1. East
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    East Member

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    Male vs. Female writers

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by East, Apr 13, 2011.

    Recently, someone told me that a significant majority of amateur writers are women. Publishers receive more manuscripts from new female writers than male writers. Yet, male writers represent a majority of published novels.

    Thinking about this, I wonder why female writers don't achieve equal numbers and shelf space.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    I find a lot of novels written by women are too sentimental and "safe". Characters don't face harsh conflict, and story wrap-ups are too quaint and ideal.
     
  2. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    Personally, there are few female authors that I like. I often find their descriptions tedious and unnecessary. Women (myself included) tend to write slower paced stories, and in my experience either avoid action, or write it in a way that is thoroughly unexciting.
    There are exceptions to this, of course.

    It could perhaps also be that writing is associated with being feminine (which is a weird connotation, in my opinion, considering the amount of male authors), so if a man submits a manuscript he is possibly more dedicated to what he's doing than a girl trying her hand at being 'the next Stephanie Meyer.'
     
  3. clockwise
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    If we're looking at published novels in general, I don't think it has anything to do with the skills of male writers vs. the skills of female writers - either can be equally as good - but a reflection of the fact that, up until the latter half of the 20th century, few females were involved in any professional field, whether we're talking writing or science or any job that isn't distinctly "feminine".

    Granted, I'm sure the statistic is still somewhat true today, even if there isn't as much of a gap as there once was. That probably has to do with precisely what's already been said on this thread: ideas, that sometimes are correct but oftentimes not, of how women write versus how men write. It's true, most people don't want to read slow, sentimental, overly-descriptive writing. And that's not how all women wanting to get published - or even most - write. But if the editors picking up the manuscripts believe that that's how it is, are they going to pick up writing submitted by a woman? Probably not.
     
  4. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Haha, well this female plans to not be sentimental and "safe." And I know for certain my characters do face harsh conflict.

    But who knows that fact for certain? Are there any statistics that can back it up? I just don't think one gender has more out there than the other especially in this time and age. In America, both have equality in many areas of life.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Statistics show that there are significantly more women readers than men, so no need to worry.
     
  6. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^Haha, well that's good. One point for us on that. But still, I think we'd be equal there with the guys too. If in fact there are more guy writers out there as opposed to women :p
     
  7. prisonchild
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    prisonchild Member

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    how is a guy supposed to respond to this without sounding sexist?
     
  8. Ophiucha
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    Well, there is history on men's side, for one. How many female novelists can you name before, say, 1900? I reckon I can pull twenty, maybe thirty, as opposed to hundreds of men. That paradigm didn't shift until a fair bit into the 20the century, and even then, it was only in a few genres at first (romance, notably, but eventually fantasy started taking on a few big names, like LeGuin and Jones). Even now, though, some genres have very few female authors. History plays a big part in it.

    Now, of course, popular fiction is not only a big thing, but it is also a very female thing. Let's be honest, most of the NYT Bestsellers cater to women, more often than not. At best, you have gender neutral fantasies, but at worst, you have... well, Twilight, House of Night, Vampire Academy, etc. I would think that many amateur authors are being inspired by pop fiction, hence this surge in female, amateur authors. I'm sure if pulp science fiction with musclebound swordsman and DD-sized hourglass women suddenly became a huge thing again, we'd see a surge in male authorship.

    I think these days gender roles play less of a part in determining the type of fiction a woman is going to write. We are exposed to more, and aside from mainstream pandering and sexism in the industry, there isn't much saying that women won't write something of the same sort as any popular male author today.
     
  9. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    prisonchild: how is a guy supposed to respond to this without sounding sexist?

    ^haha, well a guy started this thread. By all means voice your opinions. Just don't sound sexist :p
     
  10. East
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    Yes... while the rest of the world are still backward illiterate savages who can only dream of your glorious freedoms.

    :D

    I jest, of course.
     
  11. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Depends on genre, too. Far more females are writing Romance and Chick-Lit, for instance, according to stats I've seen, wheras Thrillers and Horror go to men, usually.

    And as far as the few anecdotal accounts of agents I've talked to, there are more female agents than male.

    I think a big part of it is that it takes a real stubborn block-head to keep trying to get published year after year. I think a lot of women could be just as good, just as successful, but look at the uphill battle that is being a successful writer and either don't have the competitive drive many men do, especially when it comes to a profession, and women may just decide there are more important things in life than banging your head against the wall over and over hoping to catch a break.

    This happens in many professions, though, where women just find something that makes them happy, while for many men winning the rat race IS what makes them happy (or so they think).

    I wonder how it breaks down for poets...

    edit:

    Oh, also want to add that internet forums and workshops often SEEM like there are more women, as women seem more likely to be active on forums and discussions, and become more visible (according to stats I've seen from one site, and personal observation).

    Also, most fiction classes at the university level have been heavily swayed toward men, to the point I've seen classes have as few as 4 women to 15+ guys. I think probably more men are writing, or trying to write, of in school to study, more 'literary' styles of fiction, which seems to be male dominated.
     
  12. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    .....I'm not even sure what to say to this. But I'm a little astounded that you seem to think men are more stubborn than women.
     
  13. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    When it relates to professions and bread-winning, as is the full context with which my point was made, yes, I very much believe this. Especially with professions that are highly competitive, as is writing.
     
  14. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^That's why America is an awesome place to be. I'm very proud of it. And honestly, I'm not trying to be gung-ho about us getting more rights. Like I said, I think both sexes have equality in many areas of life. If some of us who believe our sex doesn't have as much equality, then it's only a matter of time before that changes :)


    Haha, you've got some good points there. But I agree with Hidden, some of us can be very stubborn. But the rat race makes sense for you guys ;)

    Hmmm, there are more women agents that guys? Cool. Another point for us.
     
  15. prisonchild
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    i think its because women are more prone to succumb to their emotions than thought. im not saying they cant be thoughtful but the ratio of thought to emotion isnt as high as males. and now, you might think, isnt emotion something that makes the writing great? yes, but which type of emotion. I think females more often exhibit vulnerable emotions, while males suppress those and showcase the more 'desirable' emotions, at least idealistically to the mainstream.

    dont take offense, because joni mitchell and emily dickenson are some of my favourites!


    .... i still came off as sexist, didnt I?
     
  16. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^Yeah, a bit. 8)

    But in a way, I can agree. I certainly come off more emotional than my brother. (I wonder why?) At the same time though, I can be tough when I want to. I just like to express myself more than supress what I'm thinking or feeling. Not that you guys do.

    I think we have a tendency to be expressive emotionally or whatever, however. It's just part of our DNA at times. We're the nurturing partner in families who raise the kids. Haha, I don't know. Can any of you gals back me up here?
     
  17. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    There's also an aspect to it, in my opinion, that women are accepted by society as being emotional, and encouraged to show emotion, while men are not. Men are better at masking emotion, but I would definitely disagree that they are less emotional. For instance, in NZ at least, our male suicide rate is a lot higher than our female one. I'm not sure, but I assume it's the same around the world.
    There's also a depression awareness campaign here at the moment, led by an ex-rugby player, which exists largely to prove that showing emotion does not make you "less manly."

    But if men aren't supposed to show emotion, how do they deal with it? Anyway, back to writing and the topic of this thread, it is my opinion that because of this, men have a good understanding not just of 'heart on your sleeve' emotion (which I maintain they do feel), but also constructed, 'desirable' emotion. To me, that knowledge seems like a good tool with which to write powerful characters.
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's why we need plenty of women writers to write for women. For those who like it, that's the kind of thing they like, as Jean Brodie said (according to a woman novelist).
    Btw, did you know that in the 17th-18th century there were far more women poets in the mogul emperor's court than men? They were known as the 'hidden moons'. Just had to get a last bit in there against Muslim/female stereotypes. You have to remember that in past centuries plenty of women wrote (especially letters and memoirs). They just didn't publish novels.
     
  19. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Don't some female writers use male pen names?

    Why would you do that?
     
  20. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I personally just write stories that come to me. Once, from the perspective of a child. Once a teenage girl who was dealing with massive sexual trauma. Once a story half from a woman's perspective (a love story!). Once from the perspective of a robot (that was honestly the easiest pov for me, beeep boop bllrrrp!).

    But I'm wondering about being a guy and writing from the perspective of women, and about situations in many ways uniquely those of women. I suppose women could think I was somehow marginalizing them?
     
  21. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    It was difficult for women to get anything published in past centuries - in order to do so some of them changed their name to male names and got published initially under the pretence of being a man.

    Even as late as the beg. of the 20th century a lot of women were not educated.

    Agatha Christie, by the age of seven had taught herself to read. For were her brother was sent of to boarding school to be educated (because he was expected to one day be a bread-winner) she was not, she was expected to capture a rich husband that would be able to look after her. Her brother by the way turned out to be an alcoholic as for Agatha...

    Only about five years ago, I heard on TV that the UK's eleven plus school examination in the 50s and 60s was biased towards boys - boys were let through with a lower mark than girls because, boys were expected to go to work to keep their family, whereas a woman's role was seen as the home maker.

    So maybe, the women are starting to catch up on years of 'don't bother your pretty little head dear'
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I often wonder about this because most of the authors on my shelves are female - Some female authors can very prolific - the likes of Enid Blyton, Claire Raynor, Ellis Peters, Ruth Rendall, Eleanor Hibbert etc making Stephen King look like he hardly ever brings out a book. I know both Claire Rayner and Eleanor Hibbert had more than one hundred. But then you have the likes of Moriah Jovan and Janey Louise Jones who couldn't get published traditionally (Moriah's books can be super long but are amazing I didn't realise it was 200,000+ words), they made their self publishing a success

    To be honest though I don't consider it - all I can do is the very best job I am capable of - I don't compete against others my competition is against myself becoming the very best storyteller/author I can.
     
  23. Ophiucha
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    Certain genres (or, more accurately, publishers) are definitely still a bit hesitant about having female authors. Not to say they don't think they can write well. That is clearly absurd. But they don't sell well. Science fiction is arguably pretty bad about this, and it has a lot to do with the history. Mary Shelley aside, there aren't any particularly great 'classic' SF authors. The three biggest names in female SF are Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Margaret Atwood. Anne McCaffrey causes some rift in more serious SF communities as nobody can agree on whether or not it 'deserves' to be fantasy, and some particularly sexist sorts will say that a woman 'can't' write proper SF and most resort to dragons and magic bonds to make an interplanetary war to their liking. Both LeGuin and Atwood's major SF pieces are feminist SF, as well, which leads some to say that a woman inherently cannot be as good at writing it if all they are going to do is write about women's rights instead of more 'gender neutral' subjects. This extends somewhat into fantasy, as well, although certainly to a lesser extent. It tends just to depend on the story. J.K. Rowling published under her initials in order to seem gender neutral, as the idea of a story about a boy wizard was thought not to sell well with a known female author. Robin Hobb did the same. One can perhaps also trace this anti-female in SF sentiment to the simple idea that women are history and literature sorts, and men are more mathematics and science.

    Other genres, I don't know as much about. I hear things from time to time, the occasional sexist comment from so-and-so. Literary fiction has a bad reputation if what I hear is true, and Westerns? Unless there is some steampunk in the mix, you'll never see a woman's name in the bookshelves at the store.
     
  24. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is a bit misleading. If you mean, women from upper-class families didn't go to school, that's true. Beatrix Potter is another example. Even women like Nancy Mitford (daughter of an earl, I think) were not 'educated' in the sense of going away to school. They learnt with a governess at home. My grandmother never went to school, either (she was born in 1898, I think). But then, by no means all men were educated. The Education Act in England wasn't until 1870, so before that education was elitist, or relied on the goodwill of the Church or benefactors.
     
  25. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Our current Queen wasn't educated at school either.

    What is sometimes called the first novel in the English language was written by Aphra Behn - I don't think she used a pen name.

    Women did often use pen names Olive Schirevner (sp??) Was I think Ray Iron, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte (Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell) I can't even remember what George Eliot's real name is. Although women were not equally represented with men in writing they were better represented than in most other professions. I can name quite a few - Katharine Parr wrote works something that almost lost her, her life. Bede had a few female contempoary nuns he wrote to. (their names are right now escaping me I have a cold). There was a far higher percentage of English female successful writers between 1650 - 1900 than there were Doctors, Lawyers etc

    Like Madhoca pointed out during this time not that many men were educated either.
     

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