Tuesday, December 15

But wait! MY penis pen is pink!

Woman freelance writer uses male pen name, gets more and better paid work.

This story, highlighted by Figleaf (and linked by Mike at today's round up) got me thinking. It should, of course, get all of us women writers really stinking mad.

It shouldn't matter what is between my legs. It matters what is between my ears and how I get that on paper.

But then I think again about me versus Pammy Atlas. And me versus Carrie Prejean.

If I was trying to please The Donald, I'd have to look like Carrie. Pammy seems to think she has to look and be a certain way for her audience, as well.

We all play to an audience. If a feminist blogger got surgery so she could look like Carrie Prejean, or started posting whiney rants about how much happier she'd be if her breasts were bigger, she'd lose her audience of fellow feminists faster than The Donald would dump a "fat chick" like me.

Everyone, everyone, markets themselves.

So, if I'm trying to SELL my work to a sexist prick editor, I put Frank instead of Fran? I'm playing to an audience, "professionalizing" my image by BECOMING MALE. Who's the fraud here?

Good on her for outing this widespread sexist assholery.

But she also profited from it.

There's sexism in the publishing industry, and "James Chartrand" took advantage of that by changing her gender. I completely applaud the outing of the sexism in publishing and everywhere. And there is a "total sell-out publicity stunt" element to this story that I find troubling.

I worry about the publicity stunt because let's face it, this story will be the most read and linked to story by "James Chartrand" for ever more. I never heard of her "Men with Pens" blog (surprise! it's all about marketing yourself as a freelancer) before yesterday, and while the publicity might make a name (heh) for her, she'll always be remembered most for her writerly strap-on. I suspect the male readers of the "Men with Pens" marketing blog will have exactly the same reactions and loyalty now that they know it's being written by a woman...

...provided she's hawt. Ever been to a marketing seminar? Seen the women there? Talked to them? If changing her name to Fred would help close the sale, she'll do it in a heartbeat? Ever met someone like that? It's not about exposing sexism. It's about selling. How terribly revealing and tragic that "James Chartrand" will tell us he's a she, but not give out her real woman name, under which she admits she also publishes. It's sad that I'm forced to wonder if she's protecting her female "brand" as much as her family life.

I also worry that this story will further commit the woman writer/feminist/blog to a self-imposed ghetto that some of us choose never to leave. In blog circles I have received raised eyebrows and stares for holding up my chin and saying "most of my readers are men, and this really has nothing to do with the panties pictures." It has to do with politics, art, the funny, and levels of interest in what I am writing about. I'm not interested in "writing as a woman" because I do write as a woman without the air-quotes. And I assume equality to every other writer out there, and if my subject matter is of greater interest to one gender, geographic region, race, age group, or educational level, my typing rate remains at about sixty words a minute. The pixels here do not have a hormonal element, so far as I can tell. If I spent every other post pointing at the (significant term here:) OUTSIDE world and yelling "misogynistic piece of shit sexist crap see! see! look at how aggrieved and righteous we are IN HERE," my world would become increasingly smaller and smaller.

I don't want a small world for myself, my daughters, son, or anyone else.

I read a wonderful quote recently, that the poet Elizabeth Bishop refused to be in an anthology of female poets, noting,

"Art is art and to separate writings, paintings, musical compositions, etc., into two sexes is to emphasize values that are not art."

As Salon points out, how many blog readers were surprised to find out Digby is a woman? I wasn't, but the surprise was interesting, wasn't it? Was HIS writing so good and political because he was a guy? Whoops.

When I sell my work, it's as Fran. Fran who drinks with the boys and isn't offended when no offense is meant. Oh honey, if the offense is meant? My pen is sharper than Lucy Liu's sword, and I'll be very humane in making sure you never feel it chop off yer head, darlin'. (This video is violent.)

If I can't sell my work as Fran, I'll do something else. But I'm not going to change who I am to SELL what I write. The Carrie Prejean plastic surgery kit, as well as the well-meaning and effective fake-name publicity stunt, will have to be sold to someone else.


  1. I actually read just for the pantie pictures. Seriously though I don't think of a blogger or writer's gender unless there's a picture or I've seen them on television. If it sells more units or gets more clicks I don't know how gender would affect an editor's decision making process.

  2. "The pixels here do not have a hormonal element"

    THAT's because you are one of the GOOD writers out here in the intertoobs.

    Glad I wandered by today, this is a great post.

  3. As much as I'd love to cast aspersions on those big bad boys out there, I have faced personal and professional backlash from other women for not being LIKE THEM, too.

    Believe me, I'm not playing down sexism. What I'm saying is people who look a certain way, come from a certain neighborhood or who have certain body parts are expected to act a certain way. When you don't act the way people EXPECT you to act, then you get the snub.

    We're all expected to pick a marketing segment and stick to it, or face the consequences.

  4. Interesting article, not the least because it's possible that, for all the information we're given, this could be a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man.

    I doubt that it is, but I've heard and read enough stories about this sort of discrimination that I figure someone good at writing characters (I'm not) could create an online persona.

    It's no irony that part of the reason I like this blogging thing is that it doesn't have to be about what I am, it's about what I write. That's one of the reasons I use an Internet persona and don't provide a real picture (despite my deficient skills at sentence construction, I'm not a St. Bernard). It doesn't really matter if I'm a man or a woman, tall or short, athletic or not, it's just about what I've written.

    I really wish it were more like that everywhere.

  5. "But then I think again about me versus Pammy Atlas."

    You win, she can't write.

    "And me versus Carrie Prejean."

    You win again, she can't think.


    I've always found it fascinating that internet anonymity has the effect that it does on the perceptions of gender made by observers on creators...Like genitals determine the level of insight or craft brought to bear on a work, not.


  6. Think we can introduce Lucy to Joe? Sexism gives me hives. Love your stuff Blue Gal - always. -g

  7. What, no trigger warnings for the objectification of The Penis?! What kind of feminist blog are you running around here?

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