A lot has changed since the nineteenth century, when women like Mary Ann Evans (aka George Eliot) and the Brontë sisters published under pen names. Or has it?
The recent revelation that “James Chartrand” of Men with Pens is actually a women has the blogosphere abuzz with questions. In her Copyblogger confessional, the blogger formerly known as James Chartrand says she chose to apply for writing gigs with a male name, because she had a higher rate of success with prospective clients. J.K. Rowling employed a similar tactic, but her choice of name was a bit more vague.
Now, I’ve been pretty darn successful using my real name, but it makes me wonder if I would have achieved even higher levels of success under another name/gender. I’m guessing not, because while “James” conducts business exclusively through email (ostensibly for productivity’s sake, but probably also to conceal her real identity), I can’t. I’d like to, but many of my clients insist on phone calls to nail down details and many of my articles require phone interviews so I can capture voice inflection and other attributes of my subjects. Plus, while “James” blogs with a bit of a macho swagger (very convincing, I might add), my sassy writing style is part of my own appeal.
But getting back to the bigger picture, I don’t fault “James” for doing what she felt she needed to do to support herself and her children. It saddens me to think that she felt the sting of gender discrimination so strongly that she needed to deceive her clients and readers. And it reminds me that when you’re reading a blog, even one where the writer seems friendly, collegial, and thoroughly honest, you just never know who that person really is. Not that she’s the first blogger to do this, but maintaining an alter ego like that must have been challenging at times (both logistically and emotionally). On the other hand, it gives me even more respect for “James,” because she’s clearly a very talented and versatile writer.
What do you think? Would you be more successful if clients thought you were man? Would it be worth the struggle to conceal your identify? Men, what do you think of all this?