Ah, Sexism. It is a continuing force for ill in our society today! Most recently, all the ladies and dudes who care about Sexism were shocked and moved by the story of one James Chartrand, a lady who adopted a man’s name for her writing and was instantly hired more often, paid more money, complimented more frequently, and read by more people. Just imagine! All of that! Because she took a man’s name! James Chartrand is a martyr, an example, a heroine! For surely she was writing just as well, and in the same ways, as she would if she were called, for totally random example, “Sara”…
Oh, wait. What’s that you say? She totally wasn’t? YIIIIKES. Yes, the crack investigation of Amanda Hess reveals that the shocking success of “James Chartrand,” Man Blogger, was based not only on the adoption of a masculine name, but on the creation of a totally false male persona, including (a) lies about being a boy with a gender-deviant knitting habit, (b) lies about Taylor Lindstrom, a female employee who was apparently aware of Chartrand’s gender, being “the team’s rogue woman” in Chartrand’s much-beloved “good ol’ boys club,” valuable for her talents of cooking, cleaning, and being adorable, (c) a semi-regular practice of objectifying the ladies, including the ladies who are not employee Taylor Lindstrom, and (d) a post in which Chartrand complained about terrible feminist women and discrimination against dudes on the Internet (!!!), containing, of course, some more lies. ABOUT “JAMES CHARTRAND’S” BALLS.
So, to recap: James Chartrand not only broke some of the key rules of being a writer, such as “not flat-out lying to your readers and completely undermining your own credibility” (which raises the question of whether we have good reason to believe any of that ORIGINAL blog post, about adopting the manly name, but whatever), but some of the key rules of being a decent person, such as “not being a total sexist.” Seems like a good time for discussion! Featuring keen investigator Amanda Hess of The Sexist, and me, wowed onlooker Sady Doyle! Herein, we explore the key questions: what are the acceptable boundaries between online persona and private life? Is “feminism” just getting yours, no matter what else you’re doing? And, in order to overcome discrimination against women, is it necessary to, you know… discriminate against women? Also, we are compelled to reveal our own dark, manly secrets! Including those pertaining to our balls!
ILLUSTRATION: Mere artists’ rendering, of course, does not capture their grandeur. You would simply have to see our balls for yourself.
SADY: Helloo! How are you holding up? It is I, Sir Baron von Winkie!
AMANDA: Why, hello, bro! Me here, Chester der Schninkle Man Man. I feel comfortable conversing with you and possibly hiring you in a variety of work situations based on your hyper-masculine name.
SADY: Yes. I congratulate you on having the balls to hire me, and my enormous, hirstute balls, for this purpose! I know I am risking my balls, here, but: balls to that, say I!
AMANDA: I applaud you for putting your balls out in a world full of women ready to shave your balls at every opportunity! BALLS.
SADY: OY. Can I tell you, when I first read the James Chartrand piece, I was really sympathetic? I mean, I know what it is like to create something of a distance between your writing life and your private life! I know what it is like to worry about losing out on opportunities because you are being stereotyped! But one thing I DO not know what it is like is to not only worry about stereotyping, and create a pseudonym (this was seriously going to be a project of mine at one point! To adopt a dudely pseudonym and see how reactions differed from reactions to “Sady”) but to TOTALLY VIOLATE ANY STANDARDS OF TRUSTWORTHINESS by creating an entire imaginary life, INCLUDING BALLS, for your pseudonym.
AMANDA: Brave, precious balls!
SADY: And make your imaginary man character a sexist, also. That was a fun choice!
AMANDA: Yeah. I mean, the thing about James, is that she probably was not aware that she was accessing male privilege when she wrote that balls-out post about how feminist mommy-bloggers with their sharpened ball clippers were being so MEAN by totally ignoring her when she posted balls-y comments on their Web sites under a male name. She thought, hey! I’m a single mom! I know exactly what this is like! Why am I not being accepted by them, JUST BECAUSE I APPEAR TO BE A MAN. She felt this was very sexist, and she decided to write a little ball post about it to right those wrongs. I just wonder why, knowing that the rest of the internet was so sexist it FORCED her to adopt a male persona to make money, she didn’t work very hard to discuss sexism against women in her posts?
SADY: Ha, yes. Somehow, Imaginary Person James Chartrand, CREATED BECAUSE OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LADIES WHO WRITE ON THE INTERNET, found himself compelled, on the basis of a handful of blog comments, to engage in the time-honored and ridiculous pastime of… complaining about discrimination against DUDES who write on the Internet? Even though Chartrand had concrete proof that such discrimination did not actually exist? I mean, I think on the “why don’t you discuss sexism” front, this is the peril of people adopting individualist agendas and slapping the name “feminism” on them. Because Chartrand was getting ahead, even though she had to circumvent sexism in a totally absurd way in order to do so, the goals of Feminism had actually been accomplished and she didn’t need to confront sexism or aid women in any real way.
AMANDA: Right, and you know, as much as I sympathize with women who can’t get jobs writing, as much as I know that happens, and as lucky as I am to write for a paper where my voice is valued, I just immediately thought something was not quite right with this story. I suspected that Chartrand had some sort of fascination with creating another character for herself, on some level. And that’s fine! As long as you don’t then turn around and say, after you’ve been outed, “Uh – it was a feminist act. Had to.”
SADY: Right. I mean, I don’t know if the “imaginary character” thing sits right with me. At all. And, FULL DISCLOSURE: “Sady” is not the name by which my family and close friends know me. They know me as Sara PleaseDon’tGoogleMeOfficeJobEmployers.
AMANDA: Bah! How could you! You accessed the inherent privilege in having the name “SADY WITH A Y” which is a really cool-sounding name!
SADY: But Sady is also me. As much as I keep private, I think one of the basics of writing is that people can TRUST WHAT IS COMING OUT OF YOUR KEYBOARD. They believe you mean it. Writing things that are substantively composed of lies is not a good way to go.
AMANDA: I sincerely hope you have been privately donating to some sort of fund for Women Named Sara.
SADY: Screw ‘em! I’m getting mine!
AMANDA: Yeah, the lying thing also disturbs me. Like, did sexism force you to to spin an absurd lie about how you came to be a man with a knitting hobby? And also, this woman is the owner of Men With Pens. She has several employees at this point. At what point does acting like a strangely masculine weirdo begin to actually directly affect other people?
SADY: Right? Like referring to defender Taylor as the sole woman on staff and getting all wink-wink nudge-nudge… does owning a company CALLED Men with Pens and making objectifying comments about the “only” woman on staff create a certain environment in which female candidates feel discouraged, you think? Because I think! I seriously do!
AMANDA: I also think. And I also really want to hear WAY more from James Chartrand about this, because the act of manufacturing male privilege is extraordinarily fascinating to me. Like, James: How many hours a week were marked away on the Men With Pens calendar to Manufacturing Male Privilege? “Well, Chester der Schninkle Man Man, one thing that most women don’t know is that Manufacturing Male Privilege is practically a full time job.” I mean, how much time did this woman spend devoting to how masculine she were?
SADY: I, Sir Baron von Winkie von Testicle-Schmidt, almost doubt that it was fully intentional. The male privilege thing, I mean. I think that Chartrand devoted herself to creating a “believable” man, and this guy ended up being almost like a cartoon of a dude (Maxim-y comments about women wanting to shave his balls included) and so the sexism became, maybe without Chartrand’s conscious intent, a part of the performance. And certain people have drawn parallels between this and trans men, which I find REALLY OFFENSIVE ACTUALLY, because: the point of being a trans dude is that you were always a dude. You transition, you change your name, your presentation becomes more fully YOU.
AMANDA: UGH. I had not heard that, but that is offensive.
SADY: Chartrand is consciously creating “a dude,” a Man with Pen, who is NOT her, and hence… the male privilege and corresponding arrogance, uninformed by life experience and almost reading like it was assembled by studying obnoxious male stereotypes.
AMANDA: And it was a grand success!
SADY: Right! That’s the thing! When I first read the Chartrand story, not knowing much about this Chartrand person, I was like, “oh, what a sobering illustration of the continuance of sexism.” And then I realized what she did to keep it up, thanks to your take, and I was like, “wow, this is SUBSTANTIALLY MORE SOBERING than I had initially thought, and in more depressing ways.”
AMANDA: yeah, it is pretty depressing. i’m sort of putting myself on James Chartrand watch now to see where she goes from here. She doesn’t seem to be retiring the pseudonym—she’s keeping her given name secret for “personal reasons”—but I wonder if she’ll relax some of the masculinity. perhaps it will be revealed to be a little bit silly, now.
SADY: Yeah. That is my hope, as well. I mean, I know having two feminists chat about you critically is often the gateway drug to writing posts about how awful feminists are, or whatever. But I would hope Chartrand would take this moment and run with it insofar as actually exploring the gender question a little more honestly. Or, at least, retiring the objectification and Michael-Bay-ified aesthetics.
AMANDA: And as a show of good faith, I will retire my pen name, Amanda Hess, and reveal my true identity: an olde-tyme prospector by the name of Seamus P. Flannihurtz, a man who could only make it in the sexist prospecting business by posing as a modern-day female feminist blogger. It is a cruel business, olde-tyme prospecting!
SADY: DECEIVER! I myself am motivated to new honesty by this disclosure. I am a long-time tailgater and appreciator of The Babes, by the name of Beefnachos Budweiser McGreenBayPackers. “Tiger Beatdown” is but a launching platform for my new venture, “BikiniInspectors.com.” And now you know.
AMANDA: I feel so … feminist.
SADY: As do I, my friend! As do I! When all female writers are replaced by more manly counterparts, then will the goals of our movement have been truly accomplished.