Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Putting On The Mask

So I got a bit angry yesterday, when reading about how just pretending to be a guy (including joining in the chick-bashing when needed) can double or triple your income on the Internet. The anger is still there simmering away nicely, because I picked the very opposite path as is usual for me. I became everything that guarantees I don't get paid for my writing: An openly feminist female writer. Even if I can also write on a zillion other topics I've cut my wings by that one choice.

Putting on the male mask is not a new thing at all. The Bronte sisters did it, George Eliot did it, James Tiptree Jr. did it more recently, and several research papers have shown that sending off identical resumes except for the male and female names attached to them, gives the male names more calls for interviews. But still. I keep believing in people, hoping for the change that should be me, and every morning when I raise my goddessy head from the pillow I think the world has repented.

Such a mystery. But I digress.

When Digby came out as a woman her comments threads changed into something much more vicious and violent and disrespectful. All this is easy to see from outside. What's much harder to know is how I or other women bloggers would be treated if we had names like Brawny Bob, Tess Tickle or Tess Stosterone. When something I say gets no attention is it because it wasn't a useful statement at all, because I didn't write it well enough, because others have said it better? Or is it because it was said by a woman and women can be safely ignored as they're less likely to kill you and then to stomp on your corpse?

How can I ever know what the alternative treatment would have been? It's too late to change my name now and in any case nobody else writes like a shorthand machine with mittens on.

This is not just about me. It's something all women might be affected by and about the choices we must make. Note that James Chartrand of the "Men With Pens" didn't just take a guy handle; she also went along with the chick-bashing to fit in.

And that's where the deeper question of the masks lies: How does a woman negotiate a society which takes points off for her very femaleness? What cost is not too exorbitant?