So recently VS Naipaul said something about women not being very good writers because they're not masters of their house, and sentimentality overcomes their prose. Obviously this isn't a very wise or true thing to say. I don't find much sentimentality in Iris Murdoch, and I'd defy anyone to argue that Fay Welon and Hilary Mantel aren't in control of their own houses. Besides, who says that being either sentimental or feeling inferior in some aspects of life aren't useful traits for a novelist? It's not who you are, but how you translate your experiences on to the page, that makes you a great writer. Not all prose should be about running your own destiny and being hard as nails. I like Hemingway, but after a few of his novels I'm more than ready for Anne Tyler's take on the American experience.
As for being able to tell if a woman or a man wrote something - I'm amazed at the amount of romantic novels that are written by men. But they use pseudonyms because apparently the world of publishing thinks that we woman readers will be put off by male romance writers. So there we have identified the real problem: not women writers, but woman readers:
1. Women readers only like books about romantic stuff written by other women who are exactly like them.
2. Women readers hate it when space or cars or mechanical stuff intrudes into a novel. They'll spend the whole book club meeting moaning about it.
3. Women readers like it when front covers are pink. With dresses on.
4. Or they like covers that are black. This way they know whether they are reading a romantic novel or a crime novel. Women readers only read romantic novels or crime novels.
5. Women readers need their books to have a heroine with no undesirable character traits. It's best if they've been a bit of a victim at some point and are still feeling sentimental about it.
See? Sentimentality is the fault of the reader, not the writer. All those women writers, and even the male authors who are pretending to be women in order to get published, are writing this sentimental victimised claptrap in order to please us. We are truly the scum of the reading population.
Male readers are much better. You can write whatever you like to please a male reader as long as you put a sex scene in it.