the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

“Write Like the Opposite Sex Day” – A Question

Note written an hour later after emailing with Jane:  OK – forget this post!  Write Like the Opposite Sex Day will go on like I said in the last post.  But I’ll keep this post up anyway just so you can see how neurotic I am, and how quick I am to change ideas when I hear criticism, although she was completely right on.   But who cares!   Gotta have balls, like a male writer, and stick to my guns!

Jane made an interesting comment on my last post.  I decided to quote it as a separate post. 

Not meaning to critique your idea, my dear Neil, but stereotypical behaviors and expressions are probably not that involved, outside of some comedy, in the true-to-life expressions of most modern male and female characters. . .they just perpetuate the stereotypes. 

Maybe for your next contest, you could consider blind entries — people writing  characters — and then guessing whether the author is male or female.  That would go above stereotyped expressions into who really might understand the opposite sex more.

(Please don’t hate me.  I adore you!  [she said that, not me])

Perhaps she has a point.  If a writer tries to “write” like the opposite sex, won’t the results be characters who are stereotypes?  Sure, it may be funny, but it won’t help us understand the other sex any better, or create strong characters.  After all, not all women think about shoes all the time, like the gals on “Sex and the City.” 

I’m a man, right?  I don’t watch football.  I rarely drink beer.  I watch “All My Children?”  How do I fit in?  I worry that if we try too hard to write like the opposite sex, the results will suck.

If I am going to write like “a woman,” maybe I should avoid thinking of her – first and foremost — as a woman.  She is a human being.   A mother in North Carolina might have more in common with a male Eskimo than another mother down the block.  Maybe the mother and the Eskimo both have phobias about snakes, or both had a controlling father!   I can delve into a female’s character motivation and emotional state without even thinking about her gender.  Wouldn’t this be the best way to make a female character three-dimensional?

When I talk to you on IM, I don’t say to myself “this is a woman.”  OK, sometimes when I look at your photos on Flickr I do, but that’s for another reason.   And it usually sounds like “This IS a WOMAN!” and my mouth is hanging open.  You are a person first, a person with neurotic character flaws — before you are a woman.    Some of you like to cook and some of you play roller derby.  Some of you do both.  And what’s wrong with me watching “All My Children?!”  And most of these external things are just the surface of the real person.

Of course, there are some stereotypes that exist because they are true.  Men and women act differently.  Our brains are different.  And there are differing social constraints.  But real character is internal…. what goes on in the brain.   Honestly — I have this strange feeling that some of you nice mommybloggers who write about knitting and cooking, are way more kinky and perverse in your minds, than any of us guys talking about our “dicks” all the time.

So, what do you think?  Should I continue my contest the same way I outlined it earlier?  Or will we just get stereotyped nonsense without stretching our writing skills?  Or should I change it to Jane’s idea? — you send me a paragraph of something you wrote as yourself, and then something written “as” the opposite sex.  Anything you want.  I will post them without revealing the author’s name.  Others will then vote on each piece — was it written by a man or a woman.   It would be like in the old “To Tell the Truth” game show:  “Will the real man or woman please stand up?”  Later on, I will reveal who wrote each paragraph, with a link to your blog.  The one who fools the most people wins!

I’m all about destroying gender stereotypes!  Would Jane’s idea be a better way of doing this?  What do you think?

And yes, Tootsie DVD will still be given to the winner.


  1. Nat

    Jane makes an excellent point. I like people because they’re people. (And I hate the term Mommy Blogger.) Don’t know if my post would be any different if I were a man except that I wouldn’t write about bra sizing. I just wonder if maybe I don’t understand men. (Entirely Possible.)

  2. Neil

    Nat, thank God you aren’t a man, because that was the best post you ever wrote. You’ll have to guess why.

  3. Memarie Lane

    I also hate the term Mommy Blogger, but I like your original plan. For one thing, if you change it that means I can’t post it on my own blog. My blog is pink for Pete’s sake, it kind of gives things away.

    Yes, the results might be stereotypical. Because that’s the way life is. And avoiding the way life really is isn’t really achieving the purpose, is it? I’m not going to write about a man who always orders white wine and a salad with fat-free dressing because that would be ridiculous.

  4. Neil

    Memarie — So if I wrote an anonymous post about some “person” drinking wine and watching “All My Children,” would you automatically assume that the writer is a woman or … uh, me?

  5. Kathy

    I like the “blind entries” idea. I’ve always thought my writing-style — at least online — wasn’t stereotypically “feminine,” because I don’t give *hugs* or squee! (it actually pains me to write that), and I’d call myself a geek before I’d call myself a girl, but that’s narrow-minded on my part.

    There’s this thing called “The Gender Genie” where you can submit a short piece of writing and it guesses whether the author is male or female. (Sorry, I no longer have the link. Bad geek.)

  6. Memarie Lane

    Neil- with you it’s a toss-up. 😉 And I mean that as a compliment.

  7. Lady Jaye

    I’m good either direction. I think it sounds like fun to try to write as a man. Maybe that’s just because I have more in common with men than women.

  8. nelumbo

    Why all the hate on the mommy blogs! Mommy bloggers have a instant connection since we’re all going through the same things.

    I’d like to make a more insightful comment here, but I’d rather go look at shoes on Zappos…stereotypes are there for a reason!

  9. Neil

    Another wimpy action on my part — I took out the stupid line about Mommybloggers. It had very little to do with this post. Thanks, Nelumbo.

  10. Avitable

    I think the blind taste test is a good idea, but for this plan, I’d say stick with the original.

  11. Caron

    You always make me think about things in a new way. Would I use the “voice” of the guy I just broke up with? my brother? the kids at school? All men, but, all distinct and very different from one another. Hmmm?

  12. anymommy

    Tough crowd. I was all pumped to write a post after an enlightening conversation with my stereotypical husband regarding what he would blog on my blog, if given an entry of his own.

    Now I feel all simpleminded and judged and stuff. I need a hug.

  13. Mocha

    It would be so fun to do this but I know I’d just stick to male stereotypes and end up writing about playing with my ding-a-ling throughout the whole thing. Maybe I’m just classless. Which is worse? Classless or stereotypical?

  14. Jeannette

    Oh, nevermind my comment on the previous post, you figured it out!

  15. Iron Fist

    I finally feel like someone understands me, Neil. I don’t watch football, either!

  16. better safe than sorry

    why can’t you do both, your idea first, followed by jane’s idea next week?

  17. Noelle

    If nobody guesses correctly, the winner could be decided via a pissing contest, but I’ve yet to figure out how to do that via the internet.

  18. Neil

    Better Safe — Great idea. Now I know you’re a woman. You have nurturing ideas.

    Noelle — Now that would be something to see on Youtube!

  19. churlita

    I’m a woman who watches football, drinks beer and doesn’t watch All My Children. So, maybe you’re right about the stereotypes. I can be girly too, I just like the freedom to watch football and drink beer and wear make-up and cute clothes all at the same time. I don’t think I’m asking too much.

  20. John

    “How do you write women so well?”

    “I think of a man. Then I take away all reason and accountability”

    — Melvin Udall
    “As Good As It Gets”

  21. Danny

    I’m curious to see the results but I wouldn’t have a clue how to do this. I fear I’m already way too in touch with my feminine side.

  22. chris

    Stick to your guns, Neil. Balls man! What is wrong with identifying stereotypes? Comedians talk about taboo subjects all the time…because they are funny. Stereotypes are funny. Why not try it one way, and if that blows, try it the other? There is nothing saying you can’t do it twice, right?

  23. bookfraud

    your sydney pollack tribune was apropos — it’s a matter of writing from inside the character (inner voice, emotions) versus the outside of the character (stereotypes). just like acting — dustin couldn’t have embodied dorthy michaels otherwise.

    there are plenty of female writers who write convincing male characters, and conversely.

    in other words, it don’t mean a thing whether or not it got that schwing.

  24. Lynda

    I think you should stick with your original plan.

  25. HRH @ June Cleaver Nirvana

    All this mind changing has me worried if you are a woman?

    So, am I supposed to send you one or two brilliantly constructed non-gendered pieces?

    Wherever this ends, I think it will be fun…

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