Kurt Vonnegut

The gender pronoun test: What the ratio of 'he' to 'she' says about our favorite novels

The gender pronoun test: What the ratio of 'he' to 'she' says about our favorite novels

Writers are told to “write what you know,” so perhaps it would follow that men write more books about men than about women, and women write more books about women than about men.

To find out if that’s true, I scanned hundreds of novels and counted the appearances of two short words: “he” and “she.” By that standard, it seems my “write what you know” intuition was right, but that’s not all: The Pronoun Test in works of fiction reveals a stunning imbalance in representation. Like the Bechdel Test for films, it serves as a simple barometer of sexism.

Among other samples, I ran the test on a comprehensive list of the best English-language fiction of the 20th century maintained...

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