Gender Genie: JB Handley’s Results

18 Nov

In amongst the fun and games of “I’m Bonnie” something that JB Handley said intrigued me.

Sullivan claims to be a man, and is actually a woman. Anyone who reads dozens of Sullivan’s posts, as I have, would probably reach the same conclusion. It’s hard to hide your gender when you write…

I wondered what The Gender Genie would make of JB Handley’s own writing style:

There you have it – the Gender Genie thinks JB Handley writes like a girl. Now, what about Sullivan?

Woah – the Gender Genie thinks Sully is all man. Hmm.

24 Responses to “Gender Genie: JB Handley’s Results”

  1. Emily November 18, 2010 at 20:25 #

    OK, I gender genie’d my own blog post about Handley’s hilarious misstep (, and here are my results:

    Words: 474
    (NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

    Female Score: 384
    Male Score: 677
    The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

    I’ve always said it: I have a male brain. I guess this means I am *not* Bonnie Offit.

    • Kev November 18, 2010 at 20:41 #

      But do you have an _extreme_ male brain Emily? 😉 If so, I’ll email SBC immediately!

  2. Joseph November 18, 2010 at 21:09 #

    It’s a very difficult machine learning problem, unless the person says something like “I went shopping for shoes.” It’s not like spam filtering, where you can achieve 95% accuracy with a naive Bayesian algorithm.

    So anyone who claims they can tell the sex of a person just by looking at their writing is full of crap.

  3. Chris November 18, 2010 at 22:17 #

    So I looked at the blog postings I have done at ScieceBasedParenting, and put them through the genie.

    The first was “Boulder Public Library Speaker” about Wakefield’s talk there. I removed the parts I quoted from both the press release and the GMC ruling and came up with:
    Female Score: 1072
    Male Score: 1487

    The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

    Then I did my Vaccine Week posts (using the MS Word file that I composed them on, and hopefully excising most of the quoted bits, except for the rotavirus one, that I did on the fly), so for the collection I get:
    Female Score: 2383
    Male Score: 1959

    The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

    Okay, them I cut and pasted the homeopathy article I posted last night (which has already been visited by Nancy Malik!):
    Words: 1338
    (NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

    Female Score: 1979
    Male Score: 1912

    The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

    Well, it is a recipe!

  4. Liz Ditz November 18, 2010 at 22:29 #

    Oh Joseph…don’t spoil the fun!

    But more seriously I find things like the GenderGenie to be offensive on some level I can’t articulate.

  5. Clay November 18, 2010 at 22:37 #

    I’ve just tried the Gender Genie on several of my pieces, and got very different results. One was F – 1702 and M – 1404, and another was F – 1903 and M – 2303. Other results were equally in disagreement.

    If nothing else, the Gender Genie is a handy way of finding out how many words are in an essay. It counts them for you.

  6. Sullivan November 18, 2010 at 22:39 #


    I’d be proud to write “like a girl” as one person put it to me. To pick one out of many, I will never be able to write as well as Kathleen Siedel.

  7. Brian Deer November 18, 2010 at 22:44 #

    Well, I just put 1543 words from one of my next stories into the aforementioned programme.

    My male score was 1462. My female score, however, was 2032.

    Shit, I AM Bonnie Offit!

  8. David N. Brown November 18, 2010 at 23:07 #

    I find JB’s line of argument here strikingly similar to his mysogynistic rants against Amy Wallace last year.

  9. Emily November 18, 2010 at 23:23 #

    Kev, for a female, it may be an EXTREME MALE BRAIN. Dunno what SBC would make o’ that. This is really entertaining all around. I had no idea that JB could genuinely entertain like this.

  10. David N. Brown November 19, 2010 at 02:54 #

    I tried this once, with a chapter from one of my stories; I would have tried more, but for some reason it suddenly became impossible to go to the site. The site is completely stupid, and it’s inauspicious that the algorithm its creators “simplified” was authored by three specialists in math and/or computers, and one English professor. It guessed my gender right, but that could have been random chance. Here are what the site lists as “male” terms:

  11. Science Mom November 19, 2010 at 05:49 #

    By AoA (il)logic, that would only prove that Paul must be writing for Bonnie er, Sullivan.

  12. David N. Brown November 19, 2010 at 08:02 #

    I continued my experiment at this similar site:
    It appears more reasonably designed than “Gender Genie”. I ran nine samples through, and got 18 verdicts (based on “informal” or “formal” genres), of which all but one were “Male”. However, subtle problems were evident:
    1. Male verdicts were based on percentages as high as 70% and as low as 52%.
    2. The “genre” distinction usually meant a difference of at least 5%.
    3. Two drafts of the same chapter differed by ca. 3%.
    4. The one chapter to get a “female” verdict was dominated by dialogue between two characters called the Flea and the Tick…

    In summary, there is very good reason to doubt whether literary analysis is, at this point, useful for determining gender.

  13. Joseph November 19, 2010 at 15:54 #

    It guessed my gender right, but that could have been random chance.

    Sort of. The Gender Genie probably has an unbiased true-positive and true-negative rate of 60% to 70%. I’m basing this on the accuracy claimed for another tool, The Gender Guesser, which is said to be heavily based on the Gender Genie.

    I can confirm it’s very difficult to do any better than 70% in this particular problem. It’s actually easier to do better in authorship comparison.

    But it’s not a completely random guess, that’s for sure. This is an actual area of research in machine learning. They train the classifiers with text corpora, such as the Blog Authorship Corpus.

  14. Neuroskeptic November 19, 2010 at 18:17 #

    The Gender Genie thinks JB writes like a woman? That’s a horrific insult to women everywhere.

  15. David N. Brown November 19, 2010 at 18:49 #

    Incidentally, here’s a reply I wrote to JB’s nonsense:

    Click to access hboffitalt.pdf

  16. Prometheus November 20, 2010 at 00:24 #

    I ran some of my ‘blog posts through “Gender Genie” for a laugh and they came out about 2000 female and 4000 male – overall MALE.

    For comparison, I took my latest scientific paper (on which I was the sole writer, if not sole author) – about the same. As a control, I took papers published in the same issue of the journal my paper was in – one written by a female sole author and one written by a male: both were scored as being written by a male. It appears that scientific (or analytical) writing is scored by “Gender Genie” as male, regardless of the author’s gender.

    I then went over to one of the “lit crit” (post-modern) journals and picked two papers with sole authors, one male and one female (gender information was obtained by looking up their university websites). Both scored as overwhelmingly female.

    My conclusion is that “Gender Genie” can be fooled by stereotyped writing styles, such as those used for publications in certain fields. What it may be saying about Sullivan and JB may have less to do with their genitalia and more to do with the style of writing they emulate. Sullivan writes like a scientist and JB writes like a post-modern literature professor.


  17. Tsu Dho Nimh November 20, 2010 at 01:31 #

    Female Score: 295
    Male Score: 416
    The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

    I am often thought to be male based on my writing style. But the last time I peeked, I had the typical female accoutrements.

  18. David N. Brown November 20, 2010 at 21:17 #

    These results from these sites are even less impressive if you consider that the odds of being right just by chance are about 50/50.

  19. Joseph November 20, 2010 at 21:28 #

    My conclusion is that “Gender Genie” can be fooled by stereotyped writing styles, such as those used for publications in certain fields

    No question. It’s trained with general-population blog text, I’m sure. Of course, a more sophisticated tool would be able to properly classify the domain first, then the gender based on a domain-specific model.

  20. David N. Brown November 20, 2010 at 23:28 #

    “My conclusion is that “Gender Genie” can be fooled by stereotyped writing styles, such as those used for publications in certain fields.”

    I’m not sure whether even this is true. I tried out an “exotroopers” story where a lot of characters (especially the Flea) are about as stereotypically masculine as they can get, and still got one “female” and several “weak male” verdicts.

  21. Lindsay November 20, 2010 at 23:32 #

    I also decided to experiment a bit with Gender Genie; I wanted to see if it judged my posts about different kinds of subjects differently.

    Specifically, I wanted to see if it tended to think my posts about autism-related research articles were “male” and my posts about 1) my own life — since personal feelings, relationships and everyday life are nothing if not stereotypically feminine subjects 2) book reviews and literary criticism, and 3) feminism were “female.”

    Turns out that, as predicted, my science writing is male-like and my autobiographical writing is female-like, but my writing on such seemingly female-dominated topics as feminism and literature is also masculine.

  22. Club 166 November 21, 2010 at 05:33 #

    Couldn’t resist. Ran a post thru Gender Genie. Came back male. Just for fun, ran another-came back female. Started to doubt my sexuality, and ran another-came back male.

    I think I’ll stop there.

    Guess there’s a 66% chance that my name is Joe, and not Bonnie.



  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Gender Genie: JB Handley’s Results « Left Brain/Right Brain -- - November 18, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev, Shannon Rosa. Shannon Rosa said: Your daily chuckle: Actually, it's JB Handley who writes like a girl, not Sullivan: #imbonnie #autism from @kevleitch […]

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