James -- she's still using the pseudonym and hasn't revealed her real name -- started blogging to help support her children and herself during a rough financial time. She decided to use a male pen name so she wouldn't be associated with her business, which was struggling at the time. But after taking on this male pen name, she said, "Instantly, jobs became easier to get. There was no haggling. There were compliments, there was respect. Clients hired me quickly, and when they received their work, they liked it just as quickly. There were fewer requests for revisions — often none at all. Customer satisfaction shot through the roof. So did my pay rate."
As Jezebel editor Anna North noted in her post on the announcement, this story suggests that despite the success of BlogHer and the mommy blogger movement, the blogosphere may not be as egalitarian as some people claim.
And that's a shame considering over 50% of bloggers are women.
All this, however, got me to thinking about how people of color with names that are considered "ethnic" often feel the need to change their handles to succeed. A friend of mine named Alejandro once told me that after he changed his name to Al on his resumes he received phone calls from the same companies that ignored him before, even though his qualifications had not changed. He turned down those jobs and fortunately soon found a business that didn't have a probably adding an Alejandro to its staff.
Is trading your name for a male or non-ethnic pseudonym so that you can get a job a good way to change the system from the inside or are you simply erasing your identity and failing to challenge the status quo?
I don't have an answer, honestly. I think a valid argument could be made for both.
North mentioned a post James wrote last year titled "Would You Become Someone Else To Achieve Your Dreams?" in which 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...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?"