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Posted by on Dec 14, 2009 in Economy, Media, Miscellaneous, Politics, Society | 11 comments

Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants: Because It Pays Better

Whether you’re surprised by this story or not is beside the point, which is that this kind of thing and variations on the same thing happen with shocking regularity.  From Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants:

You know me as James Chartrand of Men with Pens, a regular Copyblogger contributor for just shy of two years.

And yet, I’m a woman.

This is not a joke or an angle or an analogy — I’m literally a woman.

This is my story.

What you’ll learn when you read his/her story is the shocking! but true! tale of how – I know, hold your breath – men make more than women in the writing world, even when everything is remote and online.

Shock. Ing. I. Know.

Some takes on this so far:

From The Frisky:

My first instinct was to be inflamed with anger at the discrimination that led her to do use a pseudonym. Same old, same old BS, right? Sexism and racism are indeed alive and well. And, hey, as a woman, I can sure relate to how she felt. I’ve had my share of sexist blog comments calling me the c-word, and worse; I remember what it felt like when I was a newspaper reporter and the fire chief in town, who loved to pal around with my male colleague, declined to answer a question from me because it was “too complicated” for me to “understand.” I absolutely believe Chartrand when she says that her gender cost her gigs. Who knows, maybe Chartrand is not Caucasian and has a real name that reflects she is a person of color, a potential double bind when she applied for jobs. Maybe her race cost her gigs, too.

But once I sat for awhile and thought more analytically, I felt resentful that Chartrand chose to “pass” (my word, not hers) as a male writer. Chartrand wrote she wasn’t interested in becoming an activist—as she put it: “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.” That’s the part that slays me—“life’s too short.” Well, sure, life is too short for any woman, or a black person, or a gay person, who is discriminated against. However, most of us aren’t lucky enough to be in a profession where we can completely hide behind a pseudonym. Madeleine Albright didn’t do it. Meg Whitman didn’t do it. The Williams sisters didn’t do it.

From Momsrising:

This is an old story. But it’s also a story of the Internet age, of a prominent blogger who “came out” today online to tell her story. That this is a story of a digitally proficient, virtual knowledge worker somehow surprised me.

If women still need to take men’s names to earn as much as men do, then surely we need a new woman’s movement. And not one centered solely around reproduction and abortion politics, which I fear is what people think of instinctually when they hear the word “feminist,” now.

From Jezebel:

The success of BlogHer and the mommy blogger movement have led some to hail the blogosphere as a place of gender equality. While some mommy bloggers snag Wal-Mart endorsements, the world of business blogging — Men with Pens advertises its “business sense, branding expertise, and savvy sales and marketing smarts” may still be more of aMad Men type of place. It’s impossible to tell whether the bullets-and-bricks aesthetic of Men with Pens was a calculated decision, but it’s possible that a male name and a stereotypically male persona are favored in the web marketing industry. Are mom-bloggers seen as fundamentally amateur, even if they shill for big companies, while men get the real professional gigs (even if those “men” are actually moms themselves)?

At this point, James seems to have built a brand, and it’s unlikely that she’ll suffer too much from her outing. But a post she wrote last year now seems eerily apt. In “Would You Become Someone Else To Achieve Your Dreams?,” James writes, “Think about how you would react if someone told you that who you are is holding you back – and you knew they were right. This person tells you that if you were someone else, you could live your dream.” She adds,

If you had the chance to be someone else, would you do it? Would you take on a role that makes opportunity possible, makes life easier, and makes your dreams become reality? More importantly… who would you be?

For James, it appears the answer was yes — and it’s easy to understand why. Still, it’s pretty sad that the “role that makes opportunity possible, makes life easier, and makes your dreams become reality” still has to be that of a man.

Do not be fooled into an “is this okay or not for a person to do this just to make money” cycle of argumentation.  This is similar to the “writers should always turn down opportunities that don’t pay” debate (pro turning down: if we all turn down no-pay assignments, payors will be forced to pay everyone all the time; against turning down: you build your portfolio, could get paid work from the free work, build name recognition, get published).

The real point is this: in both situations, the people who control the money  don’t give it up (or don’t give it up in equal amounts to men and women) unless they have to.  The question then being: how do we make “you have to pay, period” or “you have to pay men and women the same” the default?

If you think this is a rare and odd circumstance, let me give political blog readers and bloggers one name: Digby.