Saturday, March 10, 2007

Write Like a Man?

You can check on line whether you write like a man or a woman. The statistically significant differences are very subtle: grammatical constructions, things like the ratios between uses of "the" and "a", but the scientists claim their analysis is accurate something like 87% of the time. You feed the computer program a few hundred words of prose or dialog... and it guesses the author's gender.
My men's monlogues are tagged as male-written by this computer program, my women's monologues as female-written. I send my plays and reviews out under my initials-- and nine out of 10 emails I get concerning them begin "Dear Mr. Horton".

There are some men who really do think (unconsciously?) that women have cooties, and that if a man is exposed to women's writing andlured into identifying with a woman, he'll catch cooties himself. These guys really did run things in the 1950s-- they sent all the women who had gained a toe hold in the theatre during the Depression
and while the men were off fighting WWII back to the kitchen (where they sat down and wrote novels and poems and short stories.) There aren't so many of these guys any more: but it only takes one on a committee or board or as AD to knock out every female finalist. The cootie sensor can be even more accurate than the computer's gender- sorter. My venerable writers' group has a long history of more or
less rough equality. Every so often the group's reading committee is accused of favoring te likable people over the talented , and one year the group invited a panel of "objective" experts-- 3 male critics -- to pick the 9 plays to be produced out of a finalist group of 20 one acts chosen by the committee. With astonishing accuracy, they eliminated all but one of the women! The discarded plays included my top 2
favorites. There are still more male writers than female on my personal list of favorite Great Dramatists, but that's because of all the 1000s of plays I read in the first 40 years of my life all but a couple dozen were written by men. By now, though, I have lost all patience with methods of story telling that reduce women to prizes,
perps, or plot devices. If there aren't 3 dimensional women characters who are capable of choosing and changing on stage, I'm not going to come back for the second act.

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