Daisy Goodwin, the presenter of BBC 4's Reader, I Married Him, a three-part series on the novel to be shown in the autumn, said yesterday that, after interviewing writers and readers, she had concluded that "you can't have a really seriously-written romantic book written by a man". (The Daily Telegraph)I think this is related to the issue of gender stereotypes that I blogged about recently. Wenlock provides some interesting links which show that much of the seemingly scientific 'evidence' provided to support assertions of sex difference are in fact exaggerations or distortions of the research. And according to a meta-analysis of the psychological research on gender differences, carried out by Janet Shibley Hyde,
The differences model, which argues that males and females are vastly different psychologically, dominates the popular media. Here, the author advances a very different view, the gender similarities hypothesis, which holds that males and females are similar on most, but not all, psychological variables. Results from a review of 46 metaanalyses support the gender similarities hypothesis. Gender differences can vary substantially in magnitude at different ages and depend on the context in which measurement occurs. Overinflated claims of gender differences carry substantial costs in areas such as the workplace and relationships. (American Psychologist, September 2005)I'm not a scientist, so I find it difficult to evaluate the claims on either side, but it seems clear both that (a) there is no scientific agreement that psychological gender differences are immense, certainly not to the extent that they would justify a claim that 'you can't have a really seriously-written romantic book written by a man' and (b) as far as I could tell, many studies are of existing adults, who have been conditioned since birth by their nurture. The brain is an organ which develops over the years and many behaviours and skills are learned. This being so, perhaps some of the observable psychological differences between the sexes (which, in any case are small, according to some scientists) are due not simply to biology, but also at least in part to nurture.
Even if we leave aside the science, both Wenlock and The Independent provide us with examples of popular romance/romantic novelists who are male.
Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to watch Reader, I Married Him (which begins on Monday 18 September) so I'll have to depend on other people to tell me about it.