Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Teaching: On Gender and Writing

I’ve been at leisure this week, mostly concerned with reading, my low-paying part-time job (writing), and organizing the vast number of files and folders generated by the 2011-2013 school year. I usually start that last bit when the “back to school” ads start airing on television.
As an ongoing project, I’ve been keeping track of the type of student who takes my classes. I’ve broken them down by gender, academic track, and income (as much as I’ve been able to discern) as a way to inform my future teaching. For example, I can tell you that, mirroring national trends, young women take my creative writing and journalism classes far more than young men.

In an effort to find out why, I turned the data into an inquiry task and posed it to students last year. Some of the results of that assignment can be found here. At the end of the next school year I plan to release a writing guide (likely as an e-book on a Creative Commons license, although I’ll print a class set) geared to high- and middle-school students, and I want to make sure it is applicable and approachable to writers of all gender and stripe.  
             So, writers and readers, why aren’t more boys taking my classes and how can I make the writing text interesting to them?


  1. One word: diaries. Young ladies keep diaries and I think there is a bit of stigma that writing down non-school related thoughts is a bit of a girls game. Somewhere along the line, writing lost its manly appeal.

    Even in middle school and elementary school, the mandated composition notebook for your language arts classes, that the teacher calls a "journal", can be easily misconceived as a thinly veiled attempt to keep a school related diary.

    Not sure how to make it more attractive other than introducing male students to writers who lived precarious and insane lifestyles. That sort of thing seems to appeal to them. Break out Midnight In Paris (film), or a copy of Hells Angels. Unfortunately, the school system might frown on that sort of thing.

    1. Dear Diary,
      Today I became a woman ...

      That's the sort of stuff you mean? I see your point, but I don't (at least I don't) equate journaling with writing. In my classes the kids don't keep journals; they have a daily writing prompt (usually something ridiculous from my head), and that serves as a warm up.

  2. I've also noticed this trend in the writers groups I've attended over the years. The women outnumber the men 3 to 1 it seems like. Weird.

    1. 's weird ... as we men become less "manly" (ie, unable or unwilling to do traditionally manly things), you'd think we'd be more willing to sit still and do quiet things, like writing.

      Considering the examples of the ever-macho Hemmingway and Dr. Thompson above, maybe it's the lack of manly virtues that's keeping us off the page.

  3. Outnumbered three to one? Sounds like you need more workshops.

  4. From @grokdad :
    if you told guys they'd be outnumbered by women three to one, you'd fill your classes. I'm just sayin. :)