Gender Matters

Recently Mike Duran brought up the issue of guys reading books with female protagonists. His conclusion, essentially was, guys don’t read girlish books because they are guys.

Makes sense. Interestingly, the majority of the guys who commented–maybe all of them–said they were fine with female protagonists. It is romance they aren’t interested in. I suspect they were using “romance” as a code word, though, for “stuff women like.”

A Charmed Life coverI have a sneaking suspicion that those guys would also not be a bit interested in reading Shelley Adina’s The Fruit Of My Lipstick or Who Made You A Princess, Be Strong And Curvaceous, or The Chic Shall Inherit The Earth. Or how about Jenny B. Jones’s The Charmed Life, even though one reader says it contains “mystery, comedy, romance, action, and drama”?

Of course, not all girls will want to read those books either, but my guess is, you’d be hard pressed to find ten guys willing to pick up one in a book store, let alone buy it and read it.

On the other hand, it’s not a stretch to imagine girls reading the latest sci fi or horror or thriller or suspense. What genre don’t women read? Men, it would seem, as a class of people, draw a line when it comes to their reading and say, Nope, I don’t want to go there and so I won’t. Women, on the other hand, seem, as a group, less inclined to lines.

Why?

Because gender matters. Men and women are wired differently.

HeteroSym2Our anatomy differences, we’re all too aware of, but we also have a different chemical make up (which is why some vitamin companies sell a multiple vitamin for Her and a different compound for Him), differences in our use of language, and differences in our brain structure which ought not to be minimized. That women more easily access both hemispheres of our brain allows us to be interested in a wider variety of things–stuff guys are typically interested in because of their left brain dominance as well as the emotive stuff, the heartwarming Hallmark Hall of Fame type stories typically thought to interest women.

Granted, I’m speaking in generalities. Of course there are guys who also have a wide assortment of interests and girls who don’t want anything to do with trucks or tanks or spaceships or footballs. But the fact remains, the generalities fit most guys and most girls

What’s my point? The fact that girls have a wider variety of fiction they read and enjoy than do guys is another indication that gender matters.

People who want to say that guys don’t like girlish books because society has programed them that way have no answer as to why girls read widely, venturing into “manly” genres with no qualms. We women are in the same society and ought to have been programmed as the guys have been.

But the truth is, women and men are different. I know that’s a radical thing to say in this day and age. But it’s true. Gender matters. It really does make men and women behave differently, think differently, and apparently, read differently.

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Published in: on March 7, 2013 at 6:43 pm  Comments (10)  
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10 Comments

  1. You know, when I was younger gender didn’t matter to me. Male or female protagonist? Didn’t matter. Yet as I’ve aged, more and more I prefer to read books with a female protagonist. And I find I prefer female writers these days. No idea why – just seems to be my taste these days.

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    • I wonder what brought about the change, Erin. Do you think it’s simply a matter of exposure? Perhaps if you found the right kinds of books with male protags . . . I’m curious if you’ve read any books by, say Davis Bunn recently. It would be interesting to see if once you got into the stories what you’d think.

      Becky

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      • I haven’t read anything by him, but I’m always willing to give a writer a try; I’ll send you a note after I do.

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        • For some reason, his was the first name that popped into my head, but there are lots of other guys who I think write good fiction and who you might enjoy. Mark Bertrand, Shawn Grady, Donn Taylor (I think his name is–writes mysteries).

          Becky

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  2. This time, I have a question, rather than a comment. I have hear Gary Smalley speak on this issue. Given that men receive this testosterone “bath” in the womb, generally resulting in a more linear approach to life, does this mean that writers should alter the plot structure to a more linear approach, when writing for men? Do they prefer non-fiction to fiction? I once heard that men need stories to relate to what they learn, apparently more than women, and I found that odd. But, perhaps it is true and that it helps a man extend himself in a safe way. Any ideas?

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    • Peggy, I read Smalley, too, and even bought a video series on the subject. (I think the book and maybe the video series is called The Language of Love, not to be confused with others by different authors with similar titles.) He really opened my eyes.

      I hadn’t thought about the linear aspect, though. I think that’s a valid point.

      Smalley expounded the idea that men, when given information (e. g. “I’m so frustrated at what this person did at work today”), respond with information (“have you tried doing X or Y to fix the problem, or maybe z?). To enable them to tap into a circumstance emotionally, tell them stories (“that would be frustrating. I know I’d be really upset too”). He used Nathan’s story to David as a pattern. (All this played a part in me becoming a novelist, BTW.)

      How true it is, I don’t know, but it sure made sense to me. It may not always achieve the results or trigger the response we desire, but I think stories do help communicate feelings to men.

      Which makes me wonder about why men don’t like romances. Hmmm. For some reason, that’s just a given and no one I’ve heard from has asked why.

      Becky

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  3. Studies say women have a greater need for words, saying 3x more of them per day than their male counterparts. I’d say on average they read that much more too.

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    • Interesting, Bob. I’ve heard women use a greater number of words than do men, but I hadn’t thought about intake. I wonder if anyone’s done studies on that.

      Becky

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  4. Those seem to be gross generalities. What about individual differences? For example, the Bible is full of romance, especially portraying how God romances each of His children. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only man to appreciate that. Many female authors have held my attention. Ted Dekker collaborates with females, and I enjoy what they bring to his books. If I find a female apologist the likes of C.S. Lewis, I will read her. I like male and female protagonists equally. I realize I’m missing the point, and I’m a little off subject here, but most of my female friends love the same classics as my male friends do. LOTR seems to be universally liked, for example. Many times the genders overlap quite nicely, even literarily. 🙂

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    • Len, absolutely these are generalities and lots of people won’t fit them. But enough do that it’s worth talking about, I think, especially if we are trying to understand reading habits and how to reach the greatest number of people.

      Your point about your female friends doesn’t surprise me at all. This verifies that women are more willing to cross over into “men’s arenas” than men are to cross over into women’s.

      Of course there will be those who don’t think “men’s arenas” or “women’s” should exist. But I think that’s asking for the impossible.

      Becky

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