Yayy! I scored a respectable nine out of ten. Honestly! Okay, fine two were wild guesses. Nevertheless it is a decent score.
The UK paper Guardian offered an on-line quiz challenging readers to guess the author’s gender from a single paragraph. It all started after VS Naipaul provoked fury by suggesting that women writers are 'sentimental' and 'unequal to me'. He also claimed that 'I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not.'
Take the quiz here.
At the outset, let me say that a good article is a good article irrespective of who has written it. Period. But this debate compels me to go on a gender guessing spree each time I pick up a magazine. While one is reading articles in the papers and magazines, gender distinction is almost impossible. However, when the genre is fiction, the mist disappears and the writers gender become relatively distinct.
Another writer Manu Joseph made similar claims when he said that the 'Upholstery Moment' gives the gender away. The moment a writer starts describing the color of the curtains, the drape and the sofa set, rest assured it’s a woman. It also holds true when women are describing characters, especially men. Personally,I believe that women writers definitely have a beautiful way with words where emotions, facial expressions and colors are concerned. Men, on the other hand tend to be more straightforward and practical.
I was discussing this with my husband and for fun sake we decided to play a game. Both of us had to describe Shahrukh in less than forty words and forty seconds. Not because I am a SRK fan, but simply because SRK was smiling from the magazine I had in my hand.
HIS description – A star sans conventional looks. His appeal transcends boundaries of age and gender. If charm was to ever take a persona, it will be the face of Khan.
MY description – His disarming smile, naughty cleft in the chin and easy wit can melt woman of any age to mush. His fawn colored eyes and devotion to his wife push him high on the desirability list.
Pretty obvious, isn’t it? However, if we change the muse from Shahrukh to a sports car, it would be another story. The husband has no patience for my mind games. That he would be more lucid and passionate about the car, I am certain. So the gender distinctions become distinct depending on the genre.
Women writers who pen chic-lit are obvious and they make no bones about it. Sample this: When all the snooty ad people think Karol Bagh types, they imagine a pushy wannabe in a chamkeela salwaar kameez with everything matching- matching.
Now the above lines are by Anuja Chauhan and no prizes for guessing the writer’s gender. Also I doubt if any man will ever write something like, “She was waspishly waggling her eyebrows and looking daggers at me.”
But this line has to come from a man - ‘Dependable absolutely, faithful no doubt, but romance is as foreign to me as giving birth.’
Women have a flair for emotions and facial expressions making them mistresses of those smaller, softer moments. Men however write in their signature stealth style without lingering on facial and color details.
Mr. Naipaul was being smug or perhaps courting controversy when he said that he has a nose for whiffing the gender within a para of reading. It is a possibility. But not the final word.
What do you think? Not that it matters, but are you able to guess the writer’s gender after reading a post?