she’s sarcastic and tough and abrasive and other things that women cannot be, supposedly), I am not terribly surprised by this result.
…And a couple of scenes from story about a character who was the partial inspiration for the sister of a character in my twin’s almost-mundane novels: written by a woman, with a female viewpoint character. There are male characters in the scenes, but they are only ‘supporting cast.’ Result: writing style is male.
So yeah, this program is nearly as inaccurate as random guessing. Possibly worse, since it is based on assumptions about how men and women write, whereas random guessing makes no assumptions and encourages no stereotypes. The creators of the program state clearly that it isn’t finished, that it isn’t very accurate at this time, etc. That won’t keep other people from claiming that it can accurately determine an author’s gender, though — or from saying that any author whose writing doesn’t “match” must be “doing it wrong.”
I’d like to know what results other people get on their own writing, or on writing by their favorite authors. Give this Gender Guesser program a try sometime and let me know, would ya?