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Saturday, February 17, 2007


I am gender confused

Behold: the Gender Genie!

I discovered this on Making Light, to give credit where it's due; there's also an interesting article about it on the Guardian's site.

Now, remember a few posts ago I declared, with some minor annoyance, that my name (Kit, for the benefit of anyone feeling particularly dozy; Kit) is short for Katharine, not Christopher? It appears I was wrong.

The Gender Genie is a computer program that allows you to run a piece of prose through a computer algorithm which determines, based on your use of language, whether you are a man or a woman.

Well, who can resist? I logged onto it immediately, murmuring 'Isn't science wonderful?' And, to begin with, entered a passage from the novel I'm currently writing, sitting back and waiting to be told that it sounded like female thinkin'. I was prepared; I know that I'm girly sometimes. I try to write good male characters, but my gender keeps getting in there. So I was pre-resigned, ready to be told I'm a womany kind of stylist.

To my amazement, Gender Genie did not agree. It thought I was a man.

Well, that passage was about a male lead. So I tried a bit from Bareback. If anything was female, it was that book. Surely Bareback would come out as female?

Nope. That was male as well.

So maybe it was my fiction style? Gender Genie allows non-fiction and blog posts as well. So I entered a bit from an article I wrote a while ago.

Hello Christopher, said Gender Genie. Back again, old man?

'No!' I insisted. 'Here, try a blog post!' And I slapped some text from this very blog into the program.

You're not fooling anyone, laddie, said Gender Genie. Yes, indeed, I was once again designated as male.

In desperation, I improvised the following paragraph:

'Oh my darling, how I yearn for you,' he said, clasping her to him in his strong arms. She gasped at the feel of his muscles, taut as hawsers, enfolding her delicate flesh.

'But, but,' she stammered, 'I thought it was my beautiful sister that you loved!'

Gary Stu laughed harshly. 'That minx?' His eyes gleamed. 'She threw herself at me, my darling. But I swear, I only flirted with her to make you jealous when I thought you didn't care. You are the only one for me, my angel, my only. I must have you and no one else!'

And lo and behold, this passage came out scored as female!

Well, that proved something, I thought, though I wasn't sure what. I had at least demonstrated that I was capable of writing female prose.

Then my boyfriend wandered in and looked over my shoulder.

'Look, I've finally proved I'm a woman!' I said, pointing excitedly at the computer.

'Hmm,' he said, seating himself. 'Let me try something.'

I handed over the keyboard with feminine grace, and sat back while he also improvised a few sentences.

"Crom," swore Conan, his hands still dripping with the fallen man's blood. "We should have slain him sooner. With those things closed, we'll never get inside." He gestured towards the immense bronze gates which now barred their passage.

He clicked the mouse, and sat back waiting for Gender Genie's verdict.

Gender Genie decided that my boyfriend is a woman.

My boyfriend maintains that this was because he, I quote, 'gamed the system'. (Which is a phrase I'd take as reasonable evidence that he's male, but there you go.) He had noticed that certain keywords which you'd think were pretty gender-neutral were given designated sexual roles: 'with' and 'was' have frilly little pinnies on, apparently, while 'it' and 'is' shoot bears in the woods on holidays and sit with their legs akimbo on public transport. He swears that he was confusing Gender Genie on purpose by rallying all the pink words and making them march in a masculine formation like good little soldiers. Why he felt this was necessary behaviour I'm still not clear, but I'm sure it was something manly and pro-active in the spirit of bold discovery. The unworthy thought that he's just after cheaper car insurance hasn't entered my head.

However, my natural writing style remains pegged as masculine. I'm forced to conclude that either my family, doctor and friends have been perpetrating a major conspiracy against me, or that Gender Genie needs a little work. Personally I'm inclined to go with the former; you can't argue with science.

Have a go yourselves and see how it works. If you need me, I'll be in the shed hitting things with a hammer and talking about football.

Interesting. Apparently, I'm gender confused as well. I entered a couple of things I'd written and it said I was female. One was something I wrote for The Atlantic, full of my manly, adventures in Morocco. Female. The second was a segment from my thriller The Righteous, where the killer tears a woman's tongue out by the roots. Female.
Ha, that's fun. I entered several bits from two novels and a short story. Apparently I'm writing one novel as a male and one as female, and my short story is written by a female. I stopped there before it got too confusing.

But in a funny way it makes sense. The 'male' novel is a bit more distant pov as well as lots of action/fights. The second 'female' novel I've tried to get a closer pov though the mc is also male. The short story is female pov.

And me - beyond gender confused writing I'm female.
Ah, so the Gender Genie's resurfaced. Funny how it gets rediscovered every so often :). Let me have another try.

Female Score: 1570
Male Score: 1160

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

Sigh. That's from an (unfinished) first person novel with a male protagonist. Obviously I'm not trying hard enough!
The gender genie appears to just be an inaccurate but entertaining device that sort of slightly reinforces negative gender ideas whilst also inadequately covering the actual differences.

I came out female mostly. I thought that maybe it was because I wasn't putting enough words in to give it a fair analysis, but when I suck all of my novel in it just succeeded in crashing my computer.

I wanted the genie to be accurate and hoped that it would say I write like a girl. But it was too unreliable so I will have to live with being a man for a little longer. :-(
Neil Gaiman wrote up this essay a few years back on how, to him, every book has a gender that isn't necessarily dependent on the author. Sometimes it's more on the intended audience, the feel of the novel, or the themes running throughout it.


Oh, by the way, the Gender Genie ranked me as male after a 5k word sample. 60% male, 40% female, in summary.

lol... the Gender Genie guessed me right!! Which is good, since it was a blog from my MySpace site & I was, indeed, writing from my own POV.

Words: 459
Female Score: 923
Male Score: 582

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!
According to your blog, which I ran through the Gender Genie...

Words: 792

(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

Female Score: 1190
Male Score: 823

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!
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