woman writer can’t get jobs; creates exaggeratedly male persona and becomes big success

Nobody knows you’re a dog on the internet“, right? Although many of us still engage in a little harmless identity tourism now and then, the internet in general is not an anonymous space, and current trends in social media are making it less and less so. If you can’t connect your Twitter name to a solid identity with a website and preferably a photo and CV on LinkedIn, you’ll have trouble being taken seriously. But there are still examples of people making good use of the possibility to be “anyone” on the internet. Such as “James Chartrand”, a successful freelance writer who, as it turns out, just happens to be a single mother who couldn’t make ends meet when she sold the same writing using her real name and gender.

screenshot of menwithpens.ca

Have you ever seen such a ridiculously over-the-top male website? Well, it worked. As James Chartrand, this woman, who still remains anonymous, launched a successful career. It wasn’t until someone who knew her secret threatened to reveal it that she admitted that “James” was a woman. She still hasn’t made it obvious on her website, although it’s there if you look.

screenshot of menwithpens.ca

Sounds rather he-man-ish, doesn’t it? But if you click that link labelled “pen name”, you’ll find the full story.

I’m rather shocked at this story, I must admit. Obviously it’s hard to know whether you’d have more success as a man when you always present yourself as a woman. I’ve never experienced obvious discrimination, though I’ve certainly felt uncomfortable in meetings where everyone else is male. Oh, and fumed at the difficulties of breastfeeding while travelling and noted that applications aren’t evaluated equally and that I have (had? have…?) a tendency to act like a little girl, a typical mistake women make.

And “James Chartrand” isn’t just acting like a man. She’s acting like a caricature, a parody of a man. I mean, look at that logo, an ejaculation if ever I saw one. Come on. A photo of welding below it? And on and on. Perhaps clients don’t just want male writers, they want he-men?

15. December 2009 by Jill

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