Pennames, Pseudonyms and (Mis)representations of Gender

Many well-known female authors have published their works under male-presenting or gender-neutral pennames; Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot), The Brontë Sisters, J.K. Rowling. In the male-dominated world of literature, it was a way to have their works heard. In more recent times, however, we are seeing an increase in men publishing under neutral or female-presenting names. Todd Ritter, who published "Final Girls" under the name Riley Sager, Dean Koontz who published as Deanna Dwyer, Ian Blair as Emma Blair, and so on. There have been arguments that these are to create a neutral approach to the story, or to simply distance the author’s personal life from their work. However, many people have expressed dissatisfaction with this, saying that men’s voices are already dominant, and it’s not right for men to take up more space by publishing under a female pseudonym.

This topic asks: is it alright for an author to disguise or misrepresent their gender in their name? Does that thought apply only to men writing under female names? And if it is determined to be acceptable, does that effect similar discussions around ethnicity and heritage?

  • I really like this topic! Definitely a discussion to be had about how the book market has arguably shifted away from cis white male voices, towards more diverse perspectives. When women chose male / gender neutral pen-names in the past, it was tied to the public not taking women seriously as authors. Men have always been taken seriously as authors... so why the sudden shift? – SBee 2 years ago
  • I like this topic, too! I don't think I really have a solid opinion; I want to say a person should be able to write under the alias of their choice but that can complicate things when people are looking for specific authors. For instance, would it be fair for a white man to be on a list specifically for Hispanic writers? Of course not, but what if they're using the surname of someone they admire or simply love the meaning behind the name and impersonating another ethnicity was never their intent? This makes for a topic that can prompt a lot of other scenarios, too. What if the "man" happens to be a closeted transgender woman? What if they're writing about a topic such as romance and are afraid that female readers will skip over them because of their gender? (Although this was never a problem for Nicholas Sparks!) This makes for a very intriguing topic! – emmywrites98 2 years ago
  • This is just my opinion (as someone who writes under a pen name). But I feel it should not matter. I personally would want people to judge me for the quality of my writing and not my personal life, as my personal life is not their business. I have never been a big fan of how people put so much weight on a persons gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc. when discussing the quality of their work. I can acknowledge that there has been discrimination in the past (and that there probably still is discrimination going on even today.) and I see why some feel they need to write under a pen-name. But, when I choose a book to read, movie to watch, or game to play, I personally do not care what combination of chromosomes the creator has. I do not care how much melanin they have or what parts of the human body get them sexually excited. I care about their ability in the field they choose pursue. Many of my favorite artist (Yoko Taro, Banana Yoshimoto, coolkyousinnjya, and Aimer) have hidden their identity at some point in their career.Some of the artist I listed have revealed their identity (like Yoshimoto and Aimer), but it does not change my opinion of their work. It would not matter to me if they were writing about other races, genders, sexualities or cultures (which both coolkyousinnjya and Yoshimoto have done). What would matter is how well they portray topics outside their personal experience. – Blackcat130 2 years ago
  • I love this topic and I hope to see it get picked up! I would love to see how a writer tackles the aforementioned issue of authentic identities; do pen names lend authority? What are contemporary examples of successful pseudonyms? What does market research say about pen names and their effects on consumers? – jessamross 2 years ago

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