Friday, June 29, 2007
Writing Like a Girl
I want to thank you all so much... from the bottom of my heart... for your good and kind words, celebrating my new call with me.
What a girlie sentence that was.
I have recently discovered this website. Using an algorithm developed by a couple of university professors of linguistics, the "gender genie" makes very reliable predictions about the gender of the author of any text which is typed or pasted into a box on the webpage.
I went to gender genie, and I pasted in a blog posting. Result: female. I used female-signifying words (such as "I," "you," and "she") twice as frequently as I used male-signifying words (such as "the," "that," and "these"). I pasted another blog post in: same exact result. By a two to one ratio, my blog writing is overwhelmingly female.
Except, for some reason, I had a hunch about something. I went and found a sermon of mine, and pasted that in. Result: male. Again, by about a two-to-one margin. I got another sermon and tried again. Same thing. At this point I was hooting and hollering and talking aloud to myself. "Oh my... !" "What the...? " "Holy....!"
Then I remembered that for Easter this year I wrote a sermon in the first person, from the perspective of one of the women at the tomb. I pasted this in. Result: female, but by only the tiniest margin. A handful of words made the difference.
Now, I am just stunned by this. I am stunned that the language I use for preaching is so clearly not my native tongue. And I am really wondering how this came to be. Is this the inevitable result of theological education? Have I unconsciously absorbed some kind of sexism? Is this the result of nearly 2000 years of preaching by men almost exclusively... have we received a tradition that is overwhelmingly male in expression as well as in content?
The RevGals have questions in today's Friday Five about personality tests... I realize that one should not put all one's faith in something so... well, arbitrary, perhaps, so artificial. But I am really, really interested in this question. And I am very interested in preaching... well, not like a girl, but certainly, like myself. I have always been under the impression that I brought my own voice into the pulpit. Does this mean I am not doing that?
So, any readers who are similarly interested in these questions: I invite you to go to the gender genie (link above) and tell me your results. Are you preaching like the gender you are? And what do you think about that?