Monday, June 6, 2011

Gender Bias?

I read the other day that women are 70% more likely than men to read a book by a member of the opposite sex. I find this kind of depressing and fascinating at the same time. So, I thought maybe we could have a little debate about it.

First, do you think this is true?

Second, do you find that you read more books written by one gender or the other? If so, why?

Third, do you feel there is any argument to be made that either gender is better suited to write a specific kind of book? What is your reasoning behind that?

Let the discussion commence! *grabs popcorn*

33 comments:

  1. I wrote an adult spy thriller with a 50 year-old male protagonist. And my author name on the front is clearly female. I'm wondering how this will go over when the book is released. Huh.

    I don't think there's any argument to be made about which gender should write what genres. That's dangerous territory, and I personally feel that it just depends on the writer and what's being written about.

    Can I have some of your popcorn?

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  2. Michelle, I've had some of the same concerns about my book so I know exactly where you're coming from.

    I agree about who should write what genre being dangerous territory, but I know women who won't read a romance by a man... so the whole thing makes me very curious.

    Sure! *shares popcorn*

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  3. Wow, women who won't read romance by a man? You know, I've seriously never cared what gender wrote the books I'm reading. It's never been an issue for me, so that kind of blows my mind.

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  4. Same here, it kind of shocked me, but yeah...I guess the bias goes both ways. That's why I thought it would be interesting to discuss. It never occurred to me to care what gender an author was either, but apparently, some people do.

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  5. Sounds like it's probably more of a personal problem than anything else. Davin from the Lit Lab also opened me up to another problem - fiction and race. Apparently a lot of fiction is rejected if it's about a specific race (Japanese characters, for instance) and not written by that an author of that race.

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  6. Ugh, ignore my typos. And I realize that after saying what I just did that it's not just a personal problem. I can see it being a big problem if it's true that a large percentage of men won't read a book by a female author.

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  7. lol, no worries. :) Yeah, I do think it is a big problem. I heard that's why J.K. Rowling went by her initials when targeting a middle grade cross gender audience. She wanted to make sure boys would read it.

    I've also heard about the race thing. It's all very complicated.

    *eats popcorn*

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  8. *eats popcorn too*

    Where is everyone else?

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  9. Hmm... I don't know. Maybe they don't like popcorn first thing in the morning? *offers fresh fruit*

    ;-)

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  10. I'm writing horror, and if we're honest it's a male dominated territory.

    Does that mean men won't read me? I think in the end it depends on how well I write. Then again, if they're already biased that might be difficult to gauge.

    I think to draw a line through what women or men are more likely to read, stinks of a woman's lib issue. For example to say only men will read horror or thrillers, unlikely to foray into contemporary...Or woman will be satisfied reading romance and safe who dun'its.

    The question was are men likely to read woman authors? Or vice versa? I think if a woman writes to a man's interest - there is a probablility. Woman however are more likely to explore authors and cross genres than a man. Then again, maybe I'm the one thinking backwards assuming men are more likely to stick with the men's club.

    I'd be interested to hear a man's opinion about this subject.(Hugs)Indigo

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  11. I've noticed men and women tend to focus on different things as writers, but as a reader I try to keep an open mind. I don't know if the gap is so much that men won't read women so much as many women target their writing to other women, without expecting a man to be interested. Publishers probably widen the gap. I'm happy to say my hubby reads on both sides of the gender line.

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  12. Indigo - I write psychological thrillers with a male protagonist and so I know exactly where you're coming from. I've decided to go by my first initials as well just to remove that possible factor from the equation (my agent agrees on this, just fyi.

    JoLynne - Yeah, I think that may also be true about the target audience, but yay for your hubby! Way to break stereotypes!

    As far as the men's club Indigo mentioned... there may be some truth in that. Esquire recently published a list of authors their readers (primarily men) should be reading and there was only one female on the list. (I think 25 total, but I'm not positive about that). So that only perpetuates the men's club appearance.

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  13. Jenn, you know what I've found interesting? The amount of men who have read and enjoyed CINDERS. Yes, the book with an obvious female author, female protagonist, and female themes. I find that absolutely fascinating!

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  14. Michelle - that is interesting, but here is a question for you. Did the men that read it know you, or their wives know you? Because I think the entire issue here is about a person seeing two books on a shelf in the bookstore, all other things being equal...consciously or subconciously, does gender factor in? Know what I mean?

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  15. Most of them seem to be people who know me, yes...mostly the husbands of women who know me. I know exactly what you mean. I still think it's fascinating that they'd even consider reading it, and then liked it when they did. :)

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  16. Oh, and I had one reader say she was in a hospital waiting room and a male doctor looked at the book in her hands (Cinders) and said he'd read that just based on the cover. Honestly, I'm a bit confused. I'm really interested to see how Monarch does because although it's a thriller with a male protagonist, I wrote it aimed at middle-aged women.

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  17. Oh yeah, I totally think that in the actual reading of a book they've already chosen to read--gender plays much less of a role. It's great that they enjoyed CINDERS. It's an awesome book and it doesn't surprise me that they did. :)

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  18. Me too, I find the whole thing very curious. Very curious indeed.

    (Don't ask me why I just dropped into a character from an old British mystery, because I can't explain it.)

    Carry on.

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  19. It's the popcorn and early hour. 'Tis indeed. ;)

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  20. Haha! Interesting result. I would've never imagined.

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  21. In my experience I've noticed the men around me don't care who wrote it as much as who's reading it. I've seen books written by women, like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, readily consumed by the men in my family. Something like Twilight, however, not as much, simply because of all the screaming tween-fangirls. Some of them still read it, but it was harder to get over the idea that the book was a book for heartsick teenyboppers (which if I'm honest made it hard for me to pick up the book at first too).

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  22. Candi - this actually makes a lot of sense to me. Obviously Suzanne Collins wasn't hurt by her gender, and I know a lot of men who read Hunger Games. Hmm... I wonder how much the buzz and by whom will alter a readers choice. Great comment!

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  23. I believe it. I think guys assume women just write romances.

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  24. I just asked my boyfriend, who is very testosterone-y, if an author's gender mattered to him at all and he said "nah."

    He went on to say that he likes to read graphic novels and comics (he's a lifelong comics fan) by women because they are so rare in that world.

    After thinking about it, I realized that most of my favorite writers are men, something that I've never thought about before. Hmmm.

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  25. I'm not going to lie. When I found out a man wrote "The Magicians and Mrs. Quent" I was surprised. I probably wouldn't have bought it if I knew that. I know, so closed minded. But in my experience (which is limited) every time I've read a man who tries to throw romance into his book (Dean Koontz comes to mind) it feels so unnatural and feels like how men want a woman to be (I'm sure men feel the same way about how some women portray the men in their books). But after how well the author of the book I mentioned before did, I think it's time to forgo my bias. And, also, I think this only applies to romance for me (not romance novels, but when romance is involved in a book). I think men and women can equally do action, mystery, etc. I think it's when romance is thrown in that we see where the differences in opinion lie.

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  26. Donna - Yeah, it seems at least some people think that way.

    Cynthia - I wonder if this situation is kind of preaching to the choir. Anyone who is a writer or is close to a writer wouldn't be as likely to make those kinds of snap judgments. Hmm...

    Kasie - I think it's interesting that you feel like romance is the main area of differentiation, but I totally agree that there is a trend for women to write men that are what women want them to be and men to write women that are what men want them to be. So, good point! :)

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  27. I was going to write something similar to Kasie, but she nailed it for me.
    I find that I read more books written by women than men. I'm not saying I never read books by men, because I do. And I usually like them a lot. I just tend to gravitate more toward women writers, since they seem to write more in the genres I read. :)
    I've talked to my hubby about him reading books written by women, and he says it doesn't matter. He likes both. I think it all just comes down to the book. If the writing is solid, the story good, and it has compelling characters, I don't care who it's written by. :) Whew. That was a novel on it's own! lol

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  28. Honestly? I don't care if the author's a man or woman. What I really care about is if it's well written. I'll pick up up no matter what gender the author is but they've got their one chance. They can wow me or the recycle bin. I used to be more open but there's so many books on my TBR list that I don't have time to waste anymore.

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  29. I find I go more by style than by the sex of the author. That being said, I'm more likely to read romance by women and absurdist/humorous fiction by men. I'm not entirely sure why that is. I absolutely judge a book by its cover because I have very rarely been lead astray by that. So, it's more of what catches my eye than the name on the jacket.

    Nicholas Sparks and Nicholas Evans put me off of romance by men because I've noticed that they're usually more depressing. The happy ending I've come to love and expect usually isn't there, or if it is, there's a whole lot of "SERIOUSLY?!" and "You really just killed 15 of my favorite characters" going on before it happens in a somewhat anti-climatic way. Romance to me is wish fulfillment and it's harder for a man to tap into those secret wells of want that women keep inside.

    Conversely, I tend to appreciate the humor of Christopher Moore and Carl Hiaasen a tiny bit more than I do that of their female counterparts. I feel that men can generally pick up something absurd and run with it more than women.

    It comes down to the individual author though. I've given it a try from both sides and at this point, that's where my preferences lie.

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  30. This a very informative post. I have a male protagonist, and the book is written in the first person. I'll have to keep this issue in mind if I get to the publishing stage.

    Personally, I think I probably read male and female authors equally. But that's just me.

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  31. Sorry, I seem to be incapable of posting anything without typos.

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  32. Chantele - Great minds think alike, huh? :)

    Laura - way to put your foot down! Tell it like it is, woman! :P

    Randomist - I've felt that longing for a happy ending that was disappointing to say the least. Great points!

    Elizabeth - Typos are our life-blood. ;-) No worries.

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