Subtle Biases

Sexism isn’t normally something I’d post about, but this post really caught me. It seems that James of the popular writing blog Men with Pens, is actually a woman.

Reading her story makes me admire her guts, but the fact that she disguised her gender because she made twice as much freelance writing with a male pen name, well– that really makes you think.

I’ve never suffered any obvious discrimination because I’m a woman. If anything it worked in my favor. I was usually the only girl in my college Computer Engineering classes. I did feel a little awkward in a room full of guys when it came time to pick lab partners, but that wasn’t because of anything anybody else did. I feel awkward in a group of strangers anyway…

I’m not a rabid feminist. I’ll stick up for myself and being treated equally, but I don’t think men are evil. If a man wants to hold a door open for me, I’ll say thanks, and do the same for him the next time I reach the door first. I’ve never seen any reason why chivalry can’t work both ways.

I thought we were getting past this sort of thing. Seeing proof that this sort of subtle, unmeasurable, possibly even unconscious, discrimination still exists–based solely on the difference of a name on the internet… it hurts a little.

But I also can’t help thinking that a slightly fictionalized version of this story would make a great movie 🙂

Posted by Skygrazer

Polymer clay addict and artist. Also fascinated by kaleidoscopes.


My favorite book of all time, “Ender’s Game,” deals with this idea with a different spin. Two brilliant children take on pseudonyms to write political essays on the nets and become hugely influential before anyone realizes how young they are. It’s a pretty fascinating idea!

I love that book. And the concept.

I think pretending to be someone you’re not/hiding your identity is something that fascinates us all. Otherwise, why would there be so many masked superheros? 🙂

Remember reading the story in grade school by George Eliot, and then learning that it was a pen name for Mary Anne Evans? She was one of the most popular writers of the Victorian Era, and used a pen name in order to be taken seriously. I remember that clearly, a school lesson that stuck with me, and I think it was 6th grade, when you were still there. I don’t suppose you remember?


I do remember that. Those readers were actually pretty good at introducing us to different authors and ideas. Although, Komodo dragons still freak me out a bit from one of the articles we read 🙂

And I remember seeing a picture of ‘George Elliot’ too, although I’m not sure it was in the reader, looking rather masculine and wondering if that’s what she really looked like, or if that was just artistic convention or the style of the day.

There’s a long standing tradition of pen names for different reasons. I know some of the more prolific writers took multiple names so they could get their stories printed more often – sometimes most of the stories in one magazine would be written by the same writer. A western writer, Max Brand, I like had at least eight names he wrote under.

Porsche Amendola

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