April 24, 2004

Is Sex Reeeaally Necessary?

There's a spirited discussion going on in the comments pertaining to John Hawkins' last post on sexism. Most of it is fluff and bullshit (as with most comment threads), but there are a few interesting remarks, including one from a woman who maintains that female bloggers are more inclined to be prey to stalkers or harrassers than male bloggers.

This may or may not be true, but many more females than males feel they need to blog under a pseudonym (e.g., "Attila Girl") because there is the danger not so much of someone thinking we're right-wing blowhards, but of actually trying to do us harm.

Does the fact that many of us use "pen names" detach us more from our online writing? After all, nothing I write here is much of a resume builder in the outside world. That extra layer of protection can end up harming us.


Posted by Attila at April 24, 2004 06:10 PM

Or it may free us from from inhibitions and let us express how we really feel.

Of course, a good bottle of wine will do the same thing...

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 25, 2004 05:32 AM

Well, first, electronic communications have a well-known tendency to escalate in a way that face-to-face (or even written) communications do not. I’d guess that using pseudonyms may contribute to that, although some of the worst examples I can think of had no trouble using their real names . . . often in a code-duello sort of way.

From my experience, it is simply a fact that women attract creepy stalkers in a way that men do not. We keep a “stalker file” at work filled with correspondence of just such a type. Thank goodness, we’ve never had anyone actually stalk one of our employees or models physically (as far as I know), but the potential is always there.

I think that the bigger problem with blogging as resume-building has nothing to do with pseudonyms or gender, and more to do with the opinion of mainstream publishing towards blogging: that is to say, not very good.

Posted by: Christophe at April 25, 2004 10:14 AM

I am a professional journalist, freelance writer and political columnist. With few exceptions (only one really, and everyone knows it's me anyway in that instance), I use nothing other than my real name. The joke among people who know me is that I am too conceited with my work to attribute it to anyone other than myself. But the real reason is that I believe in accountability. If you are to put forth an opinion, then having your real name on it entails responsibility and keeps things genuine. Death threats are overrated, especially among 99 percent of the population, though work frictions can be an issue.

A female classmate of mine, an aspiring writer, told me that she plans on publishing under a male pseudonym. This is a girl with a beautiful real name, yet the name she picked is mediocre. I asked her why this was the case; she replied that a mediocre male name will get her further than a good female one. She said she knew this from experience. If this is the case, then it needs to change and now. Otherwise we will continue to face pointlessly snobbish name battles for years to come.

PS-I write for real publications, but I love blogs. They give free speech to everyone.

Posted by: Ian McGibboney at April 25, 2004 07:57 PM

Pixy: I'm with you.

Christophe: I think the attitude toward blogging will change. In the meantime there are those isolated instances of people getting all kinds of paying gigs through their blogs--book deals, paid column (some even in print), and the like.

Ian: as you know, I think being female is pretty much a neutral value if the quality of one's writing is high. But I have a respect for the fact that there are stalkers out there. As far as I'm concerned, I'm accountable for what I write here. I'm simply, at this point, unwilling to use my real name in doing it.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 25, 2004 11:18 PM

I'd say that, for me, there is no correlation between anonymity and the quality of product. If someone has good content, I'll read them. I have bad content, nobody reads me.

Posted by: Gilly at April 26, 2004 07:51 PM

What enables me to blog with my full name is not so much my sex, but the privilege of tenure.

Posted by: Hugo Schwyzer at April 28, 2004 10:46 PM

That's an excellent point; remember what happened to John Lemon's blog?--first he got threats of people "outing" him as a conservative, and then he went in and edited out any information he thought might identify him. I think after all that it was inevitable that he'd lose interest for a time. I still hope he revives his blog; he's a funny guy. I miss him.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 29, 2004 12:12 AM

I have a hard time understanding how a young fledgeling writer can know from experience that a male name will hurt or help her. I know at least one professional writer who chose a female pen name because he thought it would help him.

I believe that with many of these things, a female name, or femininity, will hold benefits and assets as well as hindrances. This is why I find much of this discussion just silly. People like John Hawkins and Meryl Yourish are both perfectly silly on this issue. There are ways in which you will get more attention and be taken more seriously if you are female, and areas where you may have a harder time. Just deal. It happens. Men face benefits and pitfalls, they're just a bit different.

Hawkins is being a right-wing ass but not everything he says is completely wrong.

As for stalkers: if you talk to the police they'll generally tell you that men are often the victims of stalkers, they're just less afraid of them and less likely to report them. I think male pseudonyms are just useful for women who wish to avoid the inevitable sexual come-ons that will be thrown their way, which has little to do with sexism (i.e. any notion that women are inferior) so much as the fact that men are simply prone to act that way and you're not going to stop it short of beating it out of them.

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