April 17, 2013 § 3 Comments
Every now and again I foist my opinion about a recently released book on a paying public, which is to say I write a book review for a national publication. For each review, I am paid a sum that more or less covers the author’s back catalogue and, if I’m lucky, some of the many baked goods I have to buy to avoid being kicked out of the cafe I write in. I’m not really complaining, though. I love it.
But! I don’t put my full name to these reviews; I hide behind the anonymity of my initials. The usual busybodies, self-censorship filters on the fritz (alpha—very alpha—males, all of them), like to tell me it’s a bad thing for a women writer to go by her initials. Only women who want to pretend to be men would use their initials! If you’re such a feminist, you should be out there taking one for the girls, not perpetuating the patriarchy by pretending to not even be female!
If the only reason someone could possibly have for going by their initials is a desire to conceal their gender, shouldn’t we be wise to it by now, since women have been playing that trick for quite some time? We ought to automatically assume the inverse: that anyone using their initials must be a woman (for example JK Rowling, AM Homes, AL Kennedy, MJ Hyland and AS Byatt, to give the first few that popped into my head before any initial-using men). And if that’s the case, doesn’t that mean that any men going by their initials these days are doing it to hide their privileged gender? Shouldn’t I be the one getting cross when a man sneakily uses his initials to make people think he’s a woman? But that would be unladylike. Perhaps I’ll just jab the next man who brings up the initials thing with my darning needle instead.
Just in case any confusion still remains, allow me to clear it up. I am not a man, nor a woman pretending to be a man, nor even a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man.