Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ah, Pete, who do you think YOU are?

Okay, so I read my daily feed from Dr. Crazy and was referred to the latest Chronicle piece by Peter Plagens (no, it IS his real name) complaining about those of us who write under pseudonyms.

I take this critique personally. I mean, not only do I keep this blog under my lovely dykey pseudonym, but I have authored a couple pieces for Inside Higher Education under that same name. Each time I do, I get nasty-grams bitching about the pseudonym, why ANYONE would choose to write under such a name, and why no one should trust my opinion as I clearly am too dykified and homo-focused to even make sense. (Okay, so I had some fun at a lesbian comedy show recently, and I feel very lesborific these days.)

The responses of the writers Plagens critiques are very thoughtful, as is Dr. Crazy. I mean, Crazy, Tenured Radical, Dean Dad, and others have beaten this horse to death, so I won't spend too long on it myself. Yet, I feel a need to respond...again.

Those of us who choose to write under the pseudonym do it because of real concerns about peers, current or future employment, the freedom we enjoy in taking on topics that we might otherwise avoid, the readership we have started to create, or just because we took a liking to the voice we created with the name... I use the pseudonym for all of the reasons listed above.

Do I think about writing the blog or other IHE pieces under my own name? Sometimes. And sometimes I DO write under my own name, especially when it comes to my own discipline or my program. I have been quoted in a national publication under my own name on a very political educational issue. But as others have noted, my tone and approach has to be different in those instances. When I spoke to the national publication, I was speaking as a scholar. Here, I am "lesboprof"--who gets to curse, be folksy, and embrace a little more personal voice and style.

I think about this issue when it comes to Facebook. Yes, I have a Facebook page with my real name. I use it to communicate with students, alumni, and some friends. But I am careful not to put too much personal information on that page, because students, potential students, their parents, administrators, colleagues, and who knows all will be looking at it and judging our program. I edit my presentation of self very carefully in that setting!

I really resonate with Plagens' critique that people who say that they will just play the role of the "good kid" until after tenure often lose the ability to speak out and don't once they are tenured. I see this especially with women, in that we get pushed into playing the "good girl" role.

That said, I have never been a "good kid/girl" in that way. Seriously, I think that some of the faculty in my doctoral program--especially the white boys--wondered what drugs they had been on when they admitted me. (I believe that was probably the "wow, we can count her high GRE scores on our admissions reports" drugs.) My challenging nature continued into my life as a junior faculty person. But I make up for it with my positive nature, my team spirit, my excellent service record, my commitment to teaching, and my fairly productive scholarship. And most of the time, my outspokenness can make things better in the long run. So, I don't think Plagens can assume that just because I write under a pseudonym, I am a weenie. My colleagues, students, and former professors would disagree with him.

So, Pete, I'd suggest that you let us all decide for ourselves. And don't knock it 'til you try it!


sherishu said...

Of all things I could imagine to label you as, lesboprof, "weenie" is not one of them. For multiple reasons. I have to admit that I was somewhat persuaded by his article, but also by your perspective on this. As someone who is trying to do autoethnography, I know that it is really challenging to write in a way that makes me open and vulnerable and yet not TOO open and vulnerable. In some ways, THAT voice would be stronger if I were using a pseudonym.

Anonymous said...

sister-out-law says... you rock lesboprof!