Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dude writes like a lady

Anecdotal, but interesting:

But I was still having a hard time landing jobs. I was being turned down for gigs I should've gotten, for reasons I couldn't put a finger on.

My pay rate had hit a plateau, too. I knew I should be earning more. Others were, and I soaked up everything they could teach me, but still, there was something strange about it . . .

It wasn't my skills, it wasn't my work. So what were those others doing that I wasn't?

One day, I tossed out a pen name, because I didn't want to be associated with my current business, the one that was still struggling to grow. I picked a name that sounded to me like it might convey a good business image. Like it might command respect.


Taking a man's name opened up a new world. It helped me earn double and triple the income of my true name, with the same work and service.

Women are treated differently on the internet. This has been a point of much debate, although I'm never really sure why. You are essentially wearing a huge target on your back in a land where one's true self can be expressed under the cover of anonymity, without the worry of being admonished by twisted viewpoints they hold. And there are many that hold certain negative views and expectations on women's behavior, we know this to be true in the world at large, I'm not sure why we would argue that it doesn't transfer over and magnify itself ten-fold on the internet. I've seen male colleagues given begrudging respect for stating viewpoints while I myself was thought of as shrill for stating the same thing, in the same tone. I've had nasty things said to me without consequence, until I responded in a like manner, at which the manners police came to scold me for my uncivilly. My personal favorite though, is when I'm told I'm being hysterical or irrational for calmly stating something controversial while someone nearby is screaming their fool head off at the damned clouds.

It happens more then you'd think. People judge my intent based on who they assume me to be, any information that contradicts that assumption is thrown out rather quickly. If I'm thought of as hysterical, everything said by me will be filtered through that lens. So when we have a prevailing stereotype that women are emotional and rarely logical, and I identify as female, I've already had expectations regarding my behavior assigned to me the minute I walk in the door.

I don't think it's a reason to throw in the towel and declare failure on unequal grounds. But it is there. And you adjust your behavior accordingly. I couldn't write a truly angry, emotional screed at this point even if I wanted to, because I know what's coming if I do.

With that said, I can't really say if using my real name in my writing has an effect, I've always used it so I have nothing to compare it to. In some respects, I think it's helped me. I figure that the audience I had when I was writing for the site that shall not be named was made up of people that were (1) drawn to the feminist aspect of my regular column, as it was a niche issue that created quite a firestorm when I wanted it to or (2) liked to watch me destroy my opponents in the comments sections. I've wondered sometimes if that last bit was a tad gendered, however. I have a reputation for ruthlessly and coldly crushing egos and can easily take what I dish out, and did so in a relatively calm and unemotional manner, all of which are associated with stereotypical masculine traits. So was it that I was actually quite successful when I would debate the topics of the day, or was it that my being female and doing so made me somewhat of an amusing oddity in some readers' eyes? It's not really a question that can ever be answered.

But back to "James" here, what I find most interesting here isn't so much about the name, as it is about her taking on of what she perceived to be the male identity, manifesting itself into complaining about bitches:

Whether you think Chartrand's choice to adopt a male name was anti-feminist or illuminating, you should know that adopting a male name is not all Chartrand did.

* She also adopted a male persona—her biography refers to her repeatedly as "he."

* She also named her company "Men With Pens."

* She also crafted a company logo (above) that looks like it was directed by Michael Bay.

* She also slipped this line into the bio of one of her employees, copywriter Taylor Lindstrom: "She's the team's rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol' boys club."

* She also introduced Lindstrom to the blog as "perky," "adorable," and capable of cooking and cleaning. (In introducing a male employee to the blog, Chartrand described their relationship as "bromantic," one in which the Men With Pens "could be laid back together, chink beers and not argue over the remote control").

* She also regularly used photos of naked women to illustrate her posts.

* She also occasionally essentialized women—"all the women" loved Jerry McGuire, Chartland wrote—while conveniently placing herself outside of the gender categories she set for them.

* She also used a photograph of a man silencing a woman with his hand as the logo for a "Men With Pens" role-playing game. When a few commenters noted that the photographed failed to create an "inviting community for women," Chartrand replied: "Photography is very subjective. You see a woman being terrorized. I see a man helping a woman stay quiet so he can save her life."

* She also penned this post—amazing, in hindsight!—which instructed "mommy bloggers" to stop "whin[ing] about being stereotyped" and begin welcoming male commenters in their spaces.

She seems to feel that her male identity wasn't complete without this, something that I don't find all that uncommon with those that rely on such strict gender division. Many of the "reclaiming masculinity" movements also stress the idea that they are "not female", having their roots in the play on fears that femininity is taking over men in general. And if it's something to be abhorred, it's not surprising that they play "not female" to the point where the female must be despised in order to show how "not female" one is. But it's a rather strange way to define a gender once you think about it.

But I don't know, at this point, if this was the game she was playing, she might as well used her real name. She may have been even more popular. Women hating on women are a pretty valued commodity in some circles.

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