Edited to change opening of post because a kind reader alerted me to the fact that he figured out who I was from googling related to the opening. Not to be a bitch, but why do people even care who I am? I never google to try to figure out who people are. I thought about just leaving things as they were - I feel like everybody in the free world knows who I am anyway at this point, but I suppose an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure or something. And I, no, I'm not sure what I mean by that. But so here's the post with basically no introduction....
Why do we choose pseudonyms? What do they give us? What kinds of anxieties can they cause? How does one manage two identities - one "real" and one invented? (Or is all identity invented, blah blah blah, but I'm not talking about that right now.)
I suppose this brought me back to thinking about how 19th century novelists like Charlotte Bronte or George Eliot (whom we still know by the pseudonym, which I think is incredibly interesting, especially since we "know" it's not a man, except for I didn't know it was a woman when I had to do a book report on The Mill on the Floss as a senior in high school and, whoa, was I surprised when I found out I wasn't reading a male author) used pseudonyms.
Why choose to take a male name?
Why choose to take a name like Dr. Crazy or Bitch, Ph.D. or New Kid or Profgrrrl or Bardiac or Anastasia, or Horace, or Scrivener?
What do the names that we choose say about us? Why do we choose them? Why do we work to protect them? What power is there in a pseudonym, and what weakness?
Many have written about bloggers who use pseudonyms as doing so out of fear. Many have also noted that many bloggers (though not all) who use pseudonyms are women.
To counter this, many who use pseudonyms (including me) have talked about doing so in order to gain a certain kind of "freedom" in their writing.
Isn't this juxtaposition of fear and freedom exactly the same juxtaposition that we see with writers like Charlotte Bronte? We have Jane and we have Bertha - the good girl with some rebellious tendencies that must be mastered and the madwoman who must remain behind closed doors. Isn't this exactly what a pseudonym offers? The ability both to be good and to be mad (or bad)?
I've written about choosing this pseudonym in terms of feminism just recently. And I know I've written, whether on this blog or my previous one about pseudonyms generally. I suppose what's interesting to me in light of my recent gaffe, in light of my recent talk, is the ways in which pseudonyms allow us to move inside of certain kinds of discourse without certain kinds of repercussions. And yet, we're never without repercussions, right? We're never, ultimately, outside of power. So why even bother?
Clearly we all get something out of the pseudonym. But what, ultimately, do we get? On the one hand there is a constant fear of detection. If one, in fact, expects that one can get away without being detected. On the other, we get a certain kind of freedom to say whatever we want. Except for that's not quite right, either, since of course, once we build an online identity, it's as constraining as a real life one. As Dr. Crazy, I can't really say anything. I can say some things. Within the confines of this persona. Yes, this persona evolved when I moved addresses. Yet, just as Dr. Realname "means" something to people, so, too, does Dr. Crazy. Is there really more "freedom" with the pseudonym? Probably not. So then why? What is the payoff? Is it just a game? Is fear of getting caught part of the fun? Or is it something else that motivates us?
I don't have the answers here. I do know that I'm careless when it comes to protecting my real life identity. I have been since I started blogging. It's never been tremendously difficult for people to figure out who I am. I cared in my former space, about this carelessness; I don't really care about it at reassignedtime.blogspot.com. Carelessness, I know, from things I do in my real life, is to some extent a part of who I am. Part of what that means is that I need to deal with the consequences of my carelessness, but it also means that I have a certain fearlessness, which doesn't really go with the "I'm not blogging under my own name" profile. So if I'm not afraid, why be Dr. Crazy? If I'm not hiding something, why bother with the facade?
Maybe this has been the question for all writers who've written pseudonymously. Or maybe it's just my question. But at the end of the day, I think that maybe all of the anxiety over naming doesn't really mean much. Maybe we all exaggerate the importance of our "real" identities, or of our "pseudonymous" identities or of both in conjunction.
4 years ago