12 November 2008

"Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better"

In yesterday's paper there was a blurb on the front page enticing readers to find out if their favorite blog is written by a man or a woman by testing it at www.genderanalyzer.com. Never one to pass up a good opportunity to examine gender stereotypes (especially gender stereotypes about writing), I couldn't resist trying it out. I was hoping to find proof of the inaccuracy of the sharply contrasted gender conventions on which I assumed the analysis is based, so I was disappointed when the "Gender Analzyer" guessed the gender correctly on 8 blogs out of the 12 I tried. However, I was delighted (and surprised) with the 2 it got wrong, and I was tickled with its verdicts on the blogs I submitted which are co-written. MY blog rated 67% feminine; I'll take that over a higher percentile - the kind of higher percentile reserved for blogs that are pink - but I'd rather have gotten something in the 50% range which wins you a "gender neutral" designation.

Here I am acting like I really care what the Gender Analyzer says when what I really care to know is what criteria the site's "Artificial Intelligence" uses to determine masculinity and femininity in blogs - and how they determine it to a degree, no less. And what I really wanted to run through their little tester is some editorial copy written by a man but meant to sound like a woman ... and maybe some novel passage from the 19th century that was written by a woman but published under a man's name.

I am skeptical of easy, clear distinctions between men and women. Perhaps the percentage range in results on the Gender Analyzer does bridge the chasm between the diametrically opposed gender poles of simply "male" and "female." However, doesn't this spectrum still uphold the polarization, the strict either/or? Obviously, the Gender Analyzer did not address this. It picked one gender or the other and designated a percentage rating. It did not critically investigate the notion of gender entirely. Needless to say, this wasn't quite the level of gender analysis one might hope for.

6 comments:

EMJAY said...

I was once told by an editor of mine that using lots of adverbs makes writing sound very feminine. Now I'm kinda paranoid about it. Strike that. Ridiculously paranoid :) Ahhh, womanly.

Emily said...

Well, you can go tell that editor that you write 52% like a man which is "quite gender neutral" according to the almighty Gender Analyzer. So you can use those adverbs as freely and as generously as you wish. (that's two adverbs for me thankyouverymuch.)

Damon said...

You just edged me out. I came in at 66%.

Emily said...

I know - you were one of the ones that it got wrong. I was going to say "you write like a girl." But I guess I do, too. I wonder what makes that one percent difference between us...

Ben said...

Holy Crap! I ran my (now discontinued but containing tons of writing) blog though and came out 84% female!?!?! I wonder if I should take that as a insult or a compliment? What does woman-ish writing read like? Mine, apparently...

Emily said...

Really!? Interesting! What in the world do they use for criteria, I wonder. I guess you and I both "write like a girl."