Gender and WritingEdit

The fields of gender study and composition overlap in several areas. Researchers and scholars in both areas overlap opinions regarding gender and autobigraphical writing, gender and grammar, as well as gender and audience. Scholars agree that there is still much research to be done in this field, as gender identity is very relevant in the research and writing of today. 


I. Gender and Autobiographical Writing

II. Gender and Audience

III. Gendered Grammar

III. Works Cited

I. Gender and Autobiographical Writing

It has been argued by scholars that since men and women have different relational capacities and differ in their processes of moral and intellectual development, it would only be natural to see differences in the way that they write. Scholars have found one of the major differences in male and female student writing to occur in the field of the Autobiographical Narrative.

There have been many common findings in the field of Gender and Autobiographical writing. One of these commonalities is that gender affects the topics that students choose in their autobiographical writing. In small group studies of student writing, women’s narratives tended to focus around connection in relationships and the finding of one’s own voice. In the same study, male narratives tended to focus on individual achievement or a struggle to achieve a goal. These struggles in achievement often led to individuation and the narrative’s goal was to show how the writer set themselves apart from others by achieving their goal (Flynn).

These predictable gendered narratives create problems for students in the classroom. In particularly, teachers tend to categorize male narratives as cliché and machismo. They group them in the same genre, which includes stories emphasizing achievement, self-glorification, and individuality. It has been generalized that male narratives tend to exclude strong female figures and uphold problematic gender stereotypes (Tobin).

Conflicting scholarly opinion argues that male narratives should not be approached with stereotypical notions and expectations; rather they should be appreciated for what they offer. It has been suggested that readers of male narratives should attempt to understand the culture of the adolescent male in order to make sense of the underlying issues that may be involved in their narrative. Also, readers should leave biases and gender associations aside when reading any heavily gendered narrative.

II. Gender and Audience

Scholarly opinion on gender and how male and female writers are perceived is mixed. Studies have found that when gender of a writer is unknown, readers “construct a sense of gender that is wrong half the time” (Haswell 233). Studies have also found that gender stereotypes play a role in how readers make their assumptions. Readers assume that males are “independent, confident, and egotistical, and females (are) dependent, insecure and connected with what other people think” (Haswell 233).

Studies show that in grading of student’s essays based on gender, “Readers gave [a female writer’s] essay 10% more positive critique when they knew it was written by a woman than when they did not know the sex of the author, and gave [a male’s] essay 5% less positive critique when they knew it was written by a man than when they did not know” (Haswell 233). The same study also noted a different trend which was called “same sex depreciation” in which “When the sex of the author was known to readers, males rated [a male writer’s] piece lower than did females, and females rated [a male writer’s] piece lower than did males” (Haswell 234).

III. Gendered Grammar

Historically there has been much debate surrounding the use of gendered pronouns such as “he” or “she”. The male pronoun has been favored in history due to the origins of the English language. Scholars argue that “the masculine tradition in English stretches from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, although its origins go back much farther” (Sklar).

It has been suggested by some scholars that writing should be “sex-fair” and not favor the male or female voice. One way to achieve sex fairness although confusing, can be to alternate the use of male and female pronouns. For example, “Following a head injury, have the patient lie down and remain completely quiet no matter how she feels. Have him do this even though he acts all right and insists that you leave her alone. Keep the patient flat on his back (or face down if he's vomiting) if her face is gray, blue, or pale” (Nilson).

Another way to achieve sex fairness in writing is to use words not marked for gender such as I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours, you, yours, it, they, them, their, and theirs. These kind of gender neutral terms usually produce the most natural sounding writing. Another way to achieve same sex fairness in writing is the use of dual pronouns. For example in the sentence “Imagine your brother or sister ran away”, the use of brother and sister alternatively is dual. It allows for equal representation of the sexes. (Nilson).

IV. Works Cited

Flynn, Elizabeth A. "Composing as a Woman." College Composition and Communication 4 (1998): 423-35. JSTOR. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.

Haswell, Janis, and Richard H. Haswell. "Gendership and the Miswriting of Students." College Composition and Communication 46.2 (1995): 223-54. JSTOR. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.

 Nilsen, Alleen P. "Winning the Great He/She Battle." College English 46.2 (1984): 151-57. JSTOR. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

Stanley, Julia P. "Sexist Grammar." College English 39.7 (1978): 800-811. JSTOR. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

Tobin, Lad. "Car Wrecks, Baseball Caps, and Man-to-Man Defense: The Personal Narratives of Adolescent Males." College English 58.2 (1996): 158-75. JSTOR. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.