A question of Gender

March 7th, 2008 by Jodi

If you found a book that interested you, and you read it cover to cover and liked it, would it matter to you who the author was?  Would knowing the author’s name change whether or not you liked the book?  Would the author’s gender matter to you?

My answer to all of those questions is no. 

It might be of interest to me that a particular book was written by a man or a woman, in that “huh, that’s cool”, kind of way, but would I be upset to find out that an author was (or identified) as one particular gender or another?  No way.  As with everything in life, someone’s gender (or gender identity) has nothing to do with their talent, their intelligence, or their creative soul.  Their gender has nothing to do with whether they are able to write a good story, and it certainly has nothing to do with whether they ought to be writing in any genre.

Another question for you.  If an author has a gender-ambiguous pen name, does that mean they are being disingenuous?  If they are female and write under a traditionally male name does that mean they are ashamed of who they are?

Certainly not.  A person may write under any pen name they choose.  Authors that write under pen names have important reasons for doing so, and I assure you that the use of pen names is about privacy, not about shame or deceit.  And, yes, and author is entitled to their privacy.  A reader is not entitled to know everything there is to know about an author.  Authors are not required to have a public face; they are not required to blog, or to make public appearances, sign books, or any of those things.  And the simple fact is that not every author can do those things anyway.  A lot of us (yours truly included) have day jobs and families and other committments.   If a writer chooses to appear in public in person or on the internet it’s generally because they want to meet their readers and other authors, and they want to market their work.

And my final point is that no one should ever make accusations without getting their facts straight.  Bear in mind that the internet is often not the place to turn to for dependable information.

My points are these:

1.  An author’s work speaks for itself.  Just as we’re told we should never judge a book by it’s cover, never judge an author by their gender representation (or lack thereof).  Read, and judge them fairly.

2.   Authors are people, too.  Human beings with lives, family, stress, adversity, and bills to pay just like everyone else.  Real people with real feelings.  Think twice before you treat them otherwise.

Thank you for reading.

Posted in musings

6 Responses

  1. rbm00

    I agree that an author can choose whatever pen name he/she wants to, and that they have their own reasons. I disregard the gender of the author when I read or choose books. But I know it’s not the case for everyone. Sometimes you see reviews on Amazon (for gay-themed books) where people say they were reluctant to try the book at first because it was written by a woman, then they end up being surprised at the depth of the work. Or not.

    Good post :)
    What prompted it?

  2. meridae

    ::ponders this:: It kind of does and doesn’t matter to me, just in the way I match my fic to my mood I think. I do believe that in some cases there is a difference between the way men and women write m/m fiction - but there’s also a huge amount of overlap. The generalisation for me was that women would write with more emphasis on the relationship and emotional side of things, while men would be more likely to move quickly to the down and dirty. BUT there’s a lot of writing for which that doesn’t hold true, and for which the reverse is true - I’ve noticed this happening moreso as the genre has developed on the Interwebz and gotten more outlets for professional e-publishing. I’ve also noticed that, when Torquere, for instance, first started up, nearly all the authors picked male pseudonyms, as if that would make the fiction more acceptable . . . now days I think everybody is more likely to pick a pseudonym that reflects their true gender. The genre of m/m at least has definitely progressed in positive ways!

  3. Monica

    Interesting question… I have to admit when I first encountered the Deviations series I had assumed Chris was male, yourself female. This went so far that I marveled that Chris’s website had such a feminine touch. LOL. Yes, I can have a thick head at times.

    In anycase, at no time did I consider your genders as relevant for the writing. Quite the opposite, I’ve been into slash fanfic long enough to know that by far the majority of writers in that arena are women. Regarding how men and women differ in their writing, honestly I don’t have enough male samples to claim to have a handle on this. But I do think there is something to women being more verbal, men being more visual… thus the predominance of women into slash.

    I’m curious too, what prompted the post.

  4. Jodi

    A number of things over several months actually “brought this on” - comments by readers that I’ve seen in other author’s blogs, an email I received a while back about Deviations: Bondage, some submission calls that want stories written by men or women only - but really, it was just that it was on my mind and I felt like talking about it.

    I just wonder sometimes why someone would feel they needed to search the internet to find out an author’s gender with the express intention of “exposing” them, as if it was some big secret in the first place. That’s just mean-spirited.

    It’s not my place to go into details, but it happened recently to Chris, who makes no secret of her gender, thankyouverymuch. The very idea that she would be ashamed of being a woman is outrageous and I have no idea where this reader could have gotten such an idea.

    And, anyway, you just don’t mess with people I care about without some consequence. ;-)

  5. Gina Marina

    I’m curious about whether the author is male or female but really, it’s the story that matters! What I don’t like is when an author changes style, have a couple of sweet books then come out with one that more raunchy. Without any warning it’s a huge surprise when you’re reading.

    As for pen names. Fan can go overboard when they love you and know where you are. One of my favorite SciFi/Fan authors had some fan show up at his house with a case of books to be signed.

    Another fav said to never write under a name where fans can look you up in the telephone directory.

    Personally, I have two pen names but both start with Gina, which is my real name. That way I’ll respond when someone calls to me if I ever get big enough to go to siginings :)

  6. pir

    hi — here because i just read your and chris owen’s deviations series and was very impressed. thank you; it was very instructive (besides being hot as hell — and i am not into BDSM :).

    i don’t care at all whether an author is a man, a woman, or transgendered; what matters is the work. and in my experience when the work is good one can’t tell the author’s gender; quality of imagination, research, and craft transcends gender. i boggle at people who think it matters — nobody expects that somebody who writes insightful, terrifying stories about serial killers be a serial killer.

    with low quality work i _can_ often tell (especially when it comes to erotica), because there are some gender-based types of mistake made by people who think they can write erotica without having done much research or for that matter even just speaking with people of the sex they’re portraying.

    i like gender-ambiguous pen names. i am slightly less fond of people whose pen names pretend they’re of another gender than they are. which is interesting, because i don’t actually think an author’s gender is any of my business. ambiguity fits right with that, it even underlines it. but pretense to be something specific feels like i am being lied to, just a little (it’s not like a pen name is something about which i’d feel betrayed, so it’s not a big deal; just a twinge — and i am not sure i ought to feel this way at all).

    but i don’t think it’s about shame. i think sometimes it’s about marketing, or even about acceptance — used to be that female science fiction writers didn’t have much of a chance unless they wrote under male pen names. that’s a sad commentary — not on the authors, but on society.

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