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

  1. Benedicte Irgens

    RT @jilltxt: Blogged about the woman writer who became a success only when she took a male psuedonym http://jilltxt.net/?p=2450 – thx fo …

  2. Aslaug Olette

    @jilltxt bare hyggelig:) -og god kommentar til saken om he-man bloggeren som viste seg være kvinne http://bit.ly/7NCFZf

  3. Florine Meijer

    RT @jilltxt: Blogged about the woman writer who became a success only when she took a male psuedonym http://jilltxt.net/?p=2450 – thx fo …

  4. Beate

    RT @jilltxt: Blogged about the woman writer who became a success only when she took a male psuedonym http://jilltxt.net/?p=2450

  5. Maren K. Moen

    RT @jilltxt: Blogged about the woman writer who became a success only when she took a male psuedonym http://jilltxt.net/?p=2450 – thx fo …

  6. Isabell B. Lorentzen

    RT @jilltxt: Blogged about the woman writer who became a success only when she took a male psuedonym http://jilltxt.net/?p=2450 – thx fo …

  7. Knud

    It may be more revealing about myself than anything else, but for a long time while reading your post I thought the logo on the screenshot didn’t say “Men with Pens”, but something else. I had misread it as “Men with Penis”. I’m not joking… Then again, this was probably intended, considering the smoking bullet ejaculating from the word.

  8. Anne Marte

    RT @jilltxt: Blogged about the woman writer who became a success only when she took a male psuedonym http://bit.ly/8ZH9uN

  9. Jill Walker Rettberg

    I know – I did the same thing, glad to hear I wasn’t the only one, Knud! And I’m SURE it was intended by the people who made the website…

  10. Jan Karlsbjerg

    Of course, this is just one case, un-reproducible, and it’s self-reported to the point of being anecdotal. She was struggling, she adopted another persona, she kept struggling, and then she became successful. Would she have become successful without the change? We’ll never know.

    Even if we say for argument’s sake that the identity/persona shift was crucial in her success, was it then just because of the male name or was it because of the whole persona change?

    I’ve only read a few posts on Men With Pens in the past (mostly when they were pointed out by other sites I read), and I don’t remember if there was any chest-pounding or other caricature-level maleness going on in those posts (as I agree that there is in the welding picture, etc.)… Maybe there wasn’t any chest-pounding in the article writing itself. But maybe “James” was more pushy with publishers, more direct in “his” emails, and in many ways (deliberately or subconsciously) adopted a male personality and the behavioral differences made James’ career take off. ?

    How much of James’ success is due to the product (including its presentation, etc.) and how much is due to that one attribute, the name?

  11. Ida Aalens links

    woman writer can’t get jobs; creates exaggeratedly male persona and becomes big success http://bit.ly/6lkgj7

  12. Mikhail Pushkin

    How many males get attention (presents, friends, help) in on-line environments by presenting themselves as girls? WoW being most obvious example. At some point I had an online business project running with adverts-based revenue, what I needed was links to my site on other similar sites and it worked like a charm, did _underage girl webmaster_ persona help? I’ll never know.
    Another interesting issue would be if the aforementioned single mother got more success now with male or female customers.

  13. Charley

    Women are often subject to discrimination at work – this often provides, I believe, a wake-up call for young women who formerly have tended to dismiss the concerns of feminism as a thing of the past. Still, Iím not sure isolated cases really prove all that much. I know of a male writer of crime fiction who was told by his publishers that his book was fine, but that his genre was dominated by female writers – so they would only publish his novel under an assumed, female name. He duly published A GAME OF PROOF under the name of Megan Stark (an amalgamation of the names of two female colleagues of his). Does this single instance prove that women audiences and writers dominate the genre of the novel in general, or more specifically that of crime fiction? Hardly.

    Have a great Christmas, Jill!

  14. Sofia Gkiousou

    jill/txt » woman writer can’t get jobs; creates exaggeratedly male persona and becomes big success http://ff.im/-fVkPh

  15. athanasia ntafalia

    RT @sofiagk: jill/txt » woman writer can’t get jobs; creates exaggeratedly male persona and becomes big success http://ff.im/-fVkPh

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