James Chartrand, Men With Pens, male psuedonyms
Jess McCabe // 16 December 2009
Probably you’ve already read James Chartrand’s story by now, as it’s been whizzing around the feminist blogosphere since it broke. James Chartrand is the blogging psuedonym for the woman who created web design and copywriting blog Men With Pens.
She wrote up the whys and wherefores of adopting this pseudonym over at Copyblogger, some of which illuminates yet again the sexism that women writers face, and particularly mothers working from home:
I earned $1.50 an article. I averaged $8 a week.
I was treated like crap, too. Bossed around, degraded, condescended to, with jibes made about my having to work from home. I quickly learned not to mention I had kids. I quickly learned not to mention I worked from my kitchen table.
I quickly learned that this sucked.
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.
No hassles. Higher acceptance. And gratifying respect for my talents and round-the-clock work ethic.
Business opportunities fell into my lap. People asked for my advice, and they thanked me for it, too.
Did I quit promoting my own name? Hell yeah.
Eventually, I had earned enough income and credibility to get a mortgage, and I bought a tiny, modest house for me and my kids in a quiet town near my mum. It was the first home of my life I could truly call my own, paid for by long hours and hard work. Paid for by my own sweat and tears, at the tender age of 37.
Meanwhile, Amanda Hess at Washington City Paper’s sex and gender blog The Sexist is amoung those who have posted quite critically.
I don’t think there’s something ‘wrong’ with otherwise self-identified women writing under a male pseudonym or a male online identity (it’s fairly common in lots of online worlds, and done for many reasons).
The Sexist, however, really pins down how Chartrand used sexism and gender stereotypes to sell her work. Just to begin with:
* 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.
Ann at Feministing puts it like this, and I have to agree:
It was not a test of whether you can get ahead by adopting a male pen name. It was a test of whether you can get ahead by pretending to be part of the ol’ boys club. And the answer is a resounding, but not surprising, yes.
Personally, I think this does constitute using sexism for career advantage, and that is crappy when anyone does it. And, even more so, it’s incredibly crappy that this is such an effective tactic in becoming successful.