Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Gender Genie

Still on the subject of gender, Sharanya sent me this link to The Gender Genie. Paste in an extract from a text and it will tell you if it was written by a man or woman. (The techie bit is here if you're interested.)

According to a report in Utne magazine, the programme:
... assesses with 80 percent accuracy whether the authors of fiction and non-fiction books are male or female, reports Phillip Ball in Nature. Patterns detected by the program include the use of pronouns, such as I, you, he, she, them (female) and words that identify and quantify nouns, like a, the, that, one, two (male). The software, developed by Moshe Koppel of Bar Ilan University in Israel, was designed to "identify the most prevalent fingerprints of gender and of fiction and non-fiction." These fingerprints were applied to 566 English-language works published after 1975. Two titles misidentified by gender were Possession, by A.S. Byatt and Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day. "Strikingly, the distinctions between male and female writers are much the same as those that, even more clearly, differentiate non-fiction and fiction," identifying the genres themselves with 98 percent accuracy, Mr. Ball writes.
80% accuracy, my foot! According to the results posted on the website, the programme is right only 58% of the time - not a great deal better than simple guesswork. And it can't be up to much if it thinks Sharanya is a bloke! I ran a couple of paragraphs of an Annie Proulx story by it, figuring if any writer has a gender ambiguous writing style it's her. The programme told me that the first paragraph I enterered was written by a female and the second by a male!

(And according to the programme the paragraph above was typed by a male. I'm off for a sex-change op!)

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Works best on really long text, or so the fine print says. Generally though, I've noticed that female writers write more about relationships and nature, whereas male writers write about adventure and conflict.

Anonymous said...

Well I have a theory that I can't state w/o insulting anyone.. but generally if you use totally female fiction (that is, the type of writing generally described as "estrogen-soaked") you'll find that it's quite accurate. Try for instance Louisa May Alcott, that works :)

With more modern prose it's a little harder to tell but still possible.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know what I mean, try Sha's blog at http://www.hystericalcookielover.blogspot.com/

That identifies correctly, because the writing is very female -- very emotional. Lots of personal pronouns, extreme generalizations ("everything", "nothing" etc.)

bibliobibuli said...

hmmm ... still playing with it ... atwood's first chapter of oryx and crake came out as male ... doris lessing in an extract from the golden notebook came out as female ... so did tracey chevalier in an extract from the virgin blue ... anne rice in an extract from blood and gold came out as male ... a longer extract from my blog - it still thinks i'm male!

it definitely has more to do with the style of writing than the gender of the writer ... might be a useful too for helping male readers decide if they can stomach the style of a particular female writer??

Chet said...

I submitted two excerpts from my 2005 NaNovel. The Gender Genie got the gender right for the first excerpt, but wrong for the second.

*grin*

FBT said...

I just tried it on something I'd written and it got me wrong too. But then I always try to make my writing action-packed. I hate books that are all about how someone sits around noticing tiny little things about her and investigating the state of her own emotions, as though anyone else gave a toss.
I have to confess that most of my favourite writers are male. I quite like Jane Austen - but then who doesn't? It's practically against the law not to like her. The only woman writer I really like at the moment is Diana Wynne Jones, who writes the most wonderful children's books.

Sham said...

I came out as male on all 6 times I entered pieces I had written....hmmmmmmm

Animah said...

Sharon,

Did a quickie test, taking passages from the Bible and the Quran (but my translation based on memory so this is hardly foolproof). According to my personal translation, the Bible is written by a female and the Quran by a male. Interesting eh, but then there is no genderless category.

Perhaps you and Sham are male deep down inside, or maybe your male side is stronger. Or, maybe your male side is fighting to come out, and is released through your writing ....

Sham said...

Perhaps....it's quite scary because I have been called a man in a woman's body before....

Chet said...

sham - really?

*takes closer look at sham's picture*

Anisah said...

A slightly different twist from the Men are from Mars, women from Venus saga that came out a few years back?

Perhaps the Gender Genie works best with works that subscribe to common gender stereotyping? Authors who rise above such stereotypes are hence wrongly typed?

Chet said...

I think Sharon is right when she said it has more to do with the style of writing than the gender of the writer.

I submitted excerpts from different catergories of my blog, and figured the "Friends" excerpts would be more feminine, and the "Gadgets" excerpts more masculine. To my surprise, 8 out 10 "Friends" excerpts were thought to be written by a male, and 4 out of 5 "Gadgets" excepts also thought to be male.

The Gender Genie claims 80% accuracy. In my case, yes, 80%, but inaccuracy!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's gender stereotyping. I can write a passage that the site will identify as female. I can also write one that the site will identify as male.