Many of us here at Feminist Philosophers blog under pseudonyms. One of my fellow pseudonymous Feminist Philosophers bloggers was outed today, by being named as the author of a particular post, on another philosophy blog. I just wanted to take a moment to say a few words about why I write under a pseudonym for those who might not understand why the privacy afforded by doing so ought to be respected.
Not very long before I was invited to become a blogger here, I had something I wrote under my own name published online (not here) that related to women’s rights. My contact information is available on my department’s website. Naturally, then, in response, I received several emails from people who had read it. Some of them were kind. Some of them were praising. Some of them respectfully expressed disagreement. Some of them just called me names. Some of them said they hoped I would be raped. Some of them said they hoped that I would die. Some of them I interpreted as threats. That wasn’t the first (or last) time I published something on the internet under my own name, and it wasn’t the first (or last) time I received those kinds of emails in response. It was, however, what I thought about when I decided what name I wanted to blog under here.
I’m not alone. In the words of Amanda Hess, “None of this makes me exceptional. It just makes me a woman with an Internet connection.” She details some of her own experiences in “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet.” If you haven’t read it yet, and especially if you don’t understand why some of us prefer, justifiably, to be pseudonymous and ask that our privacy be respected, I recommend reading it in full.
The examples are too numerous to recount, but like any good journalist, I keep a running file documenting the most deranged cases. There was the local cable viewer who hunted down my email address after a television appearance to tell me I was “the ugliest woman he had ever seen.” And the group of visitors to a “men’s rights” site who pored over photographs of me and a prominent feminist activist, then discussed how they’d “spend the night with” us. (“Put em both in a gimp mask and tied to each other 69 so the bitches can’t talk or move and go round the world, any old port in a storm, any old hole,” one decided.) And the anonymous commenter who weighed in on one of my articles: “Amanda, I’ll fucking rape you. How does that feel?”
Some people who disagree with posts at Feminist Philosophers are kind, respectful, reasonable people (and even though I think it’s true that this extends beyond the circle of bloggers here, I’d say this even if I didn’t, as we often disagree with one another). But some people are less kind, respectful, and reasonable, and I prefer to avoid misogynistic harassment where I can. Of course, I would prefer we lived in a world where none of this was a concern. But we don’t. So I would ask that everyone please be considerate about revealing the identities of those who are pseudonymous.
(And to those who celebrate, Merry Christmas!)