Oh, my dears, where even to begin? In what is becoming at least an annual tradition, the conversation in the academic blogosphere has turned once again to that “controversial” topic of the pseudonym. Things started out pleasantly enough, with the JWH roundtable (I linked to H’Ann’s post about it because you can’t access it without Project Muse) featuring Historiann, Tenured Radical, and the indefatigable typist Moose from Roxie’s World, and then with Historiann’s piece over at Common-Place. Undine posted her own response to the Common-Place piece. And then TR had a guest blogger, Katrina Gulliver, who got in on the act, arguing in favor of writing eponymously. And then Comrade PhysioProf, in the colorful way that we have come to expect from him, challenged Gulliver’s claims.
And then there are all the comments. It’s enough to make this pseudonymous blogger feel like she needs a good stiff drink.
As I wrote in a comment over at Undine’s, here’s my current take on my pseudonym (and if you want to know how I’ve thought about the pseudonym in the past, I produced a handy compendium a year and a half ago of a bunch of my posts on the matter):
1) I never wanted my blog to be about my field of specialization. I always conceived it as a “life of an academic” blog, and I always wanted it not to be something that I thought of as “work.”
2) At a certain point, I realized that I’ve been Dr. Crazy for so long that I’m pretty much stuck with it. People have a relationship with the pseudonymous me, and to take that away from them after nearly 7 years seems like it would do more harm than good.
3) I really resist the idea that every part of our intellectual life must translate into a line on a cv. I think that is unhealthy and unproductive.
A lot of people know who I am now, and it’s not terribly hard to figure out. I’m not terribly worried about anybody finding out who I am anymore, but I have tenure now and I’m at a very different place in my career than I was when I started blogging. For me, the pseudonym feels like a comfy sweater that I put on when I sit down at the computer. And it allows me to write about my life in ways that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing under my professional name.
I don’t think that my pseudonym is, to quote Gulliver’s general thoughts about pseudonymity, “an egotistical pose,” nor do I think that it “serves to perpetuate the (irrational) fears in academia about the dangers of the newfangled interwebs.” I don’t write under a pseudonym in order to say whatever I want and then to have a “retreat path of deleting a pseudonymous blog, with plausible deniability.” That was never the point, and, quite frankly, too many people know who I am and I’ve been doing this for too long to make that any sort of a realistic option. I don’t think that I’m hurting the feminist cause by choosing to write under a pseudonym, nor do I think I’m somehow failing as an academic by doing so. At the end of the day, I think it’s possible to be a feminist and a public intellectual even as “Dr. Crazy.” In some ways, “Dr. Crazy” gives me much more authority and a much wider audience as I inhabit both of those identities. And maybe there are a slew of men posing as female academics on their pseudonymous blogs, but I’ve yet to encounter anybody who’s had the energy to play that particular game. It seems to me we have bigger fish to fry than that, if we want to talk about blogging discourses amongst academics.
It’s great that some people write under their professional names, and that others write under pseudonyms with their professional names attached. I’ve thought about doing both, but ultimately decided against it. Not for any deep, dark reason, but because after nearly 7 years, both I and my readers are attached to Dr. Crazy, and Dr. Crazy would change if I all of a sudden made an explicit link between that name and my professional name. But whatever works for you, I say. And sure, writing under one’s own professional name does allow for certain networking opportunities and a certain kind of visibility. If a person wants to use blogging in that way, more power to the person, I say.
Why don’t I want to use blogging that way? If it’s the wave of the future and all? Well, basically, it’s that I somehow managed to create professional networks for myself without doing it. I don’t need to. And, further, I have absolutely no interest in giving conference papers about blogging or in presenting myself as a blogger as a primary part of my professional identity. Not because there’s anything wrong with doing so, but because it would take pretty much all of the fun out of blogging for me.
Because here’s my dirty little secret: I blog for fun. Sure, it’s nerdy fun, but I like it. It’s relaxing. Enjoyable. Social. (Ok, the line from The Breakfast Club just popped into my head: “So it’s sorta social. Demented and sad, but social.”) I spend the majority of my time doing things that I report on my annual activity report and that end up as lines on my cv. I have no interest in turning something that I like doing into one more of those things.
We take ourselves so fucking seriously in this profession. And I suppose it’s fine if people want to take their blogging just as seriously as they take their other professional activities. But I’ll say this: I have no interest in writing that sort of blog, nor do I read very many blogs like that. So I’ll keep my pseudonym, thanks. It’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable for me than the alternative.
And yes, the dead horse I’m beating has its own pseudonym. You can call him Harry.