Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Who is Echidne?

I'm so behind in my blogging. Today I had to take Hank for her chemo and the wait was long and the traffic bad. But that gave me time to think of lots of posts I want to do, and then I immediately felt all stressed out and incompetent and behind. Even though all those posts are in only my head and nobody else is demanding them. Hank is doing fairly well, still.

Hank's real name is not Hank, and neither is Henrietta the Hound really called that. Both my dogs blog under pseudonyms. Although Hank and Henrietta are among the names I use for my dogs, the names they have on their collars are different. This is probably pseudonymity taken to an extreme, and I can imagine that you, my dear anonymous readers, might find it truly insulting. On the other side of the argument, I can't ask either dog for her permission to use her real name.

I'm probably the most secretive of all bloggers out there, though I don't think that I'm dishonest. Unless you think that pretending to be a minor Greek goddess is dishonest. It probably is, and so is giving your dogs pseudonyms. I should probably just quit already.

The question of pseudonymous blogging turned up in mid-January when Ann Bartow posted about it on sivanet. Here is a quote from Ann's post:

I enjoy blogs like Bitch, Ph.D., Echidne of the Snakes, Pinko Feminist Hellcat, One Good Thing, Angry Black Bitch, and The Happy Feminist, but I dread the inevitable day it is discovered that a seemingly feminist pseudonymous blogger is actually an anti-feminist man, who has been lying profusely and manipulatively about his background, a la James Frey or Asa "Forrest" Carter, or JT Leroy. I don't think this is a very likely outcome with respect to Dr. Bitch, Echidne, Sheezlebub, Flea, Shark-Fu, or Happy, but their pseudonymity also precludes them from evolving into the visible, "public intellectual" feminist leaders that they certainly seem to otherwise have the drive and talent to become. Sometimes I wonder how much energy and sleep they lose worrying about having their true identities revealed, or how much trying to avoid identifiable disclosures causes them to self-censor, or even lie about their lives.

And it really hurt my feelings and gave me a healthy kick to the butt at the same time. For what it is worth, I'm not a spotty teenaged guy blogging in his mother's basement, though I can see that anything I say might now be doubted. So be it.

The bit about being pseudonymous as an obstacle to evolving into a visible feminist leader doesn't bother me personally, because I'm not a leader and never will be one. I'm a viper-tongued woman, pretty much. And I don't lose sleep over the possibility that my true identity would be revealed. My true identity is quite boring.

But Ann Bartow's post did strike something in me and made me think more about why I'm pseudonymous. The main reason is that I started the blog for myself as a way to play with a voice that I hadn't used very much before, Echidne's voice, and at that time I didn't expect that anyone but a few friends or relatives would read what I had written and they all knew who I was in reality. I already used Echidne as a handle when I participated in comments on other blogs, and everybody around me seemed to be using pseudonyms, so the idea of a pseudonymous blog seemed pretty natural anyway.

Then the blog took off and the game of being Echidne was fun and I also found that I could state things more clearly in that persona than as myself. It seemed awkward to change the tone of the whole thing just to come out of the goddess-closet, and I had no real desire to do so. And I have received a few very nasty e-mails which now go to just Echidne, but might go to my family if my real name was known.

I think it is the point of honesty that bothered me, the point that Ann made so eloquently. The paradox is that I try to write very honestly on any topic I cover and that I try to be honest about how I feel about the issues as well. Yet I am not giving verifiable information about myself or even about my dogs, and that is quite dishonest. My only defense is that I really think my private circumstances are irrelevant to the topics I discuss on this blog, and when they are not, I state the truth about them, even if I don't give the actual names of people or animals.

I'm trying to think if I should arrange a big "coming out" party and announce my real name and life circumstances publicly. But it might be better to wait until I actually get some money from writing to do that. Then I can afford to move to an unknown address... Just kidding.