In this excellent post, Rosalynde talks about the gender differences in subject material among Deseret Book writers. This renews the discussion brought up by Taryn Nelson-Seawright on the same difference existing in other Mormon outlets. Explanations abound for this phenomena, ranging from differing preferences to piggy discrimination, but most of them are sort of boring. Here’s one that is at least slightly more interesting:
Suppose there are two kinds of writing, which we’ll call A and B. When men and women talk about A in an informed way, what they say is pretty much the same. An example would be a proof of the intermediate value theorem. The proof runs pretty much the same no matter the gender of the speaker. Type B things on the other hand, are much more subjective, and so tend to vary some by gender. Poetry or fiction tends to vary depending on the author’s personal characteristics, of which gender is a big one. What this means is that type A is unified, but type B can be divided into Bm and Bf, to be very simplistic. Thus there are now three kinds of writing, A, Bf, and Bm.
Given this world, let’s suppose that there are more men publishing than women, owing to the fact that more women are caring for children and more men are supporting families. Where should woman writers concentrate her efforts? Well, since there are few Bf books around, but plenty of men in Bm and A, this scarcity drives up the return to Bf, making it easier for her to get published, to earn more when she does, and to feel like she has made a unique contribution.
As a variation on the model. suppose that men don’t actually write very much poetry, so that there really is not all that much demand or supply of Bm books. Well the man are all going to end up in A books. This will tend to push the women out, because they have a high opportunity cost of writing an A book– they could be writing a Bf book.
This idea (which I got from somebody but can’t remember who) surely does not explain the entire gender gap. But then, I doubt any one thing does.