Can Male And Female Writing Be Told Apart?
I was reading a piece in the Independent, and halfway through it I stopped and mentally checked what I was reading with this thought; ‘Oh, it’s a woman writing – a man would never think that.’ Can male and female authors be told apart just by their writing?
A Noel-Levitz study examined a massive 97,000 students and got these results;
1. Females (54%) enjoyed reading much more than males (38%).
2. Females reported stronger study habits – 69% reported taking “very careful notes during class” and reviewed those notes prior to a test compared to just 47% of males.
3. Males reported greater confidence in math and science preparation. 53% of males said they have a “good grasp of scientific ideas,” compared to 42 % of females.
4. 51% of females reported “a hard time understanding and solving complex math problems,” compared to just 40% of males surveyed.
Patricia Cornwell and Mo Hayder are crime novelists who both write like the male in extremis. Cornwell, particularly, is obsessed with territorial demarcation, lists, data, probabilities, structural organisation, acronyms and power plays. The gentle, charming Hayder (whom I’ve met a few times) becomes a wolf in print, writing like an angry disenchanted man (in a good way). Both write without humour, which seems to be largely the province of the male.
The worst examples of men writing in a male style bring forth those terrible supermarket books about serial killers who do extreme things, while Frederick Forsyth waffles on about aircraft and the government like a retired RAF man forced into a desk job. Women who write dark fiction seem to focus more on emotions, complex states, loss, otherness.
Where it gets really noticeable is in supposedly zeitgeisty newspaper columns. The ‘new men’ go on about food, babies (in a distant way) and shopping while the ‘new women’ offer views on technology they obviously don’t have a clue about and political leaders judged by their grooming.
It would be interesting to ‘blind taste’ the genders in certain styles of writing, especially romantic fiction and SF.