Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sexing the text

It would seem I write like a boy, according to the gender genie, a neat little gimmicky programme based on a pay per view article which I am too cheap to pay for so I have no idea what it says, except apparently some words are boy words (around, what, more, are, as, who, below, is, these, the, a, at, it, many, said, above, to) and some words are girl words (with, if, not, where, be whe, your, her, we, should, she, and, me, myself, hers, was). I'm not sure what to make of this having nor read the article, though incidently (before being shown this by my clever Masters friend Nadia) I read Neil Gaimon's article, Books Have Sexes, where he describes that part of discovering the novel you're writing is finding out if it's a boy or a girl book (not for girls or boys, but just whether the book itself is more of a boy story or a girl story).
When I played with the gender genie, it was interesting to me that the prologue of Breathe is 'boy' writing (it's written from Trout's close perspective) and yet the scene where Undine uses her magic to make a stone girl with butterfly skin is 'girl' writing. Perhaps I'm doing something right! Glancing through the words, the male words seem very much about situating the reader, about imperative and fact, where as the female words seem more questioning, reflective. It's interesting too that 'she' and 'her' are chick words but 'he' and 'him' aren't boy words...is it an assumption that girls write more about people? 'It' is a boy word, do they write more about objects? 'Said' is a boy word too - do boys write more dialogue, or do they simply report dialogue in a more direct fashion (I love said. I am not a fan of shouted. In fact I loathe it. I don't mind a bit of whispering, hissing, replying action, but more often that not, I like said. Mostly because I like to imply the tone of the dialogue through the dialogue itself.)
To me, Breathe is Trout's story, it's a boy's story and Undine is Undine's story. So in that sense the gender genie is spot on (though I'd like to point out that I am and was always a woman whilst writing both pieces - so instead of gendering the author perhaps the program, like Gaimon's article, should be more concerned with gendering the text). Rise/Drift/Stay/Sandwiches (title still to be confirmed, but probably not Sandwiches) is a dual story, it belongs to a few different characters, including Jasper, Undine's spooky baby brother. It's interesting to me that Jasper as a small child in a single mother household with mostly female adults in his life, belongs to a predominantly female culture of language - this seems to have affected the voice that Jasper speaks with, even as an adult (ooooh...don't want to give too much away).
So even though the gender genie is to me really a kind of parlour game (sans parlour, unfortunately - I think a parlour would be quite nice, and don't parlours always have cucumber sandwiches?), it's still made me think about my writing in an interesting way. Thanks for another juicy link Nadia! (I know she pops in from time to time).

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