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Screen capture of Men With Pens website logo. Feature photo by Brocco Lee.

James Chartrand, Copyblogger contributor and founder of the ever successful Men With Pens is apparently a woman. He wears women’s underpants, is the shocking, eye-catching, attention getting title of his..her..his..umm…its coming out article.

Oh, poor, James, um, Jamie, you couldn’t get a job as a woman so you became a man. Oh, I totally understand. Of course, you’re in your late 30s. It was so much harder for us women to find work and support our children way back in the 1990s. Of course there weren’t any women in the workforce making their way back then. James, you poor thing. You’re so right. I’m sure Simone de Beauviour would agree, too.

This fills me with righteous indignation

It’s like watching Betty Draper told that even though her husband is cheating she better stay with him because basically as a woman she has no rights at all in a divorce. Or how women weren’t allowed to vote.

Photo by Mckaysavage

If only someone had thought to address these issues of discrimination against women at some point in history so that woman could begin to achieve the same things as men.

Life can be so unfair when you have a vagina.

Is this just a deliciously ironic mistake in copy?

The Washington City Paper says this goes far beyond a simple constructed masculinity in order to make a living. That, too, was my first thought when I saw the Men with Penises web page. I went, saw the deep gray brick walls and that phallus-shaped object shooting through the logo. I thought to myself, what is that? Is it a bullet? Is that supposed to be a pen? What?

This morning, I check the Men With Pens website again to see a new article titled Taylor’s a Feminist — But So Is James with authorship attributed to James. I tried to read the author profile, though, but was led to a blank page. (I assume this will change later today, though.) Bulls-eye of success, indeed!

Luckily, we women are easy to manipulate and confuse.

What also strikes me is that Taylor-James begins the article with the ever provocative statement of “Feminism is starting to piss me off.”

I can’t imagine what effect that was supposed to have on readers. Certainly not anything cheap or tawdry like garnering our attention right from the beginning, roiling us up in a fine feminist frenzy against James or Taylor or whatever man with a pen is doing the writing.

Photo by Quinn.Anya

Then we find we are mistaken. Turned around, shaken up in our silly stuck ways of thinking when we find out this James is a woman. A woman who luckily, for the sake of her career, was given the ambiguously gendered name Taylor.

This female Taylor-James says she has kept the other-James’ secret, that she understands that all those years ago, it was so much harder for a woman to make her way in the world alone. She understands why the-other-James had to slop on a detachable penis and pretend.

Does this sound fishy to you too?

The original copyblogger article has almost 2000 tweets and 500 comments. And how high do you think the Men with Pens website has jumped in unique page views since the original article published? It has sparked discussion all over the internet, and who knows how far it will go. Today Show? The View? Maybe even Oprah?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, this 37-year-old woman who makes a living writing must head off and make breakfast for my daughter, and then maybe I’ll go get some chocolate to calm myself down a bit.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION:


Do you believe this is about a woman’s ability to make an equal salary and support her children? Or something else entirely?

 

 

About The Author

Leigh Shulman

Leigh Shulman is a writer, photographer and mom living in Salta, Argentina. There, she runs Cloudhead Art, an art & education group that creates collaborative art using social media to connect people and resources. You can read about her travels on her blog The Future Is Red

  • Kely

    Thank you for not jumping on the whole “Oh James you’re so oppressed and I heart you even though you lied to us about your penis all these years” puke fest. It’s disgusting. Chartrand set women back even further by making us unworthy of trust.

    Chartrand has been attention grabbing for years.This isn’t a mere welfare mom story. it’s the story of lies and manipulation. Chartrand didn’t prove anything about a paycheck as much as he showed the world women are liars, cheats and manipulators who aren’t worthy of trust. What pisses me off the most is the example she’s setting for her children. She doesn’t want her 12 year old to go to work but she’s giving the message to go ahead and lie and be someone you’re not if it means it’ll get you on Copyblogger and TV. James Chartrand is the worst kind of woman. She disgusts me.

    • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

      I hear you Kely. I’m not sure what sort of model James Chartrand makes for our daughters.

      Another point brought up my another person here at Matador how this deception will affect Men With Pens’ client satisfaction and trust.

      We talk a lot about material transparency here at Matador. Recently, David Miller wrote an article about how to develop a clear, honest personal brand.

      http://thetravelersnotebook.com/notes-on-writing/material-transparency-manifesto-on-a-writers-personal-brand/

      How would James Chartrand measure up to that?

    • http://matadornights.com Kate

      Can you please not make an individual person’s inconsequential choices the power to “make us all unworthy of trust”? This assertion is contrary to feminism in the first place. We are not representatives of an alien form of life and we are entitled to do and behave how we will. And if you think this story is so important as to make a dent in anything besides your afternoon, I hope you will rethink that. It’s interesting and a curiosity and I think Leigh has is right when she points out that it’s probably a gimmick for attention. Later we will find out that “James” has ambiguous genitalia or that “she” is going through gender reassignment surgery when she pulls her pants down on the Donahue show. It’s a non issue and not relevant to feminism in a global way – it’s fake and the things James writes have the veneer of oversimplification and lazy thinking. I’m pretty sure “she” really is a man.

  • http://passingthru.com/ Betsy Wuebker

    All I know is James Chartrand set my B.S. meter off over a year ago and it hasn’t stopped sounding. I’m comfortable with what appears to be a minority opinion regarding this kerfluffle.

  • http://www.somedaysyndrome.com Alex Fayle ¡ Someday Syndrome

    Holy sensationalism Batman!

    The world has been full of brands and images that we buy since the beginning of time.

    It’s certainly not a choice I would have made, but your reaction seems to say that one person makes a choice and suddenly the whole feminism movement collapses.

    How about talking to James before attacking? You say this smacks of a PR ploy, but how about the possibility of never wanting to reveal herself and reacting to a situation she didn’t want to ever face?

    Not everyone is the world is a scammer. And it certainly doesn’t negate the skill of James and Harry – in fact to me it increases it – what great skill at creating a believable brand using words and images!

    Of course all that being said, it’s not a choice I would have made and I’m neither supporting it or judging it, because of course being a white privileged male, I’ve never been put in that situation.

    Everyone makes choices in their lives and lives with the consequences. For good or for worse James made a choice that garnered her more money, recognition than she had previously and she is now dealing with the consequences.

    • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

      I have no issue with creating a persona and using it online. In fact, I find that sort of thing rather intriguing. But there is something not quite right about the way this has been done.

      It’s not so much that I feel lied to, it’s that I feel James is trying to turn this into an issue of feminism when it is not. I also don’t believe it’s about coming out before being outed. I think, instead, we are being purposefully manipulated and as the Washington City Post suggests, this has been going on in one form or another for quite some time. Only the tune changes when the first wave of manipulation is found to be fraud.

      I don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that.

      Do I really think this will cause the collapse of feminism? Not in the least. I’m of the — possibly unpopular — belief that we’ve moved beyond the feminism of the past. Issues as simple as equal pay for equal work have been complicated by stay-at-home-dads, location independence, and families where both parents work from home. Feminism isn’t just about women anymore.

      James’ revelation could have led to a discussion of gender roles, how the world has changed and perhaps even why s/he chose to portray Men With Pens in such a strongly male way. Instead, she stuck up an article, written by someone else to say that she is indeed a feminist role model. And in all of that, she won’t even let us know who she is. We don’t even have a face to put to the lies we’ve been told.

      You also mention you wouldn’t have made the same choices. Why not? And what do you think you would have done in a similar situation?

      Of course, I’d be happy to talk to James about all this. I’ll go right now and send an e-mail, see what kind of response I get.

      • http://www.somedaysyndrome.com Alex Fayle ¡ Someday Syndrome

        Excellent! I’m glad you’re going to send off an email, although I’m sure it’ll be a while to get through the inbox. ;)

        As for why I wouldn’t have made these choices… well, I’ve always been a fighter. I came out young and having no dependents, I can live on the edge without worrying about it. Not everyone is a fighter though – some just want what’s best for themselves and choose not to fight the big fight.

        • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

          E-mail sent. And yes, it may well be a while before it gets through.

          Hearing your response, it makes me a bit sad to think that the idea of not fighting is now being tied to this woman whose current situation is now connected with feminism.

          You’re absolutely right. Not everyone needs to fight, but it seems she set herself up for a situation in which she herself knew she’d one day have to fight.

          “But there was always that risk that someone, someday, would end up spilling the beans. And for years I sat braced for that moment.”

          It seems like the choice is to see this situation as another step in the manipulation or the misguided dealings of a woman who left herself more vulnerable in an attempt to hide from reality. (Personally, I’d prefer option number one, and that woman can certainly handle my criticism).

          • http://www.somedaysyndrome.com Alex Fayle ¡ Someday Syndrome

            I like your responses Leigh – I’m glad to see that you do have a thoughtful response to the events. And yeah, it’s a sad situation that so much has been made of the news, and people taking sides all over the place and making judgments about the whys and wherefores of the situation, which is really just a personal decision that created more success than initially anticipated and now has major public fallout.

            But it reminds me of something I learned in 1994 when I started using the Internet: Never put anything out there you do not want to see on the evening news. Well the evening news has arrived for James. ;)

    • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

      Hi Alex,

      I did hear from James and rather quickly, I might add, but I wanted to take some time and think about her responses before writing about them. At first, I considered posting a follow up interview with her based on what she said, but as of nowe, I have decided not.

      After everything, I still feel that this coming-out was more of a carefully orchestrated bid for attention. James’ comments from her first article, to the follow up articles appearing on her website to the e-mails she sent me to her comments on this article all seem to be missing something. Nothing quite adds up and all leave me feeling similarly to how I felt when I first wrote the article.

      Of course, when I first wrote I was aggravated and thus the obnoxious tone. I was mainly annoyed that James and her drama took up so much of my time. I feel similarly about the Salahi’s crashing the White House or the piles of reporting on Tiger Woods’ private life. None of this is newsworthy in my opinion, and it distracts from other events and ideas are far more important.

      I also wanted to make note that you are the only male to comment in this long discussion. Perhaps that’s the nature of things when the word “feminist” is mentioned, particularly in what has also been called a rant. and I applaud you for being “brave” enough to take part.

      Truthfully, men should be part of the debate, because they are clearly part of the way feminism plays out in real life. Just because men haven’t experienced the exact sort of discrimination women do, doesn’t mean they should be silenced.

  • http://www.menwithpens.ca Taylor – Men with Pens

    I’ll let you go right back to ranting in just a moment, but you should really get at least the most basic of facts straight first:

    I’m Taylor. Hi. I’m a woman. I have been a woman ever since I joined the team. I have my own company. I’m a woman there too. My biography, which you clearly didn’t bother to look for, is up there on the Men with Pens website in the About section.

    I’m not James. Never have been. I’ve been writing blog posts on MwP for quite awhile.

    Now, James occasionally forgets he’s not the center of the universe and accidentally leaves his name up as the publisher when he puts up a post. Someone in the comments generally gives us a heads-up and he fixes it first thing. You can check THOSE instances if you’d care to go through the archives too.

    And since you clearly didn’t read the article for its main point, which is that neither you, nor any other man, woman, nor beast has the right to tell any woman what she HAS to do just because she’s a woman, I’ll let you go right back to whatever point you wanted to make. Since you’re clearly not responding to my post so much as using it as a reason to push your own agenda.

    Also, SPEAKING of “eye-catching, shocking” titles and intros that you’re apparently completely and utterly against – “Feminism is Dead and James Chartrand Killed Her”? Really? I had no idea feminism was so easily killed. But hey, YOU would never use hyperbole to get your audience’s attention, clearly, so . . . I guess he must have killed it.

    I’ll be sure to tell him.

    • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

      Hi Taylor,

      Thanks for your response.

      I’d like to make some clarifications. First, I’m fully aware that you’re a woman and didn’t say otherwise in my post. My main point in that instance is that the link to author from the article is confusing and rather ironic considering the nature of Men With Pens’ business. But I do acknowledge that it is most probably a mistake and will be changed later on.

      Second, my title, yes, it’s meant to be jarring. I believe that’s called irony. In fact, the entire tone of the article is meant to be so. It’s a free license I enjoy taking when I write and keeps me from getting bored by writing in the same voice all the time.

      Third, I did understand your main point. I am also fully aware that feminism means you can choose. A fact of which I’ve taken full advantage in my life. I’ve worked, been a stay-at-home mom. I’ve returned to work after four years out of the job market while my husband took on the bulk of our home responsibilities. Yes, feminism is about choice, but it has evolved far beyond that in many ways. That, and every choice has a consequence, and it seems James is dealing with those now.

      I think perhaps if you go back and read my article and subsequent comments again, you’ll see I’ve already discussed much of this already. I am, of course, happy to continue the discussion on any of these points.

      • http://www.menwithpens.ca Taylor – Men with Pens

        “First, I’m fully aware that you’re a woman and didn’t say otherwise in my post.”

        You’ll forgive me for dissenting when I recognize we’re having a nice calm discussion here, but when you call me “Taylor-James” for the majority of the article, I believe there’s quite a bit of confusion passed on to your readers. However – “I do acknowledge that it is most probably a mistake and will be changed later on.” – very much appreciated. It’s hard enough working with a front man like James without letting him take credit for my work!

        “Second, my title, yes, it’s meant to be jarring. I believe that’s called irony.”

        Oh dear me. Yes, I am aware. My point was simply that you lampooned both James’ essay and my blog post for our – and I quote again – “shocking, eye-catching, attention getting” and in my case “ever provocative” titles. You then go on – very ironically, indeed – “I can’t imagine what effect that was supposed to have on readers. Certainly not anything cheap or tawdry like garnering our attention right from the beginning, roiling us up in a fine feminist frenzy.”

        To beg your permission to use a little irony myself, I personally can’t think of any other post that has used this technique. Ever. Certainly not today. On this blog. Where there is also a picture of a crossed out, crudely drawn penis, helpfully titled “PENIS”, which is surely also not meant to be tawdry or attention getting. Oh my no.

        Now, as you say, this is a very common copywriting tool. We’ve actually written whole posts on why provocative or weird titles get attention and are more likely to be read. But when you criticize our doing so in the SAME ESSAY that you use this common technique yourself – well. You can see why I found that a little hypocritical.

        “I am also fully aware that feminism means you can choose.”

        Well, excellent. Then I’m sure you understand that being pissed off at James because she made different choices than Simone de Beauvoir or those working women who keep fighting the good fight is . . . actually completely different than saying it’s okay to choose. Wait a minute. Now I’m confused. You’re pissed that she didn’t address these issues of discrimination, but you believe she has the right to choose not to address those issues.

        You’re pissed because she didn’t do what you wanted her to do? Well damn. I’ll bet all those men you were talking about, who wouldn’t let women vote or go to work or own property or get away from the kids for five minutes, were MIGHTY pissed that those women wouldn’t do what they wanted them to do too. Hell, I’m told there were other women at those times who were pissed at those pioneers of women’s rights too, if you’ll believe it. Those women actually thought they had the right to tell other women how they should behave. The very nerve.

        Good thing that’s not an issue anymore.

        Now, I’m with you on the feminism thing. I’m ridiculously grateful, every day, that there were women who decided to get out there and march for the right to vote, who took their cases to court when they were discriminated against. I watch Mad Men too, with Peggy Olsen fighting her way up the good old boys ladder to become a copywriter with her very own office. Hey, you don’t suppose she might not have been relegated to only writing copy for women’s items like lipstick if she’d written something fantastic for one of their bigger accounts right off the bat, and given it to one of the other male copywriters to give to Don? You don’t think that maybe if she’d done that, and then it was revealed that she was the real copywriter behind that “male-quality” writing, she might have gotten some gigs that weren’t to do with face cream?

        No, of course not. She should have walked into that office and demanded that Don look at her copy because she’s just as good as a man. That would’ve been much more effective. Hell, she shouldn’t have even bothered with her secretary gig. Those jobs are demeaning to women. She should have marched right up and gotten that copywriter job first thing by declaring her right to be treated just the same as a man. That would totally have worked.

        Peggy, you’ll note throughout that series, plays the game just like the men. She’s often shown taking note of one of their mannerisms and then imitating it. It usually works wonders for her. Are you pissed at Peggy, too, for taking advantage of the flaws in a sexist system?

        Now, your final point – that every choice has consequences, and that James is dealing with them – is absolutely true. He knows that. I know it. And neither of us wants to STOP these discussions. We just disagree with many of the things that are being said, and we’re presenting our dissenting opinions.

        In these comments, you’re very poised, eloquent, actually a joy to debate with. In your article, you’re snarky, “ironic”, and intentionally offensive. I’m aware that you do this on purpose. It’s a choice you’ve made in your writing style, and your much more measured demeanor here in the comments suggests that you could easily write an article in a less provocative manner if you chose.

        I bring this up merely to suggest that perhaps you too must deal with the consequences of your choices. If you choose to make provocative statements, you can hardly expect that those statements won’t offend. They did offend me. You meant them to. I responded accordingly, and I apologize if I did so with too much vehemence on my side. You seem very intelligent, though, and I cannot imagine you expected anything else. I rather suspect it was the point of choosing that style.

        • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

          Taylor,

          I don’t want to go through a line-by-line analysis of our posts and follow up comments. Instead, I’d rather focus on what I see as the overarching issues.

          I wasn’t really pissed or angry at the initial article. More to the point, I was aggravated at what seemed like an engineered attempt to garner more readers by capitalizing on years worth of lies.My tone in the main article is my initial reaction, and of course I considered the fact that writing about it could only throw fuel on the fire. I ultimately decided to post it because I felt what I said needed to be said.

          As comments began to appear, I began to see some real value in the discussion. Such as: What can we expect in terms of transparency from the people we hire? Who are we writers and bloggers at home versus our public face, and how much of a disparity is acceptable?

          As Michelle says in an earlier comment, all the “he wrote”, “I wrote” becomes confusing and erodes the faith we have in those we meet and read on the internet. Particularly now that we have a clear and present example of how one successful person managed to fool us all. Does the ends (good copy) justify those means?

          I’m sure Kate (and I aren’t the only ones wondering if there will be another man behind the curtain of the woman who was a man.

          As for feminism, I’d like to be crystal clear that I do not believe feminism no longer exists. I do believe that it is and always has been a term and philosophy that is impossible to pin down and becomes even more complicated as time passes. It is now so much more than the simple right to choose.

          I also do not for a second believe that James’ coming out or your subsequent article had anything to do with feminism and everything to do with all the other issues mentioned above.

          ps Peggy Olsen? I’ll take her any day over Betty. Why? Because Betty is false. Peggy is true (as much as a fictional character can be, anyway).

          • http://www.menwithpens.ca Taylor – Men with Pens

            I just re-read your article, and frankly, the entire post is mostly about whether this is right from a feminist point of view. I’m not using the word as an insult, I’m saying that I really can’t see this argument about transparency that’s supposed to be there, what with the Betty Draper and the Simone de Beauvoir and the issues of discrimination and all. Those are valid issues, to be sure. But I really can’t see that your intention was to discuss the issue of trust and transparency.

            Now, if we’re going to talk trust and transparency, it’s a much stickier issue. I wasn’t saying that James living like this was good – at least I hope I didn’t say that. I was saying I have no idea what it’s like to be in that position. I was saying I know the intention was not to deceive, but to do what needed to be done for the sake of the family. I was saying I’m grateful to not have ever been in that position myself.

            I don’t condone deception as a rule, because (as we’ve seen) it can indeed undermine your credibility terribly, even if you deceived in an area that is completely unrelated to the thing that you are credible for (which is to say, she deceived about her gender, a topic that is completely unrelated to her ability to write, which is what she has gained credibility on the web for knowing about).

            I’m simply saying that for all the people out there saying she should have done this, she should have done that – well, until you’re in that position, you really just don’t bloody know. Saying “you should” do this is ridiculous. None of us have any idea what “should” happen.

            You can absolutely say that you disagree with the choice. That you would make a different one. And that her choice made you think less of her as a person.

            But that all women, or even just this one woman, should do what you think she should do? No. I really don’t think so. I think we’re all wise enough to know what we don’t know, and to leave judgment aside.

  • http://www.menwithpens.ca James Chartrand – Men with Pens

    Hi Leigh, and thanks for sharing your views. I’ll be responding to the questions you asked in your email shortly.

    I did want to correct a statement. You wrote:

    Instead, she stuck up an article, written by someone else to say that she is indeed a feminist role model.

    It’s important to note that I’ve stated several times that I don’t consider myself a feminist role model, don’t want to be seen as one, and never undertook any of this with that angle in mind. The article on Copyblogger, which was indeed originally drafted by my friend Kelly (who could say what needed to be said calmly), says that quite clearly.

    Onto your email now – and again, thanks for getting in touch.

    • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

      Hello James,

      Thank you very much for your reply. I knew you had to be the type who could handle criticism rationally.

      To address your point. When you post an article on your own business website calling yourself a feminist, even if someone else writes the article, it does seem that you are setting yourself up as a feminist role model. To then say you are not one seems disingenuous.

      Whatever the case, I look forward to hearing your answers to my questions as well as further discussion.

  • Heather

    I’ve never read James’ blog but I found this article very judgemental. I think it’s quite possible that she played around with psuedonyms and found she got more credence as a male author rather than a female one. (She could be lying, but if you look at the stats on gender-based pay differences her claim is at least plausable.) As a woman, I can understand frustration at what can be seen as a cop-out on her part, but I don’t think it deserves treatment so judgemental and vicious. You talk about being past feminism and owning your gender but then you tear another women to pieces and suggest her psuedonym is the equivalent of a “strap-on.”. Belittling her assertions of descrimination not being a thing of the past, you add to it! Gotta love it when one woman tears down another to brag about herself! Also, way to pretend you’re part of the solution while adding to the problem.

    • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

      Hey Heather,

      My judgment is about what appears to me to be falsehood, and I question where exactly the lies end. With clients? With calls of feminism? And that we have no real face on which to discuss these things also falls rather hollow.

      Your assertion that I’m tearing down another woman to build myself up strikes me as rather self referential. I’m not sure that simply saying I appreciate that I’ve been able to make my own choices is as much a brag as a reality.

      Let me also add that when Alex above suggested I get in touch with I took it to heart. James and I are now e-mailing and discussing this in what is a very rational and clear headed way. I’m not sure yet what will come out of those discussions, but I do hope to post some of James’ responses.

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/michelles Michelle

    Leigh, I really enjoyed this article and all of the comments. Looking forward to more.

    I just have to say I’m confused as hell, though, with all the “I wrote it” “she/he wrote it” “he posted it” “he published it but didn’t actually write it” stuff….transparency indeed. All of that just makes the entire thing muddled and difficult to understand, and while it’s all entertaining for now, in the end it just builds a lack of trust between writer/editor and reader, and it doesn’t seem like a good way to do business to me. (Just my opinion!)

  • Candice Walsh

    I kinda get the feeling that some people commenting didn’t really read your article. I fully understand the desperation of taking extreme measures to make money, but I don’t know, I don’t think I could ever feel accomplished if I had to mask my true identity (to anyone other than my parents ;)). I was surprised anyone would do so, feels like we’re working backwards.

  • http://collazoprojects.com Julie

    Thanks for this article, Leigh.

    I didn’t know who Chartrand was before someone forwarded her article to me yesterday evening. I read through it and initially felt moved. Who am I to judge what another woman decides to do to make ends meet when she honestly feels she’s exhausted all options? I’ve never come that close to feeling like my world would fall apart and I’ve never been faced with the challenge of making sure that two kids continue to get fed and cared for. Would I rather Chartrand have soldiered on without developing a male pseudonym and, over time it seems, a full-blown male persona? Sure. But like I said, I’ve never been on the edge of that kind of precipice, never known the kind of anxiety and fear and rage and hopelessness that might lead a woman to make that kind of decision.

    That being said, the empathy I felt for Chartrand evaporated toward the end of the article. After going on for paragraphs and pumping up the “coming out” story, Chartrand then says, in a post script, no less:

    “Oh, my real name? Well, I never really wanted that revealed, totally apart from the gender issue. I know better than most how quickly and profoundly revealing just a tiny bit of personal information can affect (and even destroy) people’s lives.

    I have kids. I’m not interested in making myself vulnerable in that way.”

    That’s where I checked my judgmental self at the door.

    As a writer–irrespective of gender–I believe that our words matter so much that we MUST take accountability for them. We must attach our name to our writing. Chartrand wanted to benefit from being a professional writer but wasn’t willing to accept the occupational risks? What if everyone who worried about “how quickly and profoundly revealing just a tiny bit of personal information can affect…people’s lives” published under a pseudonym? What if all of us who are writers AND parents shied away from naming ourselves and claiming our work? That would be even more terrifying to me than a society where a woman has a tough time getting a job because of her gender.

    As a women’s studies undergrad, I learned that one of the central tenets of feminism was that feminists “positioned” themselves, that is, they didn’t uphold the false belief that absolute objectivity exists and they openly articulated their positions and beliefs because they believed doing so was the only way to build a society that was authentic, just, and fair.

    Chartrand clearly STILL isn’t willing to position herself, which leads me to wonder why she ever “came out” in the first place.

    • http://www.menwithpens.ca James Chartrand – Men with Pens

      @ Julie -

      Thanks for your views, and I appreciate you put them forward. You asked why I bothered coming out – if you read the original statement at Copyblogger, you’d know that someone else began leaking information and forced my hand. Otherwise, none of this would even be a subject of discussion this week.

      More importantly, I want to discuss this:

      As a writer–irrespective of gender–I believe that our words matter so much that we MUST take accountability for them. We must attach our name to our writing. Chartrand wanted to benefit from being a professional writer but wasn’t willing to accept the occupational risks?

      I have 7,000 people reading my blog on a daily basis. I have NO idea who these people are. And a blog necessitates some sharing of personal information. These people know details of my personal life.

      What if just one of these people is ambitious enough or mentally disturbed enough to decide to track me down, show up at my home and murder me or one of my children? Is that an occupational risk I “must” take on, just to write and be paid for my work? Does the benefit of being financially secure come with the price of risking personal safety?

      What would *you* do if someone with a gun showed up at your door and shot you, stalked your children or tried to rape one of them simply because *you* were a writer?

      Sorry, but no. There’s nowhere in the job description of having a writing career that says I *must* give up personal information that puts me in physical danger. And, I’m frankly shocked to read it. My safety and security is a reader’s right?

      No. Just no.

      • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

        You’re really concerned some random reader or client might show up at your house with a gun?

        What do you do or say that makes your position more vulnerable than say any of the Matador writers? Or John Stewart. Or any of the thousands of writers, bloggers, editors, journalists and television personalities out there.

        Knowing your identity isn’t knowing where you live.

        • http://www.menwithpens.ca James Chartrand – Men with Pens

          @ Leigh – I posed the question, “What if” at large and generally, to generate discussion, so let’s not make assumptions on each other’s thoughts.

          To answer your question, I don’t think my position is any more vulnerable than anyone else’s – nor did I say so. But I do believe that the choice to expose our name remains a choice, and I’ve chosen to draw the line on it. It’s a personal decision. It is not one that each writer out there must make, I feel.

          Each day, I give people advice, content, thought-provoking material, a smile, inspiration… I share some of myself and my work with everyone, and freely. That’s not enough? I feel I do have the right and the option of drawing a boundary, and my name is where I’ve set mine.

          • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

            That is a pretty huge and assumptive “What if?”.

          • http://collazoprojects.com Julie

            James-

            I did read your “reason” for coming out in the original article, but I really don’t understand it… it remains unclear to me what exactly happened and why you felt the need to come out. Was it as some sort of preemptive strike against whatever this other person might disclose about you?

            I’m not of the opinion or belief that writing a blog is fundamentally different than any other kind of writing, and yes, I DO believe that writers have a responsibility to back up what they write–what they purport to believe–by being brave enough to attach their name to it.

            Of course there’s a risk–though incredibly remote, in my opinion–that some mentally unstable person could track you down (though, not having ever read anything you’ve written before yesterday, I don’t know why anyone dispensing the kind of advice you say you’re sharing would be vulnerable). But I also believe that you, as a writer, have the responsibility to be boundaried enough in the disclosure of your personal information to protect yourself accordingly.

            I have a three month old daughter. I write frequently about controversial issues: Americans traveling to Cuba illegally, big oil perpetrating major damage in indigenous communities, that kind of thing. And I would never hide my opinion under a pseudonym because I just feel like there’s something utterly disingenuous about that. Do I want to put myself, my husband, or my daughter at risk? NO. But I also don’t want to teach our daughter that it’s okay to hide what you believe behind a false identity. If you have to do that, then it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself.

  • http://twenty-somethingtravel.com/ Stephanie

    I’ve been following the James Chartrand story with interest and admittedly some frustration all week. I tend to be sympathetic to James choices, she did what she had to do for her family and I don’t think that’s a reflection on the choices or trustworthiness of all women everywhere. The fact that she and her website are capitalizing on their new fame is also irrelevant to me.

    That being said, I’m frustrated by all of these “for” and “against” posts when what I’d really like to see is an open discussion on the social factors that led to a choice like that being made. Why is it so much easier for men to be taken seriously on the internet? Why did James suddenly find so many doors open to her as a man that weren’t before? How have things changed since the 90′s, what still needs to be done?

    The internet can be a very anonymous place and as a result it’s very easy for conversations to turn into free for alls, but I’d be really interested to hear people’s opinions on this.

    • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

      I’m not sure I agree this conversation has turned into a free for all, but that is neither here nor there. As you already know, I don’t think those issues are the main point of this particular kurfluffle (Thank you Betsy for that description in an earlier comment. It’s a word not used nearly enough).

      I do, however, wholeheartedly agree that the questions you raise, that have been raised here and there earlier in the discussion are interesting and worth exploration.

      You interested in writing about it?

  • http://maximumcustomerexperience.com Kelly

    Gosh, there is SO much I’d like to say here. But Julie, just on that point of being required to bare our true names online—please read about the death threats Kathy Sierra received for her willingness to be so open, here:
    http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/2007/03/28/kathy_sierra/index.html

    or, frankly, anywhere you’d care to google. Her wonderful work was lost to us (I was a faithful fan) because sometimes, the online world is a crazy place.
    Literally.

    Nobody should have the right to make that choice for James, or the thousands and thousands of men and women who blog under partial names, pen names, or goofy descriptors. Our privacy can sometimes be life-or-death even in the utopia that we wish the Internet would be.

    Regards,

    Kelly

    • http://www.collazoprojects.com Julie

      Kelly-

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. We’ll have to agree to disagree. I simply believe that words are too important to not be accountable for… and I believe that whether they’re in a newspaper, in a magazine, in a book, or on a blog. Would you make the same argument you forward here about a newspaper article? There are journalists putting their lives on the line every day–some because of the nature of the issues they’re reporting about, and some because there are “crazy” people who want to silence them. Mexican and Russian journalists, in particular, are frequent victims to this latter category.

      Do I think that’s right? ABSOLUTELY, unequivocally not.

      I don’t expect the Internet to be a utopia. I don’t believe that such a thing exists.
      But I do expect people to be accountable for their words and their opinions. And why we should hold people who write on blogs to any lower standard is beyond me.

  • http://lonelygirltravels.com Lauren Quinn

    Speak it sister! Thanks for not watering down your opinions. Great article, great discussion, and killer title.

  • http://maximumcustomerexperience.com Kelly

    Julie,

    Doesn’t bother me at all if folks don’t want to reveal their true names in any media… initially or ever. I read Dr. Seuss (we know his name now, but it wasn’t always that way), I read Primary Colors before Anonymous was revealed, and in newspapers, sources names are often withheld for their protection. (Deep Throat…)

    These days, there are many bloggers using pen names to protect their job or their privacy—sometimes obvious because the name is goofy, sometimes not. If their content is superb I’m happy to read them. What kind of accountability should there be for someone who gives me and thousands of readers professional tips and advice for years—and for free? I guess results—and with how many people have improved their business with James’ help… the results are there.

    You’re right. We see the subject of keeping one’s name to oneself differently. Thanks for taking a minute to discuss it, though.

    Until later,

    Kelly

    • http://www.thefutureisred.typepad.com/ Leigh Shulman

      Kelly,

      I understand what you’re saying, and I suppose my opinion on whether or not a writer must reveal her identity falls somewhere between yours and Julie’s. If a writer so chooses not to reveal, that is her choice. I will support that, but it will also take away from the credibility of what she says. Without a name and face, I have no way of evaluating whether that writer has experience to say what she is saying. It might be good writing, but then it will be more fiction than factual reporting.

      What I mainly disagree with is the idea that we should hide ourselves because of what might happen, particularly when the likelihood of that danger occurring is relatively low. Yes, Kathy Sierra had a real problem, but how many of us don’t? Are we more or less likely to be in a deadly car accident, airplane crash, eat something bad and die of food poisoning?

      Yes, some things are truly dangerous. Being the leader of any nation in this world. Trekking through the jungles of Colombia and reporting on FARC. A woman refusing to cover her hair in Iran.

      I would never tell anyone what they MUST do based on these dangers, but once we start living our lives based on every danger imaginable, we run the risk of living in a very small world indeed.

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