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James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants
December 14, 2009 9:39 AM   Subscribe

A female freelance writer assumes a male pseudonym and finds much more work, respect, and pay. She tells the story of her accidental experiment. (via)
posted by fontophilic (107 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's not very accidental, is it? She purposefully experimented with a male pseudonym and, after realizing how much easier getting work was than with her own name, she stuck with it.
posted by flatluigi at 9:48 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a friend who is trying exactly that - writing under a male pseudonym to get a better chance of getting her novel published. It's really fascinating and awful that it actually works.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:48 AM on December 14, 2009


I have a friend who is trying exactly that - writing under a male pseudonym to get a better chance of getting her novel published. It's really fascinating and awful that it actually works.

Maybe my viewpoint is skewed by my wife's reading list, but I would have guessed that more novelists were women than men.
posted by DU at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2009


Let's just hope she doesn't go all out.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:53 AM on December 14, 2009


"You're 'Daddy Smash' and not another word." (second comic)
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:55 AM on December 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Isn't this the plot of Just One of the Guys? Let's hope she hasn't fallen love with her male best friend.
posted by reenum at 9:55 AM on December 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


And sure enough, someone I trusted got mad and decided to out me. (Someone who, incidentally, was using a male pseudonym and identity too. Go figure.)

There are so many things going on in this statement that revenge seems like the least interesting aspect.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:57 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm so excited to learn that my feminism is still deeply relevant. And by excited I actually mean angry, bitter, and cynical.

Even presented with the same exact body of work, men are seen as producing better material. Across the board. To be perceived as functioning at the same level as a competent man, women need to go above and beyond what should be required, and are often seen as potentially problematic none the less.

Blah, blah, "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels," blah, blah. Still - unfortunately - relevant.
posted by lydhre at 9:58 AM on December 14, 2009 [20 favorites]


Maybe my viewpoint is skewed by my wife's reading list, but I would have guessed that more novelists were women than men.

I wonder what the gender break down is when it comes to who purchases the most books. I'm also curious about the gender breakdown in the publishing industry.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 AM on December 14, 2009


An interesting NPR piece on gender bias in the theatre.
posted by TedW at 10:03 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not very accidental, is it? She purposefully experimented with a male pseudonym and, after realizing how much easier getting work was than with her own name, she stuck with it.

I think the point was that she didn't go into the business in order to set up an experiment, but when her business was faltering wanted the chance to start fresh, so chose a pseudonym, which happened to be male, and discovered that things were really much much easier under the male name. For a while she worked under both names but it soon became clear one of them yielded better results. And she only revealed this when someone else was going to out her, not in order to prove something to others.
posted by mdn at 10:04 AM on December 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


It works the other way around as well. I know two established authors that publish under women's names. Well, in one case he uses initials and lets people put whatever gender they need to on him. But the other guy is a successful mystery writer. He writes under a couple different names. His protagonists are always female. And look at how well the "daddy bloggers" do.

It's a bit odd to read this and put it all on the pseudonym. She pretty much established herself under a name that didn't work. If she'd launched two new identities and treated them the same, but one was a male, the other female, then I'd give this some additional credibility.

An example, Robin Hobb has great sales, but she was an established author under the name Megan Lindholm. Both stated on the bio pages that she was a woman. She sold the shit out of books under her new name. Same writer, arguably better writing under her first name, but the second identity did way better. Why? My best guess is that no one wanted to buy yet another book by an author they had never heard of that had 10 pervious books, but a hot debut author is something else.

I'm not trying to say that gender inequities don't exist, but this is a weird one for me, since the playing field is pretty odd. Of the top blogs I read the gender is pretty much split. I realize she was doing work for hire stuff here, but this isn't Remington Steele here. I guess to make a full judgement, I'd also need to know what she was writing. People want an expert in the field they are publishing, and the perception that a stay at home mom might not know as much as say a professional graphic designer (just plucking a subject out of the air) isn't a stretch.

I guess I am just saying a compelling fictitious story could have also served her well.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:05 AM on December 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I really wish this were shocking. It's sadly commonplace.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:05 AM on December 14, 2009


When I send out resumes, "C.M. Jones" gets a lot more responses than "Consuela Maria Jones."
posted by Wroughtirony at 10:15 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I send out resumes, "C.M. Jones" gets a lot more responses than "Consuela Maria Jones."

Do you think that's gender or ethnicity? "James Chartrand" has a distinctly European, upper-class feel to it and I wonder how much that's a factor.

Without knowing James' birth name it's hard to tell. I'd be curious to see comparisons of pairs of obviously male (or female) names, one ethnic and one WASPy. And which ethnic? Latino vs. Asian vs. Scandinavian. etc.
posted by msalt at 10:24 AM on December 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Anyone have gender statistics on published materials? Are there more published males than females? Are there many more female applicants than male?
posted by FuManchu at 10:25 AM on December 14, 2009


I wish I were also surprised.

cjorgensen, you are going a long way around the block to deny the obvious here; she was applying for the exact same jobs, sometimes under both names at the same time...and the male name got better results. Better treatment, less editing, more compliments, more pay. She tried the female name, but only took off under the male one. I don't see how you can interpret this as anything but evidence of real, actual OMG sexist bias.

Sexism; we're all soaking in it.
posted by emjaybee at 10:28 AM on December 14, 2009 [14 favorites]


How does one get paid when writing under a pen name without disclosing one's real name? Traditionally, you put your real name on a manuscript and the caveat "writing as" with your pen name. But if this writer kept her identity secret from all but a few close friends, I'm wondering how she was able to deposit or cash checks made out to "James Chartrand."
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:28 AM on December 14, 2009


Didn't the same thing happen with J.K. Rowling?
posted by namewithhe1d at 10:29 AM on December 14, 2009


I totally believe this gender bias is real, and as bad as the author makes out, but as msalt notes, this name is very far from a generic male one. It's an upper-class one. I know you Americans don't like to admit that class exists, but it surely ruins what value this has as a natural experiment.

Of course to British ears "James Chartrand" sounds like an alcoholic earl, fallen on hard times, trying to get out of debt by means of an investment scam involving racehorses, but that's a separate matter.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:34 AM on December 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


With J.K. Rowling it was a decision by her publisher to have her go by her initials rather than a decision by her to help her get published. The publisher was reportedly worried that young boys wouldn't buy anything written by an obviously female author.
posted by Jugwine at 10:37 AM on December 14, 2009


Oriole, I have no idea how James/lady James did it, but Paypal could have played a part. An email address like james@menwithpens.com sends payment requests to client. Client pays, and she draws out the money to her real account with real name.
posted by fontophilic at 10:37 AM on December 14, 2009


I knew a girl who had better luck finding work as an Engineer when using her Chinese name, which was more gender neutral.
posted by chunking express at 10:39 AM on December 14, 2009


I'm wondering how she was able to deposit or cash checks made out to "James Chartrand."

I'd assume you could establish a business entity which is your real identity DBA pen name. ("doing business as", before you ask)
posted by hippybear at 10:44 AM on December 14, 2009


I don't see how you can interpret this as anything but evidence of real, actual OMG sexist bias.

Thankfully you're not a statistician.
posted by splice at 10:55 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've got my maiden name and my married name on my bank account. Sufficient proof of all things being equal, and a decent bank manager, and James Chartrand's your uncle, I expect.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:55 AM on December 14, 2009


Easy. You have a company -- "Wordslingers Inc" -- and the cheque is made out to that company.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:58 AM on December 14, 2009


Maybe my viewpoint is skewed by my wife's reading list, but I would have guessed that more novelists were women than men.

I would imagine that certain fields have gender assumptions made about authors. Just as young boys might not be so excited about books about magic written by Joanne Rowling. Names mean a lot, especially when that's the first thing someone knows about you.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2009


But... does she never meet with her clients, ever? No meet-n-greets? No client workshopping? No conference calls? It's hard for me to imagine a client/writer relationship that actually produces valuable work and income without any voice or face time.

Names, gender, sexism, and inequality aside*, I am jealous of her not-meeting-ever abilities— at least with a tiny few of my clients. (Just kidding, I love ALLOFYOU, I really do.)

*Hope this doesn't sound like I'm glossing over any of these points. I'm sure I can relate if I look hard enough. Just curious about how she gets around this.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:14 AM on December 14, 2009


Well, this is depressing.
posted by Zed at 11:18 AM on December 14, 2009


"But... does she never meet with her clients, ever? No meet-n-greets? No client workshopping? No conference calls?"

While I was still regularly doing corporate work, I had clients (really good ones) whom I never corresponded with other than e-mail, so... yeah, it's possible.
posted by jscalzi at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


She really went all out by naming her company Men With Pens.
posted by smackfu at 11:21 AM on December 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I know that for me, whether it's because of some ingrown prejudice of my own or because the media machine pushes male artists, I had to consciously start seeking out female authors, film directors, musicians, visual artists et cetera, because I realized sometime early this decade that what I read, watched and listened to was overwhelmingly male. So yeah, I'm not surprised.
posted by Kattullus at 11:21 AM on December 14, 2009


And I was just remarking the other day to friends that my favorite Twitter humorists were all female, joining Tina Fey in the "proving women can indeed be very funny" department, 21st century division.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:24 AM on December 14, 2009


My resumes used to go out with "[first name] [long polish last name]", and generated middling responses. During a job hunt I got married and changed my last name, actually taking my wife's name instead of vice versa. My resumes started going out with "[first name] [short ethnically-neutral last name]" and the response rate shot up dramatically, right away.

I fully intend to instruct my children on the fine art of gaming the system to compensate for people's prejudices, when corresponding without being face-to-face.
posted by davejay at 11:32 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm completely willing to take this as stated, simply because sexism is alive and well in the 21st century.

That said, there was a nagging thought in the back of my mind while reading the article that perhaps her original name was "tainted" somehow. Either in the small literary circles she frequented, she somehow got a bad name for herself, or a Google search on her name brought up something unsavory. We can't really check, since we don't know her name, but it could have been the case that any change of name would have helped, even if a male one helped more.
posted by explosion at 11:36 AM on December 14, 2009


It work for Andre Norton back in the pulp sci-fi days. I guess it still works today.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:36 AM on December 14, 2009


But... does she never meet with her clients, ever? No meet-n-greets? No client workshopping? No conference calls? It's hard for me to imagine a client/writer relationship that actually produces valuable work and income without any voice or face time.

Read the comments on her post, she answers this. Apparently, email only wasn't all that hard to arrange. Some clients actually told her they preferred it too, and only called because they thought they were supposed to.

I'm not a statistician, true; however you might spend some time with Echidne of the Snakes an economist blogger who is, in fact, extremely well-versed in statistics and will be glad to educate you about the gender gap and stats, in general. She will kindly and gently explain to you how such statistics are gathered and evaluated and that they do, indeed, show a difference in how men and women are hired and paid for the same work.

You're welcome!
posted by emjaybee at 11:38 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't doubt this phenomenon exists, but I do doubt that a real writer would actually use the worn out phrase "put food on the table."

(Am I the only one who thought the article in the second link was poorly written?)
posted by maxwelton at 11:38 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


(Am I the only one who thought the article in the second link was poorly written?)

Nope, but the point that she got more money for the same poorly written work as a man than she did as a women still stands.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 11:43 AM on December 14, 2009


Oh yes, I am loving the reasons so far why this person's story can't possibly be true:

"She would have had to call people!"*
"No REAL writer would use the phrase 'put food on the table'''!**
"Her lady-name was tainted, but not by its ladyness, by something..we know not what!"***
"Her lady-name (which we don't know) was less upper-crust than her manly name!"****

Keep 'em coming. I've got popcorn.

*Answered in her comments
**What? Really, what?
***She killed a man in Reno just to watch him die.
****Something like Brandine Lumphumper, maybe
posted by emjaybee at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2009 [18 favorites]


In the mid-1980s I won a glass of wine at the Village Cafe in Richmond, Virginia for knowing about Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Good times.
posted by JanetLand at 11:54 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It work for Andre Norton back in the pulp sci-fi days. I guess it still works today.

And James Tiptree, Jr. and CL Moore and KA Applegate . . .
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:54 AM on December 14, 2009


I wonder what the gender break down is when it comes to who purchases the most books. I'm also curious about the gender breakdown in the publishing industry.

Professional publishing is overwhelmingly female; in fact, that's the traditional reason for the low pay that's typical of the field -- it was taken for granted that if you went into publishing, you had a husband with a "real" job (working with numbers somewhere, I guess), while you dallied with manuscripts, so they didn't have to pay you a reasonable amount to live on -- that you were a second (unnecessary) income was assumed.

Anyone have gender statistics on published materials? Are there more published males than females? Are there many more female applicants than male?

"Published materials" is a bit too broad of a category for that kind of stat. And that said, those stats would be largely meaningless, because cjorgensen is basically right; I don't know how freelance blogging works in regard to how a professional, powerful (read: "male") persona might improve your chances, but at least in mainstream publishing, the idea that any given author might be a pseudonym (at least until you meet them) isn't exactly a shocker. I know the image of old white men sitting around a boardroom, monocles landing in their tea, mouths agape when it's revealed that Sir Awesomesauce Wordsmith is actually a lady is pretty appealing, but it just doesn't work that way.

So if grapefruitmoon's friend is thinking that just switching to a male pseudonym is going to be the thing she needs to get her novel published: I promise it's not. It's unnecessary, and almost certainly not the real obstacle.

Pseudonyms exist for reasons -- it can be worth picking up a new pen name because the big box book stores will obviously order fewer copies of your new book if your last one didn't sell very well, and that "fewer orders = fewer sales = fewer orders" death-spiral can be tough to pull out of -- but the bottom line is that you're not fooling any professional editors or agents by adopting a pseudonym. We probably have a half dozen people whose pseudonyms we're trying to keep track of ourselves.

True fact: Even the smutty "I never thought it could happen to me" letters from guys in Penthouse? Written by some 23 year old girl, fresh out of Sarah Lawrence, working her first editorial assistant job.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:08 PM on December 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have a friend who is trying exactly that - writing under a male pseudonym to get a better chance of getting her novel published. It's really fascinating and awful that it actually works.

I know a guy who published a few novels under a female name to make them easier to sell/market... but they were romances....


I wonder what the gender break down is when it comes to who purchases the most books. I'm also curious about the gender breakdown in the publishing industry.

I sure I read than more women than men buy and read books. This breaks down for genre though: like more men read sports books and those Andy McNab ./ Chris Ryan slottin' and tabbin' SAS books for instance
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:16 PM on December 14, 2009


... does she never meet with her clients...?

To the best of my recollection, George Elliot actually had a male friend impersonate her when she was supposed to meet with publishers.

Of course, it's a lot easier now with email. It's probably not too difficult to come up with gracious excuses to avoid in-person contact, or cite privacy concerns. If push comes to shove - Well, there was this previous cyberstalking incident - OK, understand ...

Not unbelievable at all, though her business might have done better if she was able show up and act the Chartrand part too.
posted by nangar at 12:18 PM on December 14, 2009


JK Rowling was also encouraged to use her initials, because boys may not read something written by a "girl." I wonder if she would have been as successful if she had used her first name instead of her initials.
posted by oceano at 12:23 PM on December 14, 2009


Don't worry MeFi, I'll start using a ladyname in my ongoing struggle to subvert the patriarchy from within.
posted by greekphilosophy at 12:27 PM on December 14, 2009


She really went all out by naming her company Men With Pens.

Yeah, I was struck by how testosterone-soaked the branding for her site is. She didn't just pick a dudely pseudonym -- she constructed a brand that frantically signals masculinity on every possible frequency, including a name that subliminally says "I HAVE A PENIS."
posted by ottereroticist at 12:28 PM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


She will kindly and gently explain to you how such statistics are gathered and evaluated and that they do, indeed, show a difference in how men and women are hired and paid for the same work

Will she also kindly and gently explain to you the difference between actual statistics and anecdotal stories cribbed on the web?

Because, see, discarding anecdotal data doesn't mean I reject the premise. I think you fall into the same group as this mefite:

I'm completely willing to take this as stated, simply because sexism is alive and well in the 21st century.

Just because you have a personal belief doesn't mean you have to accept any crap data that just happens to support it. That's lazy thinking and does your cause no good at all.
posted by splice at 12:32 PM on December 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


True fact: Even the smutty "I never thought it could happen to me" letters from guys in Penthouse? Written by some 23 year old girl, fresh out of Sarah Lawrence, working her first editorial assistant job.

I remember giggling over the letters column in Penthouse and telling my boyfriend and his friends that they were all invented by an editorial staff locked in a room and they looked at me with wounded dismay. They were teenagers at the time, so I guess it's excusable that they actually thought that adulthood was going to include Penthouse-level sexual experiences, but really, duh.
posted by jokeefe at 12:34 PM on December 14, 2009


And James Tiptree, Jr. and CL Moore and KA Applegate . . .

Not to mention K.C. Hunter.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:41 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


(kidding, of course... but note the last para in that article under "background".)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:42 PM on December 14, 2009


An example, Robin Hobb has great sales, but she was an established author under the name Megan Lindholm. Both stated on the bio pages that she was a woman.

My 1996 copy of Assassin's Apprentice (Robin Hobb's first novel) has an entirely gender-neutral bio. I suspect the female version only appeared once it could include something like 'Robin Hobb, who has already sold lots of copies of her other books, blah blah blah.'
posted by Lebannen at 12:53 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


To the best of my recollection, George Elliot actually had a male friend impersonate her when she was supposed to meet with publishers.

I once had an article about the U.S. Marines published under a male pen name (publisher knew my real name, however, so payment wasn't a problem). Unexpectedly, publisher got a couple of calls from some radio stations and Veterans groups who wanted to interview Male PenName. We discussed having my husband do the phone interviews, but he hadn't done the research and feared being asked questions he couldn't answer. We finally had to say that Male PenName was unavailable for interviews due to personal circumstances. Having been through this very small-scale dilemma, I'm very interested in the details on how anyone else managed to pull off a gender-transfer charade.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:56 PM on December 14, 2009


TedW: Your link seems to suggest that the works of women playwrights are discriminated against not because of any difference in value perceived by the artistic directors, who have power over them, but because of the directors' worries that plays by female authors would not be received as favorably by others. (A phenomenon, interestingly, only seen in female artistic directors) The FPP also only addresses discrimination by editors and businessmen with significant financial motive. Could many have, hypothetically, rated her work highly themselves but declined to hire her because of perceived discrimination by the final audience irrespective of any actual prejudice there?

Perhaps this *ahem* meta-discrimination could be as damaging to many careers as the more straightforward male privilege which allows men to judge the work of women harshly without the same social repercussions? James clearly avoided/avoids that all to familiar nastiness that having a vagina seems to bring.

"There was no haggling. There were compliments, there was respect. Clients hired me quickly, and when they received their work, they liked it just as quickly. There were fewer requests for revisions — often none at all."

some of which, you can see, she had to face instantly,

"I never wanted to be an activist, or to fight the world. I’m not interested in clawing my way up a ladder to a glass ceiling. Life’s too short for that.

I just want to earn a living and be respected for my skills. I want my kids to be happy and have access to what they need. I want them to go to university and have good opportunities in life."


like knowing she'd have to apologize for any perceived ambitions of uncontroversially worthwhile social change and explain that all she wants is to be human in order to be listened to.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:58 PM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm curious how the "much higher pay" thing happened, not being a freelance writer. They don't have a fixed budget for a given piece of work? I know magazines do.

If it's really as blatant as lower offers to females, then people should run some sting operations on them, the way folks do for apartment managers and job openings.
posted by msalt at 1:06 PM on December 14, 2009


Is Chartrand just a run-of-the-mill, ethnically-/class-neutral surname in Quebec? (not that it's clear where in the province she lives, if she actually lives there at all). Because, living on the prairies, it's a name that I at least would tend to associate pretty strongly with people from rural Francophone and specifically Métis communities.

Which is to say the name might not, at least for many people in this country, necessarily have the same kind of upper-crusty, Old-Worldy connotations some upthread seem to be reading into it.
posted by wreckingball at 1:09 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mary Anne Evans adopted the name "George Eliot" for her fiction. She was well-known as "Marian Evans" for her translation and editing of philosophical works and her articles, especially those on Positivism. When she turned to fiction, she adopted a pen name to avoid confusion with this earlier work and to disguise her unmarried-but-living-with-a-man status. It was well-known that "George Eliot" was a pseudonym and there was public speculation that the writer was a woman. George/Marian revealed all when a fraudster claimed that he was the writer.
Anyway, whatever the facts about Men with Pens, I don't think George Eliot quite fits here.
posted by CCBC at 1:10 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of a study I read a while ago, in which having an african-american sounding name made a CV much less likely to get a response than a typical white american name:
Bertrand and Mullainathan randomly assigned the applicants names common to either black men, black women, white men or white women and were careful not to send identical resumes to the same employer. [...] Applicants with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to be contacted for job interviews than those with typical black names. There were no significant differences between the rates at which men and women were contacted.

Source, Alternate version.
posted by metaBugs at 1:23 PM on December 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Tangential, yet supporting the broader conversation about women and getting ahead in the arts (novels, plays, etc.):

Prof. Claudia Goldin (a Harvard Economist) and Princeton's Cecilia Rouse recently completed a study of blind auditions [an audition in which those in charge of hiring have numbers instead of names for each auditioner, and cannot see the auditioning musician--only hear the audition piece] in symphony orchestras in the USA. They found that the use of a screen increased the chances of US women in the first round of auditions by 50%, and in the final rounds by 300%. The overall effect of blind auditions has helped increase the presence of women in US orchestras over the last 20 years from about a 5% representation to 36%.
posted by tzikeh at 1:32 PM on December 14, 2009 [19 favorites]


Professional publishing is overwhelmingly female; in fact, that's the traditional reason for the low pay that's typical of the field -- it was taken for granted that if you went into publishing, you had a husband with a "real" job (working with numbers somewhere, I guess), while you dallied with manuscripts, so they didn't have to pay you a reasonable amount to live on -- that you were a second (unnecessary) income was assumed.

Taking back a few decades further, it was my understanding that publishing was a gentleman's profession, that is, something that one did because one wished to and had to the money to. Money was an afterthought. Which, given the bottom line, was just as well.

But then, plenty of the cool sounding jobs and fields (publishing, ballet dancing, auction houses person, chef) by and large don't pay that well. It's a trade off, as are most work situations

I know you Americans don't like to admit that class exists, but it surely ruins what value this has as a natural experiment.

You need to talk to more of Us Americans.

I would have guessed that more novelists were women than men

Certainly more novel readers. But the FPP is not about novelists, which is a strange little world of its own. (As to the post, well, call me cynical, but I would at least like to know more about the wonderful gigs that she suddenly started getting. Oops! Can't tell you without blowing my cover. But trust me, it's all true, even down the the mortgage and the house.)
posted by IndigoJones at 1:43 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The overall effect of blind auditions has helped increase the presence of women in US orchestras over the last 20 years from about a 5% representation to 36%.

A family friend is second violin in a major orchestra entirely because of blind auditions. She was the first woman (and first immigrant) to play the violin in N state orchestra when she came to the US, just during a time when blind auditions were beginning to be used by the serious institutions.

Which is to say, yay blind auditions! Yay internet anonymity! It's too bad we need these tools, but I'm glad they exist.
posted by prefpara at 2:13 PM on December 14, 2009


I've always hated the nickname Al, but maybe it's time to drag it out.

when I was young and into Star Wars, I assumed A.C. Crispin was a man. Looking back at how romantic the plots were in her Han Solo trilogy, I can only surmise that I was young and naïve. Oops.
posted by rubah at 2:16 PM on December 14, 2009


jscalzi While I was still regularly doing corporate work, I had clients (really good ones) whom I never corresponded with other than e-mail, so... yeah, it's possible.

Eh, what do you know about writing? Oh, and I finally got around to reading "Old Man's War." It's quite good. Wish I'd found it back when I was a total Dickson and Haldeman fan.

Lebannen My 1996 copy of Assassin's Apprentice (Robin Hobb's first novel) has an entirely gender-neutral bio.

I was a bookseller then, and it for sure wasn't a secret. It may have done away with the casual person picking up a book and judging it by its cover, but anyone that followed the genre knew. I also don't have my copy at hand, so will concede "Also writes as..." may have been added to later editions.

The problems I have with the whole sexism-in-writing thing is that it does a disservice to the women who succeed. They obviously just got lucky, since you know, a woman can't get paid the same as a man. And, while I understand the people without opportunities can't offer opportunities to others argument, I hate to point out that if you want to go down this path, how many of the people discriminating against this writer were women?

There is obviously a bias toward particular genders in various aspects of the field. As someone pointed out above, people have expectations when they pick up a particular piece of writing. I bet the bios in most women's magazines are predominately female, just as I bet the bios in my gun and hunting enthusiast magazines are men.

There are so many factors in this one case, that there is no way to extrapolate to a generalization of the field. Perhaps people found the new site to be more professional looking than however she was marketing herself prior. It could be that she grabbed ahold of a niche market. Pen enthusiasts are nuts (I say this as one myself). Having a confident masculine professional persona plays well, but I'm not sure that was the only factor here.

This would be a cool thing to study, but to do it well you'd need a large sampling of men and women writing under both genders using a several names created to garner an effect. You'd probably also have to factor in a race and sexuality while you were at it. And last, you'd have to make the names the articles were sent out under oblivious to the writer.

It's entirely possible she's a better writing under her "James" identity. She was admittedly more adventurous with it (since it was anonymous and she didn't have to worry about blowback affecting her family). As James perhaps she was trying to "write like a man" and was using stronger adjectives and more action.

There's been tons of studies done about people who are treated as though they are confident and they become more confident. If she went forward with the idea of seeing how the world treats a man, she may have well done the whole self fulfilling prophesy thing. If she expects to get paid more as a woman than a man she probably asked for more, and yes, I do realize she often shopped the same pieces to the same places under different names, but again, without looking into every factor all you can say for sure is this one woman got better rates when she portrayed herself as a man.

I'm still going to maintain this same article could have been written by a man. You would just have to pick a field where men aren't seen as knowing as much as a woman. In the end this argues for the point that people are sexist, but to make this into the blanket article she did...I'm not buying without a lot more data.

Hey, I'm off to write "10 Things That Drive Him Crazy In Bed," but don't worry, it's for Out magazine so I'll be getting paid like a man (good thing they don't know I'm straight though!).
posted by cjorgensen at 2:17 PM on December 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm so conflicted on this. I've heard many of these stories, both anecdotal and scientific (I was going to cite the orchestra thing, but I see someone's already done so).

As a money-grubbing cash-poor freelance writer, my first thought is, "I should totally do that!"

My second thought is, "But pretending to be a boy only supports and feeds off institutionalized misogyny."

I feel the same way about internet usernames, by the way. Which is why I've slowly been converting to gender-specific names over the years.
posted by ErikaB at 2:48 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of a study I read a while ago, in which having an african-american sounding name made a CV much less likely to get a response than a typical white american name

My boyfriend has half-jokingly suggested that my response rate would be higher if I started using his surname instead of my obviously Hispanic one. But I am me, and would I really want to work for a company who would judge me that harshly based on my name?
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:05 PM on December 14, 2009


I remember giggling over the letters column in Penthouse and telling my boyfriend and his friends that they were all invented by an editorial staff locked in a room and they looked at me with wounded dismay.

The people I knew who did that particular job actually enjoyed it as a rare opportunity to stretch some creative muscle, but they certainly weren't into it in the way the readership might hope. "Hot Co-Eds Write Sexy Letters for You!" it's not.

The FPP also only addresses discrimination by editors and businessmen with significant financial motive. Could many have, hypothetically, rated her work highly themselves but declined to hire her because of perceived discrimination by the final audience irrespective of any actual prejudice there?

I thought of that as a possibility too, but any editor who likes your stuff but is skeptical about how to market you, the author, as the public face of the work, will themselves just suggest you use a pseudonym.

If you're in charge of a line that specializes in, say, "manly" military fiction and techno-thrillers, and you've got to put out three-dozen of those things a year, are you going to wait for an actual retired Navy SEAL to walk through your door to buy a manuscript, or are you going to buy a manuscript from Betty Sue Kolinski if it's good, and ask her what she thinks of writing as "Mason Steele"?

Taking back a few decades further, it was my understanding that publishing was a gentleman's profession, that is, something that one did because one wished to and had to the money to. Money was an afterthought. Which, given the bottom line, was just as well.

Yeah, that's absolutely true. Those "gentlemen" in publishing would often hire a largely female editorial staff (for predictable "Mad Men"-esque reasons, I'm sure), and over time, as they moved on to other pursuits and industries, the women who actually knew how to run everything stayed on and took over the reins.
posted by Amanojaku at 3:08 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


tzikeh's point is really interesting in that it certainly tallies with my experience as a freelancer. In Australia, publishing is an overwhelmingly female profession. Novels not quite so much, but most editors (fiction and journalism) and freelancers are female.

The rates thing is a bit of a jawdropper for me - over here rates are generally set around format, length etc. If you're a typing dog it wouldn't really affect your take home pay.

However, despite this very large gender disparity, when you move into the upper ends of the _writing_ spectrum, the quotient of men noticeably shoots up - far in excess of proportion (editing is pretty much female dominated all the way to the top, except in newspapers here, I would argue).

So I think, whilst pay would not be affected here in Australai, there is definitely a noticeable bias towards men at the upper end of the market, not so much the lower end.

This said, I would still bea little wary drawing a conclusion, in that people in the upper ends of the spectrum were getting their chops thirty/forty years ago - a time when discrimination against women here was far more prevalent, thus I'm not sure if they really represent discrimination today so much as discrimination - who got more opportunities (and thus experience, qualification, etc) - thirty years ago.
posted by smoke at 3:14 PM on December 14, 2009


emjaybee: "Her lady-name (which we don't know) was less upper-crust than her manly name!"

Not sure who this was directed at, but I'm certainly not suggesting her story's not true. I just think that the conclusions that can be drawn from it (aside from the fact that it's only a single anecdote, etc) are unfortunately limited even further because she chose such a striking pseudonym that almost nobody in north America would think of as a remotely "typical" or class-neutral male name. This point would be potentially rendered invalid if she would tell us her real name, but she won't.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:17 PM on December 14, 2009


10 Things That Drive Him Crazy In Bed
  1. Your pet iguana.
  2. Your WW I Prussian helmet, with the spike on the top.
  3. Disapproving of his pyjamas.
  4. Eating a whole roast chicken with your bare hands by yourself and wiping your hands on the sheets.
  5. Asking if he thinks your toes are fat.
  6. Landing your radio-controlled helicopter on his face.
  7. Smoking that gigantic meerschaum pipe your grandmother left you, stuffed with a rough, rum-soaked shag.
  8. Incoherent shrieking.
  9. Waking him up every five minutes just to check on what his middle name is.
  10. Humming every song on Queen's Night at the Opera album in sequence, so he has a lot of warning that Bohemian Rhapsody is coming down the pipe. And then it does. Oh boy.
I had something useful to add, but other people said it better.

There's the Rahila Khan Affair, of course.
posted by Grangousier at 3:31 PM on December 14, 2009 [21 favorites]


I wish I could say I haven't heard this type of discrimination on a consistent basis. Maybe transvestites are onto something.
posted by buzzdiggity at 3:39 PM on December 14, 2009


I just think that the conclusions that can be drawn from it (aside from the fact that it's only a single anecdote, etc) are unfortunately limited even further because she chose such a striking pseudonym that almost nobody in north America would think of as a remotely "typical" or class-neutral male name. This point would be potentially rendered invalid if she would tell us her real name, but she won't.

As wreckingball points out upthread, Chartrand is a francophone name and an unremarkable one at that (word to the wise: Quebec is part of Canada, which is part of North America). 'James Chartrand' is a bit of a weird name because 'James' is pretty unambiguously English and 'Chartrand' is French. I'd assume such a person had both French and English ancestors. Whoever James is claims to be bilingual and her chosen nom de plume certainly telegraphs that well.
posted by ssg at 3:42 PM on December 14, 2009


I remember giggling over the letters column in Penthouse and telling my boyfriend and his friends that they were all invented by an editorial staff locked in a room and they looked at me with wounded dismay.

No, they weren't, they were written by authors who specialized in erotica, but Penthouse, which was owned by General Entertainment Media, if I remember correctly, assigned the pen names for the authors themselves. They didn't have any problem accepting manuscripts from women, even when written from a man's viewpoint.

Of course, when I wrote for Penthouse Variations, which followed the same format, the Editor was a woman herself. I was assigned a woman's name or man's name depending on which point-of-view I employed.
posted by misha at 3:51 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rob(yn) Thurman is another author like that: I seem to recall the bio saying "him" on earlier books, but online the author is a woman. Though given that her main series is about two young guys, they probably assumed that nobody would think a woman could write guys so well.

Anyway, this link makes me very sad. I hope "James" keeps on raking in the money, but I'm depressed anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:58 PM on December 14, 2009


True fact: Even the smutty "I never thought it could happen to me" letters from guys in Penthouse? Written by some 23 year old girl, fresh out of Sarah Lawrence, working her first editorial assistant job.

Really? I always thought those were a mixture of real letters and ones the staff dreamed up in between happy hour drinks after work. I never knew a newly minted editorial assistant would have to do that.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:05 PM on December 14, 2009


Misha: That's interesting. How recent is that? My experience with them letting assistants handle it isn't from too far back, but from a phase of some rapid staff turnover, so it may not be their standard method.
posted by Amanojaku at 4:12 PM on December 14, 2009


Years ago, when I was working at a recording studio, the studio contracted with a black IT-guy. His work was excellent and quick and he was a super fun, friendly guy to boot. He had a very race-neutral name (whatever that can even mean; in fact it sounded more Irish than anything) and the first time he called in, before I'd ever met him, I thought for the only time in my life, "sounds like a white guy." There was one problem though: he lived in the Bronx. This meant that he couldn't find work. Once he rented a P.O. Box in the east village, the work came pouring in.

All to say that I've seen this sort of thing in action, and believe that it's true.

But I'll also posit some other possible factors, none of which precludes any others or the central idea behind Chartrand's point.

1. It might be that Chartrand's old name had some baggage attached to it that she's not acknowledging or perhaps even recognizing. Maybe the places she was submitting to thought she was a pain in the ass or something. There's no evidence of this, obviously, and it even seems somewhat unlikely given the trouble she was having breaking in, but it's a fallacy to assume attribution to a group what we only have direct evidence of in the individual. It's very possible that someone at one of these places hated the work she sent in under her old name for entirely tertiary reasons, but remembered the name and dismissed it too casually from then on. We don't know.

2. Her marketing got better under the name "James Chartrand." This, on the other hand, seems very likely to me, if only because of my own personal experience. I absolutely suck at pimping myself, but am quite skillful and guiltless about marketing others. She explains at length at the beginning of this how ashamed she was about her situation - something which likely came through in her as desperation in her attempts to find publishers. Inventing a character could easily free one from such worries, at least on the surface, leading to more confident selling of oneself.

3. Writing under the pseudonym freed up her writing style. Again, we don't know, but Pseudonyms are great for taking away one's self-consciousness about something as personal as writing. Just look at Metafilter.

4. Her given name was sounding prejudicial alarm bells in other areas. Again, we can't know from this - but it's possible. She does suggest it though, by saying that she chose a name that sounded more "professional." It doesn't make the prejudice any better, of course, but just tkes it elsewhere.

5. The particular places she was sending her work to were staffed with sexist fuckwits. Trivially true, at least, if her broader hypothesis is correct, but maybe she was submitting to all the wrong places. Unlikely, but possible.

If it seems like I'm protesting too much it's because, for one, her account doesn't offer much by way of control, but then again she hadn't planned this as a rigorous experiment and I'm not going to hold that against her. The bigger reason is because it goes against all my experience in writing where, as agent/editor Betsy Lerner put it, "everyone wants to discover the next big talent, especially if it's a girl."

That's just my own anecdotal experience against hers though, and in two separate fields of writing, in a different country and culture. It sucks that this kind of sexism still prevails, as it does over way too much of the globe. So I guess the next question is, what do we do about it?
posted by Navelgazer at 4:13 PM on December 14, 2009


Amanjaku, this was in 2002, prior to the bankruptcy and re-structuring that led to PET.
posted by misha at 4:25 PM on December 14, 2009


Sorry, Amanojaku, somehow I left the O out of your name!
posted by misha at 4:26 PM on December 14, 2009


"I wonder what the gender break down is when it comes to who purchases the most books"

Ah, there's the rub. If I purchase 1 million Batman novels, am I really taking in the cultural milieu or am I simply taking a bath in Bob Keene's broth? Is that even a relevant measure of anything save liquidity and appetite for text?

That said, I don't think I can name a female author that I would count among my favorite anythings, unless William Gibson or David Wellington are really great Kings.
posted by NiteMayr at 4:57 PM on December 14, 2009


The problems I have with the whole sexism-in-writing thing is that it does a disservice to the women who succeed. They obviously just got lucky, since you know, a woman can't get paid the same as a man.

Try applying that logic to other fields:

"Female engineers obviously just got lucky..."
"Female programmers obviously just got lucky..."
"Female CEOs obviously just got lucky..."
"Female film directors obvious just got lucky..."

It doesn't follow, at all, that acknowledging sexism in a field it does a disservice to the women who do succeed in it. If anything, it gives them more credit, because they succeeded against greater odds.

You seem really invested in believing that this woman's experience wasn't due to sexism, by the way. Of course it's anecdotal, but it fits a very familiar pattern, one that has been statistically corroborated in other fields.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:05 PM on December 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


That said, I don't think I can name a female author that I would count among my favorite anythings

Not even Evi Nemeth?
posted by hades at 5:06 PM on December 14, 2009


I uh...yeah. Just yeah.
posted by Ouisch at 5:29 PM on December 14, 2009


"Female programmers obviously just got lucky..."

I am a fucking good programmer. And I still think that my success has something to do with luck, to some extent the general luck of being born white in America, and then to be born to parents that didn't discourage me from doing this sort of thing because I was female (or it wasn't cool, or whatever), but also along the way luck in avoiding the kind of discrimination that can so often be part and parcel to the experience of women in male-dominated fields. I wish it didn't have to do with luck but it does, and I do not feel I do any disservice to myself for acknowledging my privileges and fortunes, so don't worry about us lucky ladies guys, we can handle ourselves.

I am shocked and disappointed by the number of comments in places I've seen linking this story that have made mind-bending leaps of reasoning to justify why this might not be a product of discrimination. Her female name might be trashy! She might be writing better "as a man"! Baggage! (To be clear, not so much here as places like hacker news and tech sites, yet I choose to comment here because hey go metafilter for making us ladies feel more welcome). Seriously, the simplest and most likely explanation is sexism/bias. It is rare that you see it so blatantly in action but hey, there it is. And it sucks and is disappointing, but not nearly as disappointing as the efforts to discredit it by tortured rationalization among some men. That is the really incredibly sad message I have gotten from this piece.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:37 PM on December 14, 2009 [9 favorites]


I feel like I am told to accept the conclusion without being presented with all the facts. yes, James Chartrand is a male name but it's also a damn good name, one that might suggest quite a few things to the easily impressed. I wished I knew her name just so I could compare it to his. is it just as authoritatively sounding? is it awkward to pronounce or too complex or just plain and exchangeable? I can't judge that for myself because I don't know. I can't tell because I am not trustworthy enough, yet I am told to trust myself.

people are dicks. I accept that. she got abuse hurled her way and struggled to make ends meet. I accept that as well. but not knowing all the facts, not even all the crucial ones, and then being presented with such a simple and obvious conclusion gets my spidey sense all tingly.
posted by krautland at 6:00 PM on December 14, 2009


10 Things That Drive Him Crazy In Bed

banjos! you forgot banjos
posted by little e at 6:57 PM on December 14, 2009 [8 favorites]


ch1x0r: the simplest and most likely explanation is sexism/bias.

But who wants a simple explanation when a convoluted one will do half as well?
posted by Kattullus at 7:25 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll see your Rahila Khan and raise you Ben Barres and N C Andreason.

"By far," Barres wrote, "the main difference I have noticed is that people who don't know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect" than when he was a woman. "I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man."

Barres said the switch had given him access to conversations that would have excluded him previously: "I had a conversation with a male surgeon and he told me he had never met a woman surgeon who was as good as a man."

Barres's salvo, bolstered with scientific studies, marks a dramatic twist in a controversy that began with Summers's suggestion last year that "intrinsic aptitude" may explain why there are relatively few tenured female scientists at Harvard. After a lengthy feud with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Summers resigned earlier this year.

The episode triggered a fierce fight between those who say talk of intrinsic differences reflects sexism that has held women back and those who argue that political correctness is keeping scientists from frankly discussing the issue.

While there are men and women on both sides of the argument, the debate has exposed fissures along gender lines, which is what makes Barres so unusual. Barres said he has realized from personal experience that many men are unconscious of the privileges that come with being male, which leaves them unable to countenance talk of glass ceilings and discrimination.

Barres's commentary was published yesterday in the journal Nature. The scientist has also recently taken his argument to the highest reaches of American science, crusading to make access to prestigious awards more equitable.

In an interview, Nancy Andreasen, a well-known psychiatrist at the University of Iowa, agreed with Barres. She said it took her a long time to convince her husband that he got more respect when he approached an airline ticket counter than she did. When she stopped sending out research articles under her full name and used the initials N.C. Andreasen instead, she said, the acceptance rate of her publications soared.

Andreasen, one of the comparatively few women who have won the National Medal of Science, said she is still regularly reminded she is female. "Often, I will be standing in a group of men, and another person will come up and say hello to all the men and just will not see me, because in a professional setting, men are not programmed to see women," she said. "Finally, one of the men will say, 'I guess you haven't met Nancy Andreasen,' and then the person will turn bright red and say, 'Oh Nancy, nice to see you!' "


I'm afraid I find the James Chartrand story all too plausible. There are a lot of possible reasons other than sexism, I guess, but come on -- what's more likely?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:28 PM on December 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


I guess, but come on -- what's more likely?

Who knows? And that's the point in my mind. And even if what she writes is face value the truth, then what is she doing so wrong that so many other women don't have to fake it using a man's name? I mean look at J. G. Ballard. She did OK using initials!
posted by cjorgensen at 8:11 PM on December 14, 2009


I'm afraid I really don't understand what you're getting at there, cjorgensen.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:24 PM on December 14, 2009


This is the reverse of the classic Blackadder quote: "Jane Austen was a man. A huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush."
posted by Kattullus at 8:43 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The comic Preacher addressed this in a relatively grim manner about ten years ago:
A man is lecturing his anti-terrorism class "Shoot the women first. To be accepted into any terrorist cell, a woman must be 10 times better than the men she is surrounded by."

I'm not surprised in the slightest reading this. Which just makes me sad.
posted by Hactar at 9:25 PM on December 14, 2009


And even if what she writes is face value the truth, then what is she doing so wrong that so many other women don't have to fake it using a man's name?

Cjorgenson, I honestly can't tell if you're being deliberately obtuse in order to make a poorly-placed joke, or if you're just being obtuse.

Can you explain what you mean when you imply that women who don't manage to succeed in a sexist field must be doing something "wrong," as long as some other women succeed? Because from my side of the screen, it looks a lot like you're attempting make this about how women's failures, turning the focus away from sexism again.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:44 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I still think that my success has something to do with luck

I didn't mean to give the impression that luck had nothing to do with it. Success always has some element of luck, but it doesn't mean you aren't a "fucking good programmer." That reasoning simply doesn't work. You had to be a fucking good programmer--perhaps even better than male colleagues--in order to take the opportunities you were born with.

That's the point I wanted to make.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:48 PM on December 14, 2009


what is she doing so wrong that so many other women don't have to fake it using a man's name? I mean look at J. G. Ballard. She did OK using initials!

Um. This makes no sense. One of the biggest reasons women use initials - like J.K. Rowling - is that so no one automatically knows that they're women. Like it or not, in Western society the default assumption for gender when it's unknown is "male." (I can't speak to other societies/cultures. Maybe someone, somewhere is more enlightened or something. Dunno.) The purpose of using initials is to obscure gender. So yeah, maybe it's one step down from adopting a male pseudonym, but it's still distancing oneself from being identified as female.

Which really shouldn't be necessary, but there you have it.

(Or maybe they use initials because they don't like their names or whatever, but to pretend like it never has anything to do with gender is being willfully obtuse.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:58 AM on December 15, 2009


cjorgensen's running into the fallacy that a skillful writer, regardless of gender, will succeed. The truth is that there are a lot of situations you must work through in order to be a well-paid, successful anything, and that being a woman might make you more likely to get rejected at any of these junctures due to institutional and personal biases.

It's not just being good at what you do makes you succeed, it's that the aspects you have because of who you are can't make you fail in the meantime.
posted by mikeh at 6:34 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wasn't trying to say that because some women succeed that others don't face sexism. What I am saying is that the sexism goes both ways and affects men as well when it comes to writing and that women are the perpetrators of this sexism as often as the men are.

I am also stating there is no way to prove the only thing going on here was sexism.

She had different marketing for both identities. The internet and writing are both fickle. Why one blog takes off and another flounders for years is a crapshoot. She would have also presumably not made the same mistakes with her second identity as she did with her first (like taking work for $1.80).

The methodology is so flawed in this case that you can't draw any conclusions from it outside this one case.

If people paid her at a different rate than a man it might be because the man's articles did better (or did she have no return clients?). I get metrics on everything I put on my sites. I know which posts get more hits. If this was be because of the byline only, so be it, people like the byline, I'm buying more of that guy's stuff. Any site that chooses the byline based on gender probably won't survive.

She lives in the world of freelance writing. It's nearly random.

And re: the initials thing: I was making a joke that didn't work out. If women use initials because they may be presumed to be a man when it comes to sales, why would a man ever choose to do so? Seems defeating to me.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:36 AM on December 15, 2009


Compare James Tiptree Jr (aka Alice B. Sheldon).
posted by plinth at 7:13 AM on December 15, 2009


The methodology is so flawed in this case that you can't draw any conclusions from it outside this one case.

Sure, for subtle things like an unconscious editorial preference for male authors, you can't point to any one case and say "this, this is sexism for sure and nothing else!" It's entirely possible that in her case, the male name really just is a better sounding name, or her marketing strategies were different. But it's not like people haven't researched this. There are studies in a number of fields showing that resumes with female names are generally judged to be less good/experienced/etc. than identical resumes with male names. The first relevant article I could think of (and then find again quickly):

"The Impact of Gender on the Review of the Curricula Vitae of Job Applicants and Tenure Candidates: A National Empirical Study" by Rhea E. Steinpreis, Katie A. Anders and Dawn Ritzke.

But seriously, ten or fifteen minutes in Google Scholar, and you'll find similar studies - or citations of cimilar studies - that mostly support some unconscious amount of bias men even when all other conditions are equal. I'm not sure if any of these studies have been carried out in her particular industry, but the trends have definitely been observed acros a broad range of fields. Furthermore, both women and men can show this bias: the fact that there are a lot of women in publishing does not mean that unconscious bias towards probably-male writers doesn't exist.
posted by ubersturm at 8:31 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


If women use initials because they may be presumed to be a man when it comes to sales, why would a man ever choose to do so? Seems defeating to me.

Because in a genre in which they know readers will project maleness onto an ambiguous name, and no one expects maleness to be a disadvantage, there's nothing defeating about it. In romance, men (if not outright choosing a feminine pseudonym) generally choose initials or an ambiguous pseudonym, because they know readers will project femaleness onto it, and that's what's advantage there.

Dude, it's not that complicated.
posted by Zed at 8:52 AM on December 15, 2009


ubersturm, That was part of my point. People also tend to shy away from ethnic sounding names, even kids do this. But in the case of this writer there's no real way to say why no one wants to play with her when she's being herself, but they do when she's pretending to be male.

When this topic comes up, and you get comments like, "I'm so excited to learn that my feminism is still deeply relevant. And by excited I actually mean angry, bitter, and cynical," the implication is that men are the only ones perpetuating this inequity. I wasn't trying to say that sexism doesn't exist, or if you prefer, gender bias, and I'm not saying this isn't what's going on here, but I do maintain that there is no way to prove anything with this one case.

I bet if she picked 5 female names and 5 male names, and wrote under all ten there would be 10 different incomes. The are so many factors in play here from market to luck that there just isn't going to be a way that these names will earn the same. Will all 5 women make less than the 5 men? No idea, but I doubt it. This was my biggest complaint, that the only reason given for the pay difference was gender. I never implied this doesn't play a role.

Zed: Because in a genre in which they know readers will project maleness onto an ambiguous name...

Prove that one first.

I make the presumption that when a person is using initials they are trying to blend in (whether it be a male into romance or a woman into science fiction). Therefor, when I see L. M. Woods in science fiction I would figure it's a woman. Same name in romance and I'd presume it's a man.

The problem with the whole gender bending through initials is that it's been done so much that when a reader see them they know there's something more going on here. This was my J. G. Ballard joke I tried making above.

So I submit that it's a lot more complicated than what's on the surface.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:11 PM on December 15, 2009


Men who "choose" to write using initials may not be "choosing" so much as simply going by the name they've always been called. P.J. O'Rourke, for example, has gone by P.J. his entire life outside of his writing, so there's no reason for him to write as Patrick Jake O'Rourke.

C.J. Cherryh, on the other hand, never went by C.J.; her name is Carolyn and she was always known as Carolyn among friends and family. She published under C.J. not just because of the sexism inherent in the writing/publishing industry, but because of the extra-super sexism in the Science Fiction publishing industry. In fact, beyond C.J., she decided to add the "h" to "Cherry," her real last name, as her publisher said that even with initials, "C.J. Cherry" sounds like a romance novelist, not a sci-fi novelist.

S.E. Hinton, pioneer of the Young Adult novel--The Outsiders is considered the first great YA novel--never went by S.E. in her life, but by Susan. Again, name change to a) get published in the first place, and b) allow the readers to read about rival high-school gangs with a gender-neutral (neutral=male by default) narrative voice, without a "girl" voice intruding upon their reading.

So I submit that it's a lot more complicated than what's on the surface.

Please get back to us when you have more to support your theory that it's more complicated with something beyond your wandering assumptions. Facts and concrete examples might help, as those of us who are very well aware that this is all about sexism have presented facts in abundance.
posted by tzikeh at 1:16 PM on December 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


And, just for fun (and by "fun" I mean "bite me, doubters"):

Wikipedia's category "Female authors who wrote under male or gender-neutral pseudonyms" -- 82 entries.

Wikipedia's category: "Male authors who wrote under female or gender-neutral pseudonyms" -- 5 entries.
posted by tzikeh at 1:20 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well much as I am eager to jump on the "it's sexism" bandwagon, I have to agree with cjorgensen and others that the paper lacks proper methodology and we shouldn't jump to conclusions. Here are some of the that really need to be answered first:

Outside of informal anecdotes, do we have any proof that these so-called "woemen" and "feemales" exist? And assuming they aren't some fanciful invention, do we have any good solid statistical evidence that they have language skills equal to our own- or are we simply misinterpreting some sort of ritual nesting behavior?

Let's answer the basics FIRST before we get obsessed with social justice.
posted by happyroach at 7:27 PM on December 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Misha: thanks. That dovetails pretty accurately with my time-line.

... not just because of the sexism inherent in the writing/publishing industry, but because of the extra-super sexism in the Science Fiction publishing industry.

Care to elaborate?
posted by Amanojaku at 8:17 AM on December 16, 2009


When this topic comes up, and you get comments like, "I'm so excited to learn that my feminism is still deeply relevant. And by excited I actually mean angry, bitter, and cynical," the implication is that men are the only ones perpetuating this inequity.

That's absolutely not the case, unless you think that feminism means being anti-man, or that being bitter, angry, and cynical about unconscious gender bias means being pissed off only at men about it. Neither of those assumptions are generally correct. I am also angry about unconscious gender bias, and about overt sexism, but the way I deal with the former is to try to do things to change the society that fosters such bias. Personal anger towards people who are actively sexist (thankfully rarer than they used to be) is directed at them, not their gender. And that's really pretty normal for feminists today. Sure, I have no doubt that you will occasionally find a woman who calls herself a feminist and thinks that all men suck and men are the only ones who might possibly have unconscious sexist opinions, but nothing lydhre said indicates that she belives that. Her comment mostly says "it sucks that women have had to do more to be percieved as equal, and it sucks that this is still the case, and I am pissed off about it." Nothing in there about it being solely the fault of men, or about being pissed off only at men. Citing comments like that as anti-man is really in bashing-straw-feminists territory.

I bet if she picked 5 female names and 5 male names, and wrote under all ten there would be 10 different incomes.

Sure, but you might start to see a gendered spread as the sample size increased. That's part of the point of the resume studies (and similar studies about employment interviews, etc., and studies focusing on the experience of actual job candidates with very similar levels of experience.) For subtle stuff like unconscious bias, it is not possible to prove that a given person actually experienced it. Scaling up, though, filters out the noise and lets you see the broader trends. The broader trends cannot prove any individual case, but they can (and by and large do) support the fact that gender bias based on name alone could be affect job success. And that's what the people talking about sexism and feminism are talking about - they're not starting with this story and "extrapolat[ing] to a generalization of the field." They're going the other way round - research supports the existance of bias, and so it's possible that it might be a factor in her story (though yes, the author herself seems overly certain that this was the sole factor.)

You say "In the end this argues for the point that people are sexist, but to make this into the blanket article she did...I'm not buying without a lot more data." The data's there, if you're willing to read academic papers; in that light, focusing so much on the possible confounding factors (as if they inherently exclude the possibility of sexism) and on the fact that a single story doesn't prove anything - well, it comes off as dismissive of the actual real-life data, and of the possibility that bias actually did play a role.
posted by ubersturm at 8:46 AM on December 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


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