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Rhetorically Constructed, or: We All Write Like White Men, Part 2
cap, captain miss america

Thanks, [info]fourzoas, for the subject line :-P

I wrote to Dmitri of Codingrobots, the site responsible for “I Write Like” yesterday, after I posted about it, and linked him to my post.

I would feel remiss to share his response as it was a private email and I did not ask to, but he replied swiftly and promptly.

His response was in two parts. The first part disheartened me, as he said that the software couldn’t tell what race or gender the authors were. He seemed to think that my complaint was that *I* didn’t get a woman of color as my response to the meme.

He also said that he thinks men and women are stylistically similar so he didn’t see the big deal.

However, he closed by saying that if I wanted to recommend him some authors to add, to please do so.

I’ve sent him a list. If you want to send him one, his email address is dmitry [at] codingrobots [dot] com.

[info]intrepia compiled a list of authors in the meme as of yesterday afternoon. If Dmitry’s estimate that there were 40 authors included is accurate, this is a complete or near-complete list:

Douglas Adams
Isaac Asimov
Margaret Atwood
Jane Austen
L. Frank Baum
Ray Bradbury
Dan Brown
Raymond Chandler
Lewis Carroll
James Fenimore Cooper
Daniel Defoe
Charles Dickens
Arthur Conan Doyle
Ian Fleming
Harry Harrison
Ernest Hemingway
James Joyce
Stephen King
Rudyard Kipling
Jack London
H. P. Lovecraft
Vladimir Nabokov
George Orwell
Chuck Palahniuk
Edgar Allan Poe
Mario Puzo
J. K. Rowling
J. D. Salinger
William Shakespeare
Iain Sinclair
Robert Louis Stevenson
Bram Stoker
Jonathan Swift
J. R. R. Tolkien
Leo Tolstoy
Mark Twain
Kurt Vonnegut
H. G. Wells
Oscar Wilde
PG Wodehouse

That list contains 37 white men and three white women. There is not a lone single author of color anywhere on the list. If I’ve somehow mistaken someone’s racial background, I apologize, and please correct me.

In other news, this post has gotten me a +1 for the day and a -1 for the day.

In +1 news, Margaret Atwood retweeted my tweet!

Pix, because it happened:

That sort of makes me feel like I’ve entered a magical alternate reality!

But in bad news, I had to screen a comment on my blog because someone actually left hate speech! With words I don’t care to repeat in it and everything. I was somewhat shocked. Fortunately, that is what screening is for.


The (once again prompt) reply I got from the creator of the meme is so frustrating that I’m no longer feeling that I owe his privacy any respect. Here you go:


Thanks for your reply. I’ve added more writers into the database
recently. But I *absolutely* will not add people into the database due
to their race or gender. I will not search for lists of white, black,
Asian, Hispanic, or any other types of people that you _took care to
differentiate_. All people are equal to me, and equality means not
looking at skin color or different types of chromosomes.

I think the question is closed.

Dmitry Chestnykh
I Write Like

I got my keys to my apartment, so next post will be empty!apartment pics!

Mirrored from Antagonia.net.

Is he fucking serio-you know what, yes he is. Jesus wept. >.< Can I kill this colorblind bullshit with fire?

You could send it an email with a list of authors or go post a critical message on his blog?

I agree that he should not add writers to a database because of their race or gender. They should be added because they are good writers. This person does not seem to see this.

He doesn't distinguish between quality of writing because he sees all writers as equal.

(Deleted comment)
wow... wow. I have no words. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was just screwing around with a widget till now. Mind if i link to your post?

Dear Dmitry,

If all people really were equal to you, you wouldn't mind looking for other authors anywhere you could find them. A refusal to do so tips your hand.


Or, y'know, the part where he didn't bother to include any of the authors of color who were ON the lists he used as sources in the first place. At least he got some of the women.

Oh, right. Noticing that his list is all white people means we are not enlightened enough to ignore race like him. I'm so glad he explained that.

You don't understand, they are just better writers. Like Dan Brown.

What a jerk.

*giggles* I made a title!

I thought it was apropos!

And like I said to you yesterday, pretty much. :-P You are getting recycled comments!

Yup. Thanks for making the list, though. It was kind of awesome.

Thanks, this was well-timed; I was talking about the lack of diversity in this meme with a couple people yesterday. I linked your post in my journal.

No problem, thank you for the link.

Oh boy, the "I'm ~colorblind! Everyone's equal to me! YOU'RE the racist for bringing up race!" trope. Because, you know, that one never gets old. Ugh.

Also, boooo to hate speech comments.

Yeah, I was a little flabbergasted that someone needed to go out of their way to assert their white hetero masculinity on my blog in that manner.

So if he wants to add all writers equally shouldn't he have spent longer prepping before going live and done more than 40 writers? Did he ever actually give you the criteria he used on picking them? I agree with everyone else who is like "this is totally not the best writers ever" so I'm not quite sure where he got his list from other than "the first 40 authors he could think of that he thought most English-language people would have heard of".

Good luck with your move!

Yes, he says he used the top downloads on Project Gutenberg and the list of "bestsellers" on Wikipedia, but there are white female authors and authors of color of both genders on those lists who are not represented here. So he was obviously exercising some selectivity.

And thanks! Pics up soon.

I tried to comment to Dmitry's blog about the sexism and racism, including saying that it's absurd to claim that it's the software's fault that the results are skewed toward men and not his own for programming in such a biased selection...

Apparently my comment was too critical, because over 24 hours later it's still screened even though other new comments are viewable.

In other news, I made a post encouraging people to check this out, because it's good stuff.

I'm a little confused. Am I to understand that having, say, Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou included in the list of authors against whom one's prose could be matched would be some kind of "improvement" to a meme that is, putting it mildly, a pile of steaming horse puckey at its very core?

Are we to require stupidity to embrace diversity for its own sake?


I really do need to comment to say just how much I love this comment...


Wow. Do you mind if I link to this entry elsewhere? There's an article on Jezebel about it and a lot of commenters are trying to figure out just how many women/POC are in it, and how those included were selected.

Go for it. The other one has some information in the comments-- he told me how they were selected.

Another weird thing that struck me on seeing this list was that Leo Tolstoy is the only author who writes/wrote in a language other than English. It'd be one thing if there were *only* writers who wrote in English, because then that's just what we'd assume the meme would be comparing among (although, maybe that'd be a problem in and of itself); but, once Tolstoy is included (really, translations of Tolstoy, I'm guessing?), what that reveals to me is that non-English-language writers have in fact been candidates all along, and that there are therefore just even more people / groups of people that are being excluded here.

When I looked over the Project Gutenberg Top Downloads list, Vatsyayana and Sunzi were both high up on the list. He would have had to actively choose not to include them, especially since the Kama Sutra is the number one download, or was the day I checked it.

And seriously, who the hell wouldn't want to get a badge saying they write like the Kama Sutra?

People still use the colorblind line? Cripes.

Also, you rock for this. :)

Edited at 2010-07-15 04:04 am (UTC)