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Submitting Like A Man

Am I Man Enough?

This is the second installment of the blog series Submitting Like A Man (SLAM), created by writer Mya Kagan. The project examines what happens when Mya resubmits scripts to previously rejected opportunities, this time using a man’s name. For more on SLAM, check out submittinglikeaman.com or follow @theSLAMblog or @Mya_Mya.

In order to launch Submitting Like A Man and begin resubmitting my scripts as a dude, one of the first things I had to do was create my alternate male self, who we’ll call Max. Max isn’t the real name I’m using, but I can’t blow his cover and reveal the actual pseudonym; the only person who knows it is my partner of eight years, and that’s because he’s the one who came up with it.

As a playwright, I am basically a professional character developer, so before I could do anything, I had to get my head around who this person was. On one hand, I felt the need to make Max as realistic as possible, and for him to truly be a realistic man, there were things about him that inherently seemed like they would have to be different from me. On the other hand, I felt obligated to maintain integrity to this project’s main concept—that the only differing factor between Max and I would be the gender a person would assume based on name.

Male writers’ scripts are different than mine, so their chances are also different because of their plots and characters and word choices. But in Max's case, his plots and characters and word choices are exactly the same and yet, at least statistically speaking, his script is four times more likely than mine to be produced.

I ended up settling on the latter. As I’ve discussed before, this project is far from scientific. Since there are many factors that I can’t control, I decided I should keep steady whatever components I could, and Max should be exactly like me, with no differences except for his name and the gender it implied. Creating a personality for Max would have been too much like creating a fake person and not enough like me working under what is essentially a pen name.

Max also needed to be exactly like me because it was important for him to maintain all my same demographics, other than gender. Just like me, Max would be 31 years old, white, heterosexual, and Jewish. Submitting Like A Man is about examining what happens when the gender changes—not a free-for-all way to make myself eligible for every competition out there. Max will not suddenly become Latino or gay just so he can apply to a festival meant for Latino or LGBT writers. Max is only applying to things that I am eligible to apply to as myself.

After SLAM launched, I heard from a lot of men who admitted they had been tempted to change their names and apply as women so they could be eligible for female-only opportunities (my impression is that none had actually acted on the temptation). It’s my opinion that it would be unfair to change my name in order to gain entry to something for which I otherwise would not be eligible. In fact, Max is excluded from some of the opportunities on my list I am eligible for as a woman. So in those cases, I had a foot in the door that Max does not. (Take that, fake alternate male self!)

a woman smiling at her computer
The author at her computer.

What’s been interesting to discover is that, even though I chose to make Max identical to me, being him does not feel the same as being my regular self. Take Max’s Twitter, for example. Yes, that’s right—Max has his own Twitter, which means I now administer three Twitter handles: @Mya_Mya for myself, @theSLAMblog for this project, and @HaHaYouThoughtI’dTellYou for Max. (See what I did there?) What’s been unusual about managing Max’s Twitter is that for the first time in my life, I’m on the flip side of targeted marketing. Instead of Real Simple Magazine and fashion blogs, Twitter suggests that Max should follow sports, finance, and business. So even though Max may write like me, think like me, and interact with the world like me, the world’s response back to him is different than mine. And even though it’s no secret that there are ways in which men and women are treated differently (especially in marketing), it’s bizarre and somewhat enlightening to actually experience it from the other side.

The other notable experience is that even though—or perhaps, because—Max is exactly like me, I sometimes find that I resent him. For example, if I stay up late finishing a submission he’s sending out, I grumble; it feels a little like doing someone else’s homework. What’s more, it feels like doing someone else’s homework when you expect that person to get an A even though you already turned in the same assignment and got a B. Obviously that’s a generalization that works on the assumption Max will be more successful than me, which will not necessarily be true, but considering the statistics that around 80% of shows produced in the US are written by men, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Max will have a better shot at this than I did. Think about it: his qualifications are identical to mine—no more, no less—and yet he stands a four in five chance of being produced, whereas I had a one in five chance.

Does this mean I resent all male writers for their four in five chance? Of course not. Their scripts are different than mine, so their chances are also different because of their plots and characters and word choices. But in Max's case, his plots and characters and word choices are exactly the same and yet, at least statistically speaking, his script is four times more likely than mine to be produced. And what did Max to do increase his odds so dramatically? Nothing. Just change the name on the cover.

In moments like that, I have to remind myself that Max is on the side of gender parity. Like me, he supports efforts to create equal opportunities for men and women alike. But for now, he’ll be here, submitting like a man. 

Thoughts from the curator

The project examines what happens when a woman resubmits scripts to previously rejected opportunities, this time using a man’s name.

Submitting Like a Man


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No matter if the statistics are accurate or not, this still brings up a good point. Men are very obviously treated differently than women (and I’ll take the stretch to say they are treated better), but that is why feminism exists. This project is one of many ways to keep collecting evidence of the gender differences that exist in society, as well as in the working environment including the theatre community. This is mostly for the people that just can’t grasp the idea that it has always been a problem. As a woman, I feel the need to say that we have to at least start somewhere. I think it’s a brilliant plan. To emphasize further, I’ll use an analogy: every penny counts.

I'm with you sentiment wise, and so looking forward to finding out what happens, but I am pretty sure your math is not right. Max individually doesn't have a 4 in 5 chance of being produced. A man does. Nor do you have a 1 in 5 chance of being produced. A woman does.

In the simplified math scenario, 100 plays get produced in a year, 20 of them will be by women and 80 by men. So if you are a man there are more slots for your play to get into. And if you are a woman obviously less.

And if there were 80 male playwrights and 20 female playwrights (and every slot had to be filled by a different playwright) then you would be golden.

But the opportunities are not that rigid. And the quotas (if they are there) are not that strict. There are probably more like 15 possible plays (total) for every slot, including slots where you may not want your play presented. (Russian Bath House theatre proudly presents...) And one play may be over-presented that year. And one playwright might submit 5 plays that year.

I don't think that saying the math is wrong when it's wrong is man-splaining, but maybe I'm seeing it from the wrong angle.

Maybe I wasn't clear-- I am eager to see what this project finds out.

But even if she ends up batting 100% (gets every submission and Max becomes the next Naomi Wallace) or gets 10% which is a push from what she did last time or gets no acceptances with her re-booted plays-- I don't think it will prove anything. The experiment is interesting-- it's just not scientific enough for my blood.

Thanks for your feedback, Adam. As I've talked about it at greater length in the previous post and on the project's main website, I don't consider this to be a science experiment in any way. You may notice that I intentionally don't use the word "experiment" at all. To me it's an art project -- a way of holding up a lens to examine an experience. That's why I use the "simple math" you refer to in your earlier comment, and address the factors that I can't control for in my other posts.

I think that's fine that it's not scientific (and I think that as mentioned above, it would be difficult to make it scientific-- too many variables. I like it as a project. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

I just contend that to say Max has a 4 in 5 chance of getting produced and Mya has a 1 in 5 chance is not good math and is misleading.