Over the weekend, I received an e-mail that reminded me of a somewhat interesting phenomenon that’s been going on for a year and a half now. I honestly didn’t intend to conduct an “experiment” per se, but the phenomenon in question has sort of evolved into one, mainly because I’ve obtained results that are so (to me, at least) unexpected and surprisingly consistent. I feel they’re worth mentioning, simply because they reflect an interesting social bias.
A year and a half ago, I published a novel under a pseudonym. I created the pseudonym primarily to maintain a sense of anonymity and privacy -– pretty much the same reason why I blog under the name “Sea of Green.” The author pseudonym is one of those that pairs two initials with a last name –- as in the tradition of D.H. Lawrence, or P.G. Wodehouse, or J.K. Rowling. When I wrote my author biography for the novel, I deliberately omitted any terminology that hinted at my gender. The intention was to further strengthen the sense of anonymity (though for anyone who ever bothered to research the background information I provided, it would become pretty obvious that I’m a woman). Also, the protagonist of the novel in question, written from the first-person point of view, is male.
Without exception, every person who has reviewed the book –- every magazine reviewer, every Web-based reviewer, and every reader I have heard from (including the gentleman who e-mailed me over the weekend) –- has assumed that I am a man. Also, the gender of the reviewer or reader doesn’t seem to make a difference. Man or woman, they all think I’m male.
Initially, I didn’t think much of the fact that everyone assumes I’m male -– and, in fact, I haven’t bothered to correct anybody. For a time, I even considered the assumption somewhat flattering -– a sign that I must have done a good job of writing from a man’s point of view.
However, the protagonist of my next novel -– which I’m writing under the same pseudonym, and which also is being written in first person –- is a woman.
It’ll be interesting to see what people assume when my next novel is published. I very well might end up with a lot of confused –- and potentially ticked-off -– reviewers and readers. Whatever happens, you can bet I'm going to pay close attention to the results.