Let's Play 'Find The Female'


Are your words letting your gender show?

Gender inequality in Hollywood?  Say it ain't so!
Damn, I wish I could.   When it comes to screenwriters getting access to Hollywood, I have been known to regularly spout stuff like, "Don't worry about access.  Write a good enough script and it will find its way in."  But when it comes to gender inequality, I'm a woman, so it hits a little close to home.

Gender inequality is a hot topic right now.  Well, it's always been a hot topic, but until recently, the 'hot topic' label only applied because of the massive explosions it set off in vastly male dominated screenwriting groups everywhere each time some woman dared bring it up.  The good news is, that seems to be changing.

I'm not posting to debate the question of gender inequality.  There is no debate.  Don't believe me?  Check this out: Go Into The Story posted stats back in June on spec sales broken down by gender, and it was depressing.  For a more in-depth look, check out this Women And Hollywood piece.  Then, if you still don't believe that screenwriting sexism exists, feel free to stick your head in a microwave.  (Seriously, we can debate the reasons all you want, be there is no denying that it is real.)

Yes, this stuff is depressing, but it's also good.  It gets people talking, and discussing, and cursing, and screaming, and denying, and debating, and making jokes, and it's even inspired Mystery Exec on twitter to start a movement aptly named #BeTheChange that encourages writers to create believable female characters with actual depth rather than just boobs and rape trauma.  With all this attention, gender inequality is no longer Hollywood's dirty little secret.  It's out in the open, and exactly where it needs to be in order for change to occur.

But what exactly needs to change?  Is it a 'Boy's Club' thing?  Is Hollywood simply a reflection of society?  Does it boil down to money and women not wanting, or being able to, write what the market demands? Is it just a feminazi plot to spread lies in order to take over Hollywood?  Is it simply that women tend to have integrity and won't write crap to make a sale?  I could go on and on, and honestly, it would take a PhD in gender studies and at least five years of research to come up with anything close to a decent answer.

I don't have that kind of time.  What I do have, are many opinions, which I, of course, am sure are 100% right, but that's beside the point.  I'm not writing to share them, or attempt to sway opinion.  The links I offered above are a good start if you want to educate yourself about sexism in the industry, or check out this post over on Alice In Actionland.  If you're reading this, I assume you're at least halfway intelligent and can form your own views on this very real, serious, universally damaging issue without help from me.  Me, I prefer to deal by keeping my head down and writing kick-ass scripts, still half-under the naive delusion that my work is not cut off at the knees when competing against male written scripts simply because I happen to have ovaries and a vagina.

So why am I writing about gender inequality?  It pretty much boils down to the same narcissistic reason everybody puts stuff up on the internet: someone pissed me off.  And when I'm pissed off, I do what any modern gal does; I turn to the masses to weigh in and hopefully prove me right... that is, if I can call the handful of people who read my blog a mass.

See, I recently sent a trusted beta-reader a piece of work I was particularly happy with.  I've known him forever, and he's the first to see every draft, outline, treatment, logline, grocery list, and death threat I put together.  He's heard me pitch the worst crap, as well as the occasional gem.  And he's not afraid to tell me which is which.  I don't always listen to him, but I do trust his opinion.  And it's an educated one.  He's a director who's been around the industry block long enough to have seen and given notes on more than his fair share of scripts, so it's not like he's talking out of his ass. 

The point is, he's well respected, and when he gives an opinion on all things film related, it's probably wise to listen.

But he's also my brother.  Which means I occasionally have to call him out when I think he's full of shit.

Which brings us to the point.  He took a look at this recent creation of mine, and he loved it.  Thought it was my best work to date, yada yada yada...  I should be thrilled with high praise from one who rarely gives it, right?  RIGHT?!

But there was hesitation in his voice.  This is from a man who doesn't hold back.  So I pushed.  "Spit it out!  Is it the story? The characters? The structure?  The pacing?  Some little plot point I left hanging?  Too much sex?  Too little violence? A funny Freudian spelling mistake?  What? WHAT?!"

Then he said it.

"You write like a girl."

WTF?  Me?!

I get off on guns and fast cars and violence and robots and explosions and loose women and testosterone fueled blockbusters.  He should know.  He exposed me to all of that stuff by introducing me to the magic that is movies.

When I was done chewing him a new one, he explained that he wasn't talking macro - concepts, characters, plot - he was talking micro - language, word choice, phrasing.

Yes, women use more words than men in conversation, and in writing (as evidenced by the shit-ton of words in this very blog post), but in all things screenwriting, economy is key.  I've learned that the hard way (my first script was 125 plus pages - YIKES!).  If a word doesn't need to be there, get it the fuck out.  My scripts are lean, mean, and slick.

But do I write like a girl?  Does the simple choice between 'he zipped down the hallway' versus 'he dashed down the hallway' reveal my gender? 

He was very confident that, if he read my work blind, he would be able to tell it was written by a female, and more boldly, that female writers are generally easy to spot by their word choice alone.

Holy shit!  If he's right, the implications are HUGE!  

I don't buy it.  So I'm calling a tentative BULLSHIT.

I wanna know what you think, and I wanna put it to the test.


It's time to play...

 
I've asked some screenwriters to offer up one sample page to be posted blind.  Among the six victims crazy mofos masochists writers are award winners and produced writers, so it's safe to say they've all developed a high level of word choice skills.  But does word choice reveal their sex?!

In the samples below, I guarantee that there is at least one male writer and one female writer.  Other than that, I'll say nothing.  Can you guess which ones are male and which are female?  I want to see how accurately people can judge sex with out-of-context random pages based on words alone. 

What do you win if you guess correctly?  Bragging rights, baby!  And maybe a shout-out on Twitter. 

And if enough people guess, I'll post the sexes for the world to see (and if the writers want to come forward and claim their page at that point, cool!)


RULES

1) Post your guess in the comments

2) If you know the writer and/or the script, don't ruin it for others by posting identifying info.  Keep it to yourself and be smug in the knowledge that you'll get at least one correct.

3) Discussion in the comments is cool, but sexism can be a highly charged topic, and I'm trying to learn something and keep this somewhat entertaining and fun, so please be civil.  


Sample 1
Sample 2
Sample 3
Sample 4

Sample 5

Sample 6

Click on the above samples for a full page view



So what do you say?  Will you help a girl out and hopefully prove the theory is bullshit?!  God help me if it's not.  I want to keep believing that any rejection that comes my way is due to the fact that I suck rather than the fact that I have boobs and a vagina and write like a girl.








35 comments:

  1. Interesting question. Let's see here...

    1 - Female
    2 - Female
    3 - Male
    4 - Female
    5 - Male
    6 - Male

    No idea if any of those are right, but you said we have to guess if you're ever going to reveal the answers. Quick - someone else take a guess! I have to know!

    ReplyDelete
  2. And we have our first guess! Thank you, Glenn, for stepping up.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 1. Male
    2. Female
    3. Male
    4. Female
    5. Female
    6. Female

    ReplyDelete
  4. 1 Male
    2 Female
    3 Female
    4 Female
    5 Male
    6 Male

    ReplyDelete
  5. 1. Female
    2. Female
    3. No idea, go with Male.
    4. Female
    5. Male
    6. Male

    One page is a bit tough to judge to be honest. It'll be interesting to see the results.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 1. Male
    2. Female
    3. Male
    4. Female
    5. Male
    6. Male

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks so much for the guesses! Keep 'em coming! Tony, I take it number 3 is the one giving you trouble? Anyone care to share the thought process behind their guesses?

    ReplyDelete
  8. As a reader at a production company, I can tell you that the only time I look at the author of the script is to fill in the writer line on the coverage sheet. Otherwise, I'm just looking for a quality script. Obviously, I can't speak for my bosses that actually have deciding power, but I've never heard of them use any gender generalities. I agree with you that it's bullshit thinking that one can identify, with 100% accuracy, the gender of a writer with a blind reading.

    However, I don't think it's harder for women to break into screenwriting. I just think that out of the hundreds of thousands trying to do it, an overwhelming majority of them are men. Taking into account that only a tiny percentage of scripts are good, it makes sense that the number of scripts women sell is so small. Good scripts by women represent a fraction of an already small percentage. It's not prejudice; it's math.

    That being said, the big thing with the scripts posted is that there's no context for any of them which makes them boring and hard to follow. The only one that caught my interest at all is number 4 because it was the only one with a clear, concise story in my opinion. I'd be interested in seeing the answers to all the scripts just to see if the ratio matches the current makeup of screenwriters by having mostly male samples. However, I don't have much interest in guessing the gender of each script because it's the furthest thing from my mind when reading scripts. There are usually dozens of story issues clouding my mind.

    Good luck with your writing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anon, thanks for chiming in. Did you take a look at the links in the post? The numbers seems to indicate that the percentage of women making sales is much lower than the percent of women writing. That being said, having done some time as a reader myself, I agree that gender never consciously crossed my mind.

    ReplyDelete
  10. 1.Male
    2. Female
    3. Female
    4. Female
    5. Male
    6. Male

    ReplyDelete
  11. Female, Male, Male
    Female, Male, Female

    ReplyDelete
  12. 1. Female
    2.Female
    3.Female
    4.Male
    5.Female
    6.Male

    ReplyDelete
  13. I think honestly that there are some confounding variables to explain why, according to the Nicholls Fellowship numbers, 28% of screenwriters are women but 13% successfully sell screenplays: and that is that the majority of scripts being sold are action movies, thrillers, and science-fiction movies -- all somewhat male-oriented genres, as opposed to the more grounded dramas and comedies that might attract female writers more.

    Obviously that's still based on sort of broad generalizations, but it might explain the 15% discrepancy.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Produced screenwriter here. It's too tough a call. The examples given have too many variables and would certainly be more valid if based on same/similar genres/scenes/characters.

    My overriding thought is that it's much easier to define author gender in fiction than drama, as the limitations and rules of form (for writing drama) are naturally more inclined to create more similar aesthetics on the page than with fiction.

    ReplyDelete
  15. If I had to call it I'd say. Some of them I had some pretty nebulous reasoning for deciding on though...

    1- Female
    2- Male
    3- Male
    4- Female
    5- Male
    6- Female

    ReplyDelete
  16. All these anonymous posters. Yikes! Makes it really hard to reply.

    To the last poster: Success? I don't get it. No guess has nailed it yet (although one has scored 5 out of 6). Or are you just expressing joy at being about to post after wrestling with failed attempts with a pain-in-the-ass comment box?

    To 'Produced Screenwriter Anon.': I agree, six samples from the same genre would have been a better test.

    To the Anon. quoting stats: So do less women write in male genres, or do they just not do it as well as men? And if so, is the reverse true? Do males not write romantic comedies as well as women?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1: female
      2: male
      3: male
      4: female
      5: male
      6: male

      I'm glad I made my choices before I read this: "No guess has nailed it yet (although one has scored 5 out of 6)." That might have affected my choices.

      Delete
  17. 1-Female
    2-Male
    3-Female
    4-Female
    5-Male
    6-Female

    Interesting thought experiment. Of course, now I'm curious for the results!

    ReplyDelete
  18. "To the Anon. quoting stats: So do less women write in male genres, or do they just not do it as well as men? And if so, is the reverse true? Do males not write romantic comedies as well as women?"

    I would think it's the former -- less women writing in "male" genres.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Well this is very cool. http://www.hackerfactor.com/GenderGuesser.php

    According to this, I am male.

    ReplyDelete
  20. 1-male
    2 female
    3 female
    4 female
    5. male
    6. male

    ReplyDelete

  21. Verdict says! 63.15 Male! Correctamundo.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Here's my guess:

    1- Female
    2- Male
    3- Female
    4- Female
    5- Female
    6- Female

    This was fun. Don't know if there's any way to really tell gender via writing. But it's a cool experiment.

    Sherlock Holmes @beavercleaver11 on Twitter

    ReplyDelete
  23. 1) Female
    2) Female
    3)Male
    4)Female
    5)Male
    6)Male

    How wrong was I?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oliver, not even close. A couple of the guesses have been close, but nobody has nailed it. As far as I'm concerned, that's great!

    ReplyDelete
  25. When will you reveal the answers?

    ReplyDelete
  26. I'll give it 'til the end of the week. I thought someone would have gotten it by now.

    Time for a hint, maybe?! There are two of one gender and four of the other.

    ReplyDelete

  27. I'll stick to the choices I made in my tweet even though I know its wrong based on above hint.

    1)Female
    2)male
    3)Female
    4)Female
    5)Female
    6)Female

    ReplyDelete
  28. Yes, I think Jeff's onto something here.

    I too will use 'Jeff logic' for my informed guess as to what two examples are one gender and what four examples are the other.

    1)Female
    2)Female
    3)Female
    4)Male
    5)Male
    6)Male

    ReplyDelete
  29. 1.Female
    2.Female
    3.Male
    4.Male
    5.Male
    6.Male

    ReplyDelete
  30. 1.Female
    2.Male
    3.Female
    4.Female
    5.Male
    6.Female

    _JJ

    ReplyDelete
  31. All genders are revealed in this post: http://www.singlescreenwriter.com/2013/09/and-winner-is.html

    ReplyDelete