I may be one of those people who sees the world through rose-coloured glasses, but when I stumbled across this experiment by Catherine Nichols, I almost fell out of my chair. Partly because my name is Catherine, but mostly because for a grown woman, it appears that I’m as naive as a toddler. I assume individual equality, and I always play by the rules. (Ahem, fortunately, they’re my rules.)
Catherine had been sending out queries to literary agents for a novel she had written, and was receiving minimal responses. Now, this in and of itself is not unusual, however, it wasn’t her first novel, and she (along with her published writer friends) knew this novel was good. It had that something, and you just know. After some 50-odd sends to agents, she had two requests for a full and an inbox full of form rejections.
And so it was on one fine Saturday morning, feeling discouraged and perhaps low on java, she created “George Leyer” and gave him his own bare-bones email account. She copy/pasted her query and used all the same language, only now the queries came from George instead of Catherine. (And because my dog’s name is George, I figure her story is a sign from the universe.) She sent out one query, and as she prepared the second, there was already a response from the first in the empty email account. What the… on a SATURDAY? It read: Mr. Leyer. Delighted. Excited. Please send the manuscript. She sent a total of six queries that Saturday, and she received five responses before the end of the weekend. Three requests and two personal rejections praising “his” abilities. By Monday morning, she had deduced that the novel wasn’t the problem, it was her as the author.
In a puff of slighted rage, Catherine rolled her experiment out to 50 agents, some of them she had already queried under her own (female) name. “George” received 17 requests for a full manuscript. He was eight and a half times better at writing the exact same novel. Not only that, his rejections were personal, warm, and full of compliments and advice.
Now, for new and budding authors that send out queries, our name is likely the last thing we’re thinking about. In fact, it’s usually the only thing we figure we got right. The query itself is a fierce animal that often takes longer to write than our precious novels. We brood, we re-write, we take critiques, and then we spend large parts of our days curled up in the fetus position licking our critiqued wounds. There are as many authoritative types telling us the ‘correct’ way to structure a query and send our proposals as there are writers trying to get noticed. With all of this complex publishing science to navigate, now we have to worry about the name we attach to our work?
And if you do lie to 50 agents, 17 of which ask for a full, and let’s say a handful of those want to represent “George”, what’s that awkward conversation going to sound like when they find out that he’s a she?
I don’t know how to feel about any of this. Is this an anomaly? Tell me what you think.
Self-sabotage in the words of… Phillip?
You know when you’re sitting around in the car waiting for someone, and you’re so bored that you start going through your Facebook newsfeed on your phone—clicking on all the posts that you didn’t give a frac about earlier in the day? Yeah, well that was me yesterday. Sitting alone in the dark, playing Russian roulette with strangers posts.
First, let me clarify, I don’t normally click posts (even in extreme boredom) that look sketchy or are likely to piss me off. So, here was the link to an Upworthy video, titled: Homosexuality Is An Annoying Thing Someone Invented, So This Group Of Americans Is Un-Inventing It and I’m thinking—I don’t even want to know what that’s about. So instead, I skim the comments, ’cause there’s plenty of those and I can be a bit of a comment whore. I mean, who isn’t, right? I’m pretty sure that’s what makes Tumblr an up-and-coming social juggernaut.
I should also clarify, I did not actually watch the video that bunched up all the knickers of the commenters, I guess I wasn’t that bored. Or maybe I just didn’t care enough. (Maybe you do, so go find it here.) Sometimes it’s just fun to start with nothing and then build the story backwards from the comments. You have to have a fairly good understanding of comment player ratios though. I mean, how many of the educated versus uneducated, the douchebags versus the do-gooders and that sort of thing. (I affectionately refer to this as the science of Trollology.) It puts comments in perspective.
While I may be a comment voyeur—somewhere in the forever alone statistics, “Phillip” is a comment activist. A rare contributor. (Since I have no comprehension of Bulgarian—written or otherwise—Phillip is what I’m calling him. )
Any comment that starts with “Woah there!” on its own line… has my attention. I mean, Woah where? What’s happening? Who pissed you off? Tell me everything. I must know. (Because I’m sitting here in my truck with nothing better to do at the moment.)
And while I silently expected to be entertained with emotional trite—Phillip had me. He understood the basic underlying issue in all LGBTQ discussion. (In fact, most people issues, full stop.) He’s identified the chipped corner on the building blocks of all we know of each other today. The fact that we did this to ourselves. No, really. If we want to make things better, we need to stop pointing out differences—primarily our own. Just stop. Don’t be different. Just… BE.
Here’s his excerpt, and just for the sake of his own protection and anonymity (on the internet? Pishaw! Well, at least on this blog.) I obstructed part of his name.
What do you think? Does that make sense to you? Does it make you angry? Serious? Are you emotionless? I’d really like to know. (I’d also like to update my pie chart with current stats.)
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Tagged as bias, comments, gender, gender equality, homosexual, labels, LGBT, LGBTQ, memes, upworthy