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Shock, Fury, Discouragement, Some Resignation and a Hope

glass_ceilingI couldn’t resist the tweet:

Here’s Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants /Copyblogger/ – You know me as James Chartrand of …
It links to http://www.copyblogger.com/james-chartrand-underpants/

It was posted by nancysoffice – a virtual assistant who blogs at Nancy’s Corner.

I know James (now Jamie in my head) as one of the great writers over at Men With Pens. We’ve even, I think, exchanged a few emails over time.

When I clicked over to the article I was struck, as I often am, by a great photo and expected something fun and light.

Instead I got a story that reminded me that although there has been a great deal of improvement in the way women are treated in this country and in a few others, we have as has been noted many times, a long way to go. That’s especially true when I allow myself to consider how women are treated in parts of the developing world.

I’d always thought of the internet as a fairly equal place, where gender might be interesting, but had no effect on how one was treated or paid. I should have known better I guess.

Oh, I think the ‘net is a good place for women to write. We can write from home or the coffee shop. And I also feel strongly there is less gender discrimination here than out in much of the brick in mortar world.

My wish, my dream, my hope, of course, is for gender equality to continue to grow and spread, here and round the world. Equality often feels tenuous to me, as if it can be snatched away in an instant, particularly if we don’t pay attention.

Thanks James for shedding light on this subject, even though part of me would rather not know. Your willingness to speak out and our willingness to listen is surely part of the solution.

What do you think? How does James’ article make you feel?


Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Exactly right, Sandra…

  • Sandra

    Amy: I guess it’s because after the whole Feminist Movement thing, young girls were led to believe that proverbial glass ceiling has been broken and gender equality exists. (Certainly, education-wise, there seems to be very little discrimination of this sort. Correct me if I’m wrong?) Then, they move on to their workplace, and they find that men are still more respected, earn higher salaries, etc. I suppose most of them just shrug it off and tell themselves they’re very lucky compared to women in the past, or don’t speak out because they’re afraid of being labelled as whiny feminists. (Oh, the stereotype!)

    I’m not sure. I’m just a girl of 15, studying in a girls’ school with the feminist stereotype, and who has just trawled through the internet scouring for articles to help in my commonwealth essay titled ‘Girl Power’.

  • Anne

    Amy, it may be wishful thinking, but women my age did a whole bunch to help end discrimination against women and we made some progress… obviously not enough.

  • Amy

    To be clearer in my above statement. I mean how can discrimination still be shocking to women?

  • Amy

    How is this behavior shocking to women?

  • Valid point. But it sounds like the option to “come clean” did come before now, when “James” wasn’t struggling to support the kids anymore. So just to play devil’s advocate let me ask: are the reasons you might do something in a desperate time still valid when that desperation passes? I have a feeling there might be less criticism if the truth came out closer to when she started, than after having continued the ruse — or at least if the desperate single mom story weren’t being used as justification, when that point might have lost some validity quite a while ago when situations changed. Just a thought.
    .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Just One More Reason to Hate Odesk =-.

  • Janet, without being judgmental about other people bring judgmental, I agree with you. When it comes to supporting the kids, a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do. Considerations about gender identity, job status, social niceties, and so on are pretty low on the priority totem pole.
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

  • Yo, I’ve actually pondered that very thought. Maybe the perception of being a man and having an easier time made it easier for James? Only she can tell us. I told my husband about this. He raised the eyebrow and said, “There’s a telling experiment.” He wasn’t surprised to hear that the experiences were different (he works in a corporate environment), and he thought there could be something to my notion of James’s own perception of herself as she assumed the new pen name.

    Either way, it’s a fascinating story.
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..The Lost Art of Competence =-.

  • Diane

    I am the one who made the comment about the “fancy title and big paycheck” and I stand by it. There is much more than a paycheck involved when a woman is raising children. Daughters should be proud of what their mother does for a living. A mother’s work should not be a big secret but rather have a place of honor within the family. James has not shattered the glass ceiling — she succumbed to it.

  • “You would certainly think it odd if a man felt more assertive and entitled, and expect more positive reactions, by using a female name.”

    I wouldn’t. Then again I’ve seen male PR execs blog under a female pseudonym for for similar reasons — being able to be more assertive. Being anonymous can be enough on its own to increase confidence and help people reach business goals. James is an example of that. Amanda Chapel is an example of that. Daniel Lyons is an example of that. Brooke Manganti is an example of that. We have a woman writing under a man’s name, a woman writing under another feminine pseudonym, a man (or several folks) writing under a woman’s name, and a man writing under an anonymous male persona. If it were simply a case of gender bias, the only way to be truly successful would be to write under a male pseudonym, and that isn’t the case.

    So I think that while it’s a sad situation that any would feel a need to do that to succeed as a writer, it’s a good question — how much of the gender bias is real and how much is simply what we perceive to be true, and therefore appears true because our perceptions influence our actions and decisions? There are plenty of women making good money as freelance writers, and I think trying to sell the gender bias idea has to be able to account for that side of the equation as well. As Yo mentioned, people of both sexes succeed, as well as fail, in this career.

    Yes, it’s an interesting story, but what would be more interesting is seeing what other women can do to increase confidence in how they run their businesses without having to pretend to be someone they’re not — or at least not feel like that’s their only option.
    .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Jobs – December 15th, 2009 =-.

  • If you assume you are being discriminated against because you are a woman, then you will assume a man’s name will get you more work and better pay. This will make you more comfortable expecting more in the role of a man. That doesn’t prove there is a gender bias anywhere but in your head. You may have watched men get paid more than you and get more gigs than you, but that could be because of YOU not your gender.

    There are women out there who lack confidence, who are afraid to speak up and assert themselves and there are men who are the same. Then, there are men and women who are confident, assertive, and unafraid to speak out. Not all men make the same amount of money or get the same gigs. There are men who don’t succeed in this business, men who make less than some women, women who make less than some men.

    I just don’t understand why there are so many people immediately jumping on the gender bias train. Should the possibility be explored? Certainly–as should race issues when trying to get gigs…but it should be explored, not assumed.
    .-= Yo Prinzel´s last blog .. =-.

  • Adriene

    Interesting thoughts, Yo Prinzel. But if your theory is true, that the reason James got more pay and respect was because she felt more confident, entitled, and so forth when using a man’s name, she felt this for a reason, a reason you don’t think is odd. You would certainly think it odd if a man felt more assertive and entitled, and expect more positive reactions, by using a female name. No? It’s possible these subtle differences in attitude were there (and James says, no, things were exactly the same — but now that we know she’s a woman, can take her at her word?…) However, the difference would have been based on the gender discrimination that she and you and most of the rest of us take for granted is there, because it is real. Men feel more entitled for a reason.

  • Janet

    I’m disgusted by the judgemental tone of some of these replies. This woman is to be commended for doing what it takes to support her family. It’s not that she was disguising who she was for “a fancy title and big paycheck.” She simply wanted to feed her daughters.

  • I may be speaking out of turn here, but I’m not sure this is actually an indicator of any truth of the presence of gender bias. I don’t think James is really asserting that it is, but the blog posts I’ve seen today discussing it certainly do.

    Who knows what subtle changes were present in James’ approach as she transformed to he. Was she more confident and playful hiding behind a mask? Was there an attractive, casual quality since she no longer had everything (psychologically) to lose? Was she better able to assert herself because it would be her persona that was turned down instead of her actual self? Did she feel more confident reaching for higher paying gigs under the guise of a man? Did she assume that the reaction of prospects would be more positive (I would think yes or she would not have tried it at all)?

    All of these factors make a difference that could equal more of a tipping point than your potential client assuming you pee standing up.
    .-= Yo Prinzel´s last blog .. =-.

  • You ask how the article made me feel. Well, incredulous is the word. I’m flabbergasted. Anne, tell me James’s real name is something like Ursula Olga Rapunzel Huggentuggler. There’s no other explanation. At least, I’d like to think not.

  • Meg

    Would be interesting to see if my late-paying clients would be any different if I were a man (or using a man’s name…)! I’ve also noticed that “great for stay at home moms!” in an advert is always secret code for incredibly low pay.
    .-= Meg´s last blog ..Triangle IGDA =-.

  • Thanks, Anne, for sharing this. Unbelievable! I don’t know if it’s because the betrayal of a “friend” happened to me more than once but the “friend” who “outed” James disturbed me almost as much as James’ story. A former boss and mentor told me something years ago that has always stuck with me. When I said to her, “I just don’t think I’ll ever get used to someone who I thought was my friend, stabbing me in the back.” Her response was, “Don’t ever get used to it because it will change who you are as a person.” I use this to try to define inner peace as being true to yourself. I’m still a work in progress. 🙂

    Charlotte is right on that it is ironic in our social media age where you are told to be yourself, that something like this takes place. But, what strength James showed!
    .-= Cathy Miller´s last blog ..Zero Value =-.

  • Diane

    Anne, I discovered your site a short time ago and have been reading all of your posts starting at the beginning. You have a wealth of talent and information.

    After reading the post about “James”, I felt sorry that she believed it was necessary to hide her gender. I may lose a few gigs because a client has the wrong perception of women, but I will never hide that I am a woman, a wife, and a mother. I am only a few years from retirement so I know about the glass ceiling but success is much more than a fancy title and a big paycheck.

  • Anne

    Star you may be right about that… about the low payers not wanting to hire men. Would be interesting to know if women or men apply more often to the low pay jobs.

  • Anne

    Susan, a lovely way to frame this… thanks so much, and thanks for your positive comments here…

  • Star

    By the way, as pay rates sink slowly in the west, “content” will become a “pink ghetto,” where people get away with low pay. Saying you’re a man may worry low payers.

  • Star

    I had gone to “her” site before but now prob would not. Who knows what gives over there? I thought the “Men with Pens” were gay–must have had some fem vibe. I have been in this business a long time and only once had someone say I could not charge what I was charging because I was a woman working at home. Once. He said, “You can’t get more than $40 an hour, I am telling you right now.” This was the 1980s. He is long out of business—I am here.

  • Lillian

    When I read the post, I was deeply saddened that our culture is still living in the dark ages. We need to bring balance to the whole feminine/masculine and masculine/feminine issues now. I also totally support James in her decision to do what it takes to support her family. I connected with her “pants” post because it was written from the heart—-just like her decision was made to put food on her table. I know that Men with Pens has a lot of followers and many other bloggers link to the postings. When I previously checked out the blog, something about it turned me off. After reading her post, I know why–I must have picked up on the incongruence of the writer–the whole Victor/Victoria vibe. I hope the time comes soon when James makes the decision to stop living a lie. This has nothing to do with pen names. It has to do with the mental and emotional toll it takes on not being authentic and true to who you are at a soul level.

  • I’ve been following you Anne, and a multitude of writing sites and people on the web, like copyblogger and men with pens, etc. I’m struck by the outpouring of positive comments in this little “community” and it gives me courage to keep trying to launch my freelance writing career. Sometimes you have to hear a story so powerful to really get kicked in the behind. A sad, sad statement on equality for sure, but a powerful reminder of the strength of the human spirit.

  • It seems especially ironic that James had to hide her true identity on the internet, a place that prides itself on allowing people to be themselves. How many times have we heard the mantra, “just be yourself,” in terms of social media? It is shocking to me that we are still gender biased.

  • Anne

    Yes, I have run into that boys club thing. Am sure some men feel there is a girls club, and there is, but it usually doesn’t result in less pay. As Troy Patterson (http://www.troypeterson.com/) said in his comment many women have a tendency to devalue themselves – not quite what you’re talking about.

    Peter Hickman (http://abelsoninfo.com/) nailed the racism issue particularly well I thought in his comment.

    I’m finding the whole discussion amazing!

    Thanks again.

  • Agree with you all the time or not, I’m sorry to hear you struggled so much just being yourself, especially in the freelance writing world — one that often seems very estrogen-dominated as it is. I think the saddest part is that those with a male bias (either as clients or readers) probably don’t even realize they’re making decisions like that.
    .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..How to Write Newsletters =-.

  • Hey Anne,

    Thanks very much for your support. As a writer yourself, I’m sure you’ve experienced some of that glass ceiling and “boys club” feeling from time to time, so I doubly appreciate you having my back.



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