March 8th is designated as International Women’s Day, “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” I look forward every year to seeing how people share their thoughts and experiences on this day, and this year, I thought I’d share some of mine.
I’m writing today as a female author who writes books about strong women. I’m privileged to be able to publish these books under my own (obviously) female name. This was not always the case for women and, even in 2018, authors are still concealing their gender via a pen name.
Authors may write under pseudonyms for a variety of reasons, and some of those are by choice…when switching genres and wanting to start fresh with a different identity (Nora Roberts –> J.D. Robb), when wanting to avoid coasting on the success of a famous name (J.K. Rowling –> Robert Galbraith), to protect one’s privacy and personal details (too many authors to name). These are all perfectly legitimate reasons that are the norm in publishing now, and have been for some time.
It has also been the unfortunate reality in publishing that female authors were and still are either coerced, pressured or required by necessity to write under a male or gender-neutral name…the Brontë sisters, Louisa May Alcott and Mary Shelley were the first that popped into my head. Lest we think that this is all in the past, it’s worth noting that J.K. Rowling was convinced to release the Harry Potter books under a name other than her own (Joanna) out of fear that young male readers wouldn’t relate to a woman writing about about a boy wizard’s adventures.
I do strongly feel, though, that indie publishing is helping to push the pendulum firmly in the other direction. Just as Passionflix is finding success by putting out movies made by women, based on books written by women, indie publishing is allowing women to write what they want without going through The Man of traditional publishing. Additionally, readers are able to access books with an ease and privacy that was virtually unknown before Amazon and the internet.
IWD also “marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.” In all fairness, men writing romance, erotica and other traditionally female genres publish under female or gender-neutral names out of a fear of readers outright dismissing their ability to produce material women will enjoy. This is an interesting topic to explore, and I’ll definitely do so in the future.
I’m grateful that I have the choice and the ability to publish under my own name, proudly, as a woman. Humankind still has a long way to go in other areas when it comes to publication and sharing their written work, but on International Women’s Day I’m grateful for the freedom I do have, even as I think about the ways we can work toward equality for all in this field.
Here’s an interesting article about seven women who wrote under non-female names.